x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

4. Prototype postage stamp from Abu Dhabi, 1968

To mark the nation's 40th anniversary, we feature 40 historic objects.

A prototype a postage stamp issued for the second anniversary of Sheikh Zayed's accession as Ruler.
A prototype a postage stamp issued for the second anniversary of Sheikh Zayed's accession as Ruler.
This stamp was issued in 1968 to commemorate the second anniversary of the accession of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Featuring Sheikh Zayed's portrait and the crest of Abu Dhabi, they were to be issued in five denominations: 5 fils, 10 fils, 100 fils and 125 fils. The currency in use at the time was the Bahraini dinar, meaning that the stamps ranged in value from Dh1.20 to less than half a fils at today's prices.

The stamps were to be designed and printed in London, there being no local business capable of doing so at the time. The company selected was Harrison and Sons, which had printed all of Britain's postage stamps since 1911. Before they could go into production, the designs had to be approved by Sheikh Zayed. That shown here is an extremely rare prototype, sent from London. It lacks the serrated edge of the finished product and is mounted on a presentation card.

It now forms part of the private collection of Mohammed Al Fahim, the Abu Dhabi businessman and author of Rags to Riches. "To a stamp collector, this is a very important and valuable stamp" says Al Fahim. "I happened to be around and I got the winning stamp, thank God."

Other stamps issued to mark the second anniversary followed the theme "Progress in Abu Dhabi" and included the construction of the Maqta Bridge the previous year, and the new international airport at Al Bateen.

Until 1966, mail was handled by the British postal administration, first from Bahrain and later from Abu Dhabi. The emirate took over responsibility for its own postal services on January 1, 1967.

The formation of the UAE in December 1971 created a problem of what to do with the old stock. The solution was to overprint the words "Abu Dhabi" with the letters "UAE". With the election of Sheikh Zayed as President of the new country, the Ruler's image was not an issue.