Gabon is recognized for its amazing parklands, wildlife, beaches, and more; and when it comes to vintage souvenirs, the postage stamps of this Central African country are noted as one of the trendiest and most desirable historical relics for stamp collectors today. The reason is simple, Gabon was the first African country to print its own stamps after it was granted autonomy in 1904. The earlier printouts were those of the famous French navigation and commerce series, but in 1910, the local authorities switched to their own designs to represent the heart and soul of the nation. Some of the exquisite images centered on Libreville, the first capital of the country, and the Fang people of Gabon.
The essence of imaging Libreville on the stamps was to emphasize its historical value as the first place a post office was set up by the French authorities in 1862. It is also the historic town where the first stamps were outdoored in 1886, when French officials embossed the inscription “GAB”. Some of Gabon’s first 25 stamps in circulation, highlighted a sense of local significance by their names, “Gabon-Congo/POSTES” and “Republique Française,” when they were first issued in 1889. For stamp collectors, they are among the world’s most prized artifacts, mainly due to the fact that they were issued shortly after Gabon became a colony of French Equatorial Africa.
The printing of stamps by the Central African nation goes beyond being among the firsts and extends to nationalistic sentiments, mainly because the designing and printing of the stamps between 1891 and 1904 were in the purview of the colonial authorities. When Gabon assumed the responsibility to decide on what form the stamps should take, it used images of its natural resources and its central figures, like the explorer, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, the village Setta Kemma, and the Ogooué River.
Prior to attaining independence in the 1960s, the national affairs of the country were controlled by colonialists; the Europeans were the first to stamp their authority on the French colony by deciding its present borders. This was when the nation was inhabited by the Pygmy and Bantu tribes and later grew to become a flourishing state under the kingdom of Orungu; which traded with Europeans until the colonizers assumed absolute control over the region.
The exploits of the Portuguese in Gabon began in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, it was the French that dominated the national affairs of Gabon. They established Libreville as Gabon’s capital in 1849, but the central African state began a colony of French territory in 1885 after the Berlin conference split the continent among colonial powers.
Gabon eventually attained independence from France in 1960 and began printing its own stamps two years later, taking pride in embellishing them with the images of notable figures, symbols, places, and politicians of the country. The stamps provide a window for history students hoping to understand the unique journey of Gabon and its efforts to own the identity of its stamps.