Benin (formerly Dahomey)

Benin is a country in West Africa bordered Togo to the West, Nigeria to the East, Burkino Faso to the North East, Niger to the North, and the Bight of Benin (a type of Bay stretching for 400 miles on the coast) to the South. Benin was known as Dahomey during the Colonial period until it was renamed as Benin in 1975 well after Independence (1960). Ethnic turbulence followed independence. Under President Lt. Col. Mathieu Kerekou, the country became Marxist with the banking and petroleum industries controlled by the state. He holds the distinction of becoming the first African president to step down following an election defeat to Nicephore Soglo in 1991. They traded places in 2001 following general election. In 2006, they both did not run in the election due to age and term restrictions – another praiseworthy outcome, as it is common to alter the constitution to fit the needs of the ruling party to stay in power. Fairly elected democracy is a bright spot for Benin. Projects to improve the business climate are underway and should help the country grow out of its status as an underdeveloped country in the coming years.

Travel Resources:

November through February is the best time to visit Benin. Ouidah’s Route d’Esclaves—the last stretch of soil that African slaves walked on before they were transported to elsewhere is a soul stirring spot. The museums of Ouidah are also worthy of a visit. The ruins of Abomey are a testimony to Dahomeyans opulence and architecture. Wildlife viewing in Pendjari is popular too. However, it is paramount to practice safety.

ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Benin by Other Places Publishing978-0982261910$18Good coverage of all regions with practical info and a great collection of well-labeled maps. Authors are former Peace Corps volunteers.
Benin and Togo Travel Map978-1553414377$131:580,000 scale.
Benin Grounded Adapter Plug Kit – GUB and GUFB001FD7CDO$15

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Dahomey released in 1899 are French key types in the “Navigation and Commerce” theme with the “DAHOMEY ET DEPENDANCES” printed in red .The set (Scott #1 to #16) consists of sixteen denominations (1c to 5fr). The lower denominations catalog for as low as $1 and the higher denominations go proportionally higher. The set catalogs for around $400 MNH and $280 used. This was followed by another long set of fifteen stamps (Scott #17 to #31) in as many denominations and three designs. The designs show Gen. Louis Faidherbe (French General, colonial administrator, geographer, philologist, and archeologist), oil palm (major export item from the French West Africa), and Dr. Noel Eugene Ballay (French Lt. Gov. and explorer) in shades of black and white. Certain surcharges on these issues were the only stamps in circulation until 1913. A huge set of forty five stamps and certain varieties with new surcharges were the mainstay of Dahomian stamp issues between 1913 and 1931. The issues had a single design of a Man Climbing oil palm in different single-colors and denominations. The set (Scott #42 to #86) catalogs for around $50 MNH and $35 used.

1941 saw the issue of a long set (Scott #113 to #134) of twenty two stamps showing Dahomian local scenes. The scenes depicted are that of a man poling a canoe, Pile House, sail boat on Lake Nokoue, and a Dahomey warrior. The set in denominations from 2c to 20fr catalogs for around $15 for MNH or used. Stamps of French West Africa superseded Dahomian stamps from 1945 to 1960. Between 1960 and 1975, Dahomey stamps came with the inscription ‘Republique Du Dahomey’. Significant issues during the period include:
  1. After independence, the first stamps of Benin were released on March 1, 1960 and depict the lake village of Ganvie, a tourist attraction. The stamp (Scott #137) is pretty common and trades well below a dollar for MNH and 20c for used. This was followed by a common design type that shows the symbol of Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa South of the Sahara (CCTA), a non-political organization that existed between 1950 and 1965. This stamp (Scott #138) is also inexpensive.
  2. The Birds set of Air Post stamps released between 1966 and 1967. The set of five stamps (Scott# c33 to c37) catalogs for around $40 MNH and around $12 for used. The designs show pygmy goose, fiery-breasted bush-shrike, broad-billed rollers, emerald cuckoos, and emerald starling. A large number of air post stamps were issued during the 1960-1975 time frame in very colorful designs and some of them like this one are valuable.
  3. An animal set of five stamps (Scott #245 to #249) released on March 18, 1968 in the theme Animals from the Pendjari Reservation. The designs include a lion, kobus kob (Buffon's kob), African slender-snouted crocodile, and hippopotamus. The set catalogs around $7 MNH and less than half that for used. This was followed by a sister set of five stamps released on February 10, 1969. That set (Scott #252 to #256) is also similarly valued and depicts the following animals: warthog, leopard, spotted hyena, anubius baboon, and hartebeest (grassland antelope native to West Africa).
  4. A set of four stamps released on July 16, 1970 to mark the 300th anniversary of the mission from the King of Ardes to the King of France. The designs show sailing ships "La Justice" and "La Concorde", Matheo Lopes (ambassador of the King of Andres and his coat of arms), Louis XIV and fleur-de-lis (coat of arms of the French Monarch). The set (Scott #271 to #274) catalogs for around $5 MNH and about half that for used.
  5. The Fables set of three stamps released on August 28, 1972 to commemorate fables by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), the French fabulist. The themes were The Hare and the Tortoise, The Fox and the Stork, and The Cat, the Weasel, and Rabbit. The set (Scott #297 to #299) has beautiful designs and catalog for around $10 MNH and less than half that for used.
The Republic of Dahomey became the People’s Republic of Benin on November 30, 1975. Below are significant issues from that point on:
  1. The first stamps after the name change to the Republic of Benin were the flowers set released on December 8, 1975. The set (Scott #342 to #345) had the ‘Republique of Dahomey’ inscription. The designs were Alamanda Cathartica, Ixora Coccinea, Hibiscus, and Phaemeria Magnifica. These catalog for around $5 MNH and about half that for used.
  2. The first stamps with the Benin inscription were the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of Benin released on April 30, 1976. The designs show Flag Bearers and Arms of Benin, Speaker - wall with "PRPB" inscription, and Flag and Arms of Benin. The set is very inexpensive at less than $3 for MNH and lesser still for used.
  3. A Birds set of eight stamps released on September 1, 1982. The set (Scott #525 to #532) is pretty valuable at around $30 MNH and less than $10 for used. The designs show daoeglo gigas, bluethroat, swallow, kingfisher, great sedge warbler, common warbler, owl, and cockatoo.
Benin has released a large number of stamps since 1982. Many of them were reissued with surcharges. Some of the early surcharges in sets are pretty valuable but it is hard for collectors to acquire them as forgeries of the surcharges are common.

Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Benin were 200 Francs Copper coins issued in 1993 with the National Arms and Denomination in Obverse and Sailing Ship (Preussen) and Date in Reverse. The coin in UNC is relatively inexpensive at less than $10. There is a proof variety with a mintage of just 100 that goes for close to $100. They have issued a number of proofs with very low mintage over the years and that can form a good collectible theme. Other numismatic items of Benin include:

ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$5 and upRecent Cannabis Silver Proofs start around $5. Proofs with low mintage start around $40. Gold proofs from 2005 start around $100. Piedforts from the late 1990s start well into the 100s. Gold proofs can go well into the 1000s for rare issues like the 100000 Francs 1oz Gold coin showing National Arms in Obverse and the President in Reverse issued in 1992.
Paper Money$10 and up500 Franc and up UNC notes from the 1990s start around $10. High Values (5000 Francs and up) start around $20. Rare dates go into the 100s.

Collectible Memorabilia:

Ethnic pieces especially voodoo related ones are very popular. Tribal art is always appreciated by visitors.

ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Ethnic and historical memorabilia$20 and upBrass masks & other figures start around $20. Original bronze sculptures go well into the 100s.
Art$50 and upTribal bronze figurines and other curios.

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