Ethiopia - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Ethiopia, a landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa bordered by Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya has a total land area of 426,371 square miles and a population of over 85 million. Ethiopia’s amazing terrain can be best described as an adventure in contrasts and extremes - from stunning mountains to waterfalls and caves and rock-hewn churches. With its own alphabet, time and calendar Ethiopia is an entirely different experience. Given its rich and varied ancient history, it is no wonder Ethiopia has the largest number of World Heritage Sites. Suffice to say, Ethiopia goes the extra mile for the traveler. Ethiopia is the largest producer of honey and coffee in Africa and also has the largest livestock of the continent.

Travel Resources:

October through January is the time to visit Ethiopia. The major attractions are its various national parks, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Blue Nile Waterfall, Lake Tana, and the Rift Valley. Ethiopia also provides a cultural experience for its visitors. Ethiopian cooking is the spiciest for Africa – marked by hot spices, thick stews and injera (flat sourdough bread).


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Ethiopia Bradt Travel Guide978-1841622842$18Good useful maps with grids that are indexes to the text. Structured into six sections covering over 600 pages, the book has excellent information ideal for the independent traveler.
Ethiopia Map by ITMB978-1553412069$121:2,000,000 scale.
Ethiopia Grounded Adapter Plug – GUB and GUFB004DRRVM6$15


Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Ethiopia were a set of seven stamps released in January of 1895. The set (Scott #1 to #7) catalogs for around $20 MNH and $14 used. The design shows Emperor Menelik II and the Lion of Judah. Lion of Judah is a national motif that figured in the old Imperial flag, currency, and stamps. It symbolizes the retinue of immigrants who returned with the Queen of Sheba who were from the tribes of Dan and Judah. Ethiopian account is that Queen of Sheba conceived the Solomonic dynasty’s founder, Menelik I during this visit to King Solomon of Jerusalem. The dynasty reined the Empire of Ethiopia for close to 3000 years until Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974. Varieties and surcharge overprints on this set were the only stamp issues of Ethiopia during the period till 1909. Ethiopia issued a set of seven stamps in 1909 showing portraits of Menelik II and King Solomon’s throne. The set (Scott #87 to #93) catalogs for around $30 MNH and $20 used. The designs show King Solomon’s Throne, Menelik in native costume, and Menelik in royal dress.

Other issues of Ethiopia enjoying good philatelic interest include:
  1. A set of five stamps released on April 18, 1947 to mark the 50th anniversary of Ethiopia’s postal system. The set (Scott# 273 to #277) catalogs for around $50 MNH and $10 used. The designs show Lion of Judah, Menelik II, Mail Transport (Old and New), Old Post Office of Addis Ababa, and portraits of Menelik II and Haile Selassie.
  2. A set of nine stamps released on September 11, 1952 to celebrate Ethiopia’s federation with Eritrea. The set (Scott #327 to #335) catalogs for around $65 MNH and $10 used. The designs show Open Road to Sea, road and broken chain, map, Allegory of Union, Haile Selassie raising flag, Ethiopian flag and seascape, and Haile Selassie addressing League of Nations. The federation with Eritrea allowed Ethiopia to be no longer a landlocked country as Eritrean ports provided the ‘Open Road to Sea’ as referenced in the first stamp in the set. The federation was short lived as Selassie dissolved it in 1962 as a result of the Eritrean War of Independence.
  3. A long set of eighteen stamps released on November 5, 1973 showing a portrait of Emperor Haile Selassie in different colors and denominations. The set (Scott #672 to #689) catalogs for around $30 MNH and around half that for used. Haile Selassie is considered one of the most powerful African leaders of all time. His most famous act was the address to the League of Nations in 1936, where he condemned the use of chemical weapons by Italy. He was in exile from 1936 to 1941 when Mussolini declared Ethiopia an Italian province following a series of battles. He was deposed on September 12 1974 by Soviet backed Derg, a committee of low-ranking military officers and enlisted men, following general discontent in the community due to the Wollo Famine followed by rampant inflation. He died in prison of “respiratory failure”, although it is alleged that the death was the result of a political execution.
  4. A long set of ten stamps released on January 18, 1994 in the Simien Fox theme. The set (Scott #1372a-j) catalogs for around $22. Simien Fox (Abyssinian Wolf) is endemic to Ethiopia and is critically endangered with only around 500 or so adults. It is a popular theme on Ethiopian stamps. Other sets depicting Simien Fox also are very collectible. There is a set (1393u-x) which are overprints on some of the denominations of the original set released on October 20, 1994 to mark United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) 50th anniversary. That set is especially valuable and catalogs for around $150 MNH and $25 used.
  5. A long set of twenty five stamps released on December 12, 2002 in the Menelik’s Bushbuck theme. The set (Scott #1615 to #1639) catalogs for around $15 MNH or used. This is another animal endemic to Ethiopia and is a common Ethiopian stamp subject.
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Ethiopia were Silver Mahalekis issued in 1893AD (1885EE). The issue shows a simple Crown design in Obverse and the Date and Denomination in Reverse. It is valuable cataloging for around $350 UNC. Reform Era Coinage started in 1895 (1887EE) with the issue of silver coins denominated in Birr and Gersh. The designs showed Menelik in Obverse and Lion with left foreleg raised in Reverse. That issue is also valuable cataloging for around $400 UNC. Ethiopia has issued gold coins since 1897. Commemorative gold coins, proofs and sets for collectors have been issued since the early 1960s.

Numismatic items of Ethiopia include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$2 and upCommon UNCs start around $2. Silver coins from the 19th century in UNC starts around $35. Silver proofs from the 1970s and 1980s starts around $50. The 1966 Gold Proof Sets go well into the 1000s.
Paper Money$2 and upRecent UNCs starts around $2. Early specimen proofs starts around $50 and go into the 100s depending on rarity.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Paintings, masks, and sculptures are among the popular souvenirs of the country.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Art$10 and upOriginal 19th century photos and art prints start around $10. Leather paintings and hand carved wood utensils start around $50. Original oil paintings go well into the 100s.
Cultures and Ethnicities$15 and upHand-woven baskets and shawls start around $15. Decorative crosses in wood and metal start around $30. Wooden hand-carved headrests, Tribal exotic milk containers, Omo Tribe Head-pieces, etc start in the 100s.



Last Updated: 12/2015.

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