Republic of Liberia

Finding Guide
refer to caption

75-cent surcharge on $1 ultramarine and black with “O S” official overprint

Prepared by Daniel A. Piazza, Curator of Philately, with the assistance of Calvin N. Mitchell, Research Associate.


Most of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum’s holdings of Liberian philately are not organized as such. Rather, they are scattered throughout multiple collections transferred by the U.S. Post Office Department and the United States Postal Service; purchased using private funds; and donated by individual collectors. The purpose of this finding guide is to describe this Liberian material in one document and thereby make it accessible to researchers.


Most collections described herein have their provenance given below, except for Found In Collections (FIC) materials. FIC refers to objects in the museum’s possession whose provenance is unknown, undocumented, or has not been researched.


Liberia was founded in 1822 as a West African colony of the United States. Its initial population was composed of freed American slaves returned to Africa under the sponsorship of the American Colonization Society. Africans liberated from slave ships captured by the U.S. and British navies were also frequently resettled in Liberia. In 1847, Liberians adopted a Constitution modeled after that of the United States and declared their independence.

The first postage stamps of Liberia were issued in 1860. Commonly referred to as the “Liberty seated” issue, they were lithographed in London by Dando, Toddhunter and Smith.

By the early 1890s, Liberia’s postal service recognized that the sale of postage stamps to collectors was an important source of revenue for the economically underdeveloped, debtor nation.

Determined to make their stamps more attractive, they turned to their resident minister in Great Britain, who contracted with Waterlow and Sons Ltd. for the design and production of the country’s pictorial issue of 1892-1896. Later series were engraved and printed by the firms of H.L. Peckmore and Son; E.W. Wright Banknote Co.; and American Banknote Co.