The story behind the Iraq 2004 "Transportation" issue and the unissued "Handicrafts" stamps.
Prior to the downfall of the Saddam regime two new stamp issues had been planned for 2003. Designs for two issues "Old Methods of Transportation" and "Popular Industries"" had been accepted and the planned release date for the stamps was to be March 2003.
See proofs of both issues. [Picture of proofs]
The designer was Mr.Dirgham, an Iraqi architect who was also responsible for many other designs of Iraqi stamps. The designs had been accepted in early January 2003 and proofs and cliches of the sets had been printed and were kept in the Post Office main stores. As usual the printing was to be carried out by the Al-Nahrain press in Baghdad which was responsible for the printing of Iraqi stamps and currency notes. All this happened immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq. The Al-Nahrain printing works were looted and destroyed during the days and weeks after the fall of the Saddam regime but the Post Office main stores somehow escaped and was neither looted nor burnt. This was almost as amazing as the Oil Ministry building being left unharmed. Original proofs of Old Methods of Transportation are shown here: [picture] and here is set as issued. [picture]
Looking at the proofs it appears that the original top value of this set was 1000 Dinars but this value appears to have been changed to 5000 Dinars.
Apparently the set was to consist of 6 values. 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000, and 5000 Dinars with the 1000D and 5000D values on the same design, but the lower 1000D value was discarded when the stamps first went into production at the new printers.
Up to this time all Iraqi stamp issues produced by Al-Nahrain were in sheets of 105 stamps. 15 rows X 7 columns for horizontal designs and 7 X 15 for vertical designs, all with a perforation of 14.
The new printers decided that the stamps should be produced in sheets of 132 stamps in 11 rows X 12 columns format and the sheets of 100 Dinars value were the first to be printed. When the sheets were fed through the perforation machine it was found that the first column was totally imperforate and the second column only partially perforated horizontally. See [picture] so the sheets were officially split at the vertical perf which separated columns 2 and 3 resulting in sheets of 11 X 10  stamps. All other values were then printed in 11 X 10 format but the horizontal perforations do not extend to the edges of the sheets. See examples of 500 Dinar margins.[Left margin] [Right margin]
Prior to being printed the 'new' issue of 'Old Methods of Transportation' had to be approved by Mr.Paul Bremer, the U.S. Chief Administrator in Iraq. He apparently liked the designs and gave permission for the stamps to be printed and according to the Coalition website a letter was mailed to President George W. Bush with the new stamps on cover. Would this have happened had they known that the stamps were originally approved by Saddam Hussein and due for release at the time the invasion took place? A bit of a give-away is the date 2003 on the stamps.
The 'Traditional Working Methods' or 'Handicrafts' set has not yet been issued although there have been rumours that it might be. See picture of proofs. [picture]
I am grateful to a good friend in Baghdad for the illustrations and details about the stamps.