Cover Gallery

The postal rates in use at a particular time are often difficult to assess because so may letters sent from Liberia are clearly over-franked. Even non-philatelists would use extra stamps on their covers for decoration because of their exotic appearance. Consequently, some items shown in this cover gallery cannot be taken as examples for correct franking.
The rates given below have been compiled from various sources and supplemented with my own findings, but I do not claim this listing to be complete or even error-free.

Letters (Surface Mail)

In 1860, Liberia issued her first postage stamps matching the rates of 6 cents per half-ounce or fraction thereof for local letters, 12 cents for distant towns and Sierra Leone and 24 cents for international mail. The next two decades saw numerous changes, with different rates applied to different foreign destinations, until Liberia joined the UPU in 1879. In the following, new stamps were issued in 1881/1882 for the rate of 3 cents per ½ oz. for inland mail and 8 cents for international mail. In 1892, the rate for foreign mail was lowered again to 5 cents per ½ oz. (5c and 10c stationery envelopes of 1893, triangle stamp of 1894). The 5 cent base rate essentially remained unchanged until 1968 [1], but sometime between 1923 [2, p.80] and 1928 [3] the single rate changed from half-ounce to ounce. Furthermore, in 1928 the 5 cent rate only applied to the first ounce, with heavier mail being charged at 3 cents per additional ounce [3] (see also [4] confirming the same rates for 1939).
By 1893, there was also in effect a cheaper inland rate of 2 cents per ½ oz. for correspondence between townships of the same county [2, p.69] – hence the 2c stationery envelope - but this “class no. 1” rate was only available until 1912 at most [2, p.71]. The inland rate later changed to 2 cents per ½ oz. for all destinations for a few years, probably sometime between 1918 (“3 CENTS” surcharged triangle stamp) and 1923 [2, p.80], but by 1928 it had changed again to 3 cents per ounce [3]. In the early 1950s the rate changed to 3 cents for the first ounce only, and 2 cents for each additional ounce [5, p.1119] [2, p.86].

Postcards

At first, the rate seems to have been 3 cents flat, irrespective of destination (all stationery postcards are 3c), until about 1910, when it was lowered to 2 cents. By 1923, the special postcard rate had been dropped, now classifying postcards as first class mail like regular handwritten letters requiring the same franking of 5 cents [6]. Despite [3] stating the postcard rate of 1928 to be 2 cents, all my postcards of 1928 or later are franked with 3 cents. The 2 cents rate is confirmed as inland postcard rate for 1950 [2, p.86]).

Airmail

 [4]

Letters sent to or via Europe through the first regular international airmail services beginning in 1937 were charged at 21 cents for the first quarter-ounce, plus 15 cents per additional quarter-ounce. The first rate changed to 25 cents sometime between June 17 and 21 1939 and remained constant until June/July 1940, when all air service was suspended due to WW II; however, the total franking found on some covers of that period - 43 cents at first and 46 cents later - suggests two different second rates, most likely reflecting another rate change in March 1940 (H. Chlanda, pers. comm.). A 50 cents per ½ oz. rate, obviously planned for 1941, was finally set into effect on February 14, 1942 (“First Flight Liberia–US 1941” 50c overprints, but no airmail seems to have left or reached Liberia during that year). The next change came on June 17, 1942 with a 90 cents per ½ oz. rate [7], reduced to 70 cents per ½ oz. about twelve months later. Stamps complementing the 1942 airmail set were issued in 1944 for the new rates including values covering a new inland airmail rate of 12 cents per ½ oz. [8, p.96]. On March 1, 1947, the rate for international airmail was reduced to 25 cents, which remained unchanged until the end of the 1970s.

Printed Matter

A rate of 1 cent for newspapers and other non-handwritten mail was probably introduced at the same time the newspaper wrapper was issued in 1892. This 1 cent rate for all printed material appears to have remained constant until the early 1920s, when new postal regulations began to distinguish between periodicals, e.g. at least quarterly appearing magazines, charged as second class mail at 2 cents per pound [6], and all other “printed matter”, e.g. circulars, at 1 cent per 2 oz. (third class mail, see [6] and confirmed for 1928 in [3]). A special airmail rate of 12 cents for printed matter can be inferred from covers sent out around 1960 and later.

Registration

has remained constant at 10 cents from 1882 until sometime before 1950, when it changed to 20c for ordinary and air mail, staying at 10 cents for domestic mail [5, p.1119]. International registration fees were raised to 55 cents in the 1960s. Ben Hamilton indicates in [3] that the 15 cents stamp of the 1928 issue was intended for the registration and return receipt fee combinded, but it is unkown since when and for how long this rate was in effect.

  • Literature:
    1. Weaver, Kent E. (1998): The postal rates of Liberia 1858–1970. LPS Journal Jan./Mar. 1998: 3–7.
    2. Cockrill, Philip: Postal History and Stamps 1835-1945. LIBERIA series booklet 25. Published by House of Antiquity.
    3. Hamilton, Ben Jr. (1937): The 1928 series of Liberian stamps. Scott’s Monthly Journal Oct. 1937: 259–264.
    4. Chlanda, Henry (1989): Liberian air mail rates 1937 to 1947. LPS Journal Jan./Mar. 1989: 2–14.
    5. Price, Frederick A. (1950): The Republic of Liberia. In: First Liberia Stamp Exhibition November 20, 1950—January 6, 1951, National Philatelic Museum 2(9).
    6. Karnga, Abayomi (1923): Liberia Official Postal Guide. Published by the Montserrado Printing and Publishing Company, Monrovia, Liberia.
    7. Rice, Stanley R. (1950): First flight – Liberia–US stamps. Aero Philatelist’s News Vol. 5(9).
    8. Rogers, Henry Harper (1971): A Century of Liberian Philately. Published by Kasimir Bileski. 204pp.