$25 Revenue Stamps (part I)


General North Borneo Taxes System

The main taxes in North Borneo are poll-tax, criminal and civil fines, land rents and other licences. The poll-tax simply means that every adult native male has to pay one dollar ($1) to the company unless he already pays $3 in other taxes. In an 1884 report of S.E Dalrymple, assistant resident to Keppel province, $900 poll tax have been collected in Putatan district alone.

The General Post Office (GPO) is situated in Jesselton. The postmaster-general is also Superintendant of Telegraphs. The Treasury department is vital. North Borneo has its own State Bank and its own notes and coinage, having adopted the Straits Settlements Currency of the dollar fixed at two shillings and four pence. The finance commissioner is responsible for the stamp issue, which in the past brought to the company significant revenue.

Another important post with regards to revenue collection is the distric offcer (D.O.). A DO is not only responsible for the administration and well-being of his district, but also responsible to maintain the law and order. He is also in charge for the public health, and as a police officer, he is accountable to hunt rebels of the company. As a collector of revenue he collects any fine that may be paid, while as a postmaster, he may sign the invoice of the mail which contains his reports upon the incidence. Additionally he is also the collector of Land Revenue, and holds the power to resolve disputes as to boundaries and ownership. Usually a D.O. has one Chinese and one native clerk, the Chinese responsible for the court work while the native for revenue collections.

What are the $25 Revenue Stamps?

Figure 1: 1889 issue with the word "British"

We have seen these steel blue revenue stamps somewhere, in eBay especially. Most of us, however, wouldn’t have a clue as to what they were or whether they’re worth collecting. In this blog, I will share some of the general information that every North Borneo collectors should know about the stamps.

When the $5 and $10 ‘Postage and Revenue’ stamps were issued in 1889, the British North Borneo (BNB) Company decided to also introduce a $25 denomination stamp solely for revenue purposes. It was not used for any postage purposes and bore the word “Revenue” only. Although there were many colour trials with various colours, eventually the steel blue shade was selected and printed. There are two version of the stamp with regards to perforation, one with 13¾ perforations, and the other is imperforated. Similar to the $5 and $10, or in fact most of the earlier North Borneo stamps, the design incorporates the Company’s coat of arms. In 1894, similar revenue stamp was introduced replacing the word “British” with the words “the state of”. These stamps are also either perforated 13 ¾ or imperforated.

Figure 2: 1894 issue with the word "British" replaced with "The State of"

Printer and Engraver
Up to 1890s, all North Borneo stamps had been engraved by Thomas MacDonald. It is therefore assumed that the $25 revenue stamps were also engraved by the same person, although there is a lack of reference on this. The stamps were lithographed by Blades East & Blades on white paper in sheets of 20, arranged in 4 horizontal rows X 5. Each stamp measures about 3.4cm X 4.15 cm.

Colour Trials

Many colour trials stamps were produced before the steel blue colour was selected. These include orange-brown, pink, yellow etc. These stamps are typically perforated in the middle. In general they are more difficult to find and priced higher than the normal revenue stamps.

Should we collect them?

Figure 5: Imperforated revenue stamp of 1889

Yes, we should collect these stamps because they are the only North Borneo stamps issued solely for revenue purposes. Apart from that, they are they highest stamp denomination of all North Borneo stamps. These stamps are fairly common and easy to find especially the CTO ones, and they are not as expensive as one might imagine. Most of these stamps are either CTO or mint. The mint stamps are probably more expensive than the CTOs. Diligent searches, however, may still find unrecognised example of genuine fiscal use of these stamps, which are extremely rare and should be very valuable.

Stanley Gibbon catalogue does not list these stamps because it only lists postage stamps. This is also true in Scott catalogue, where only USA revenue stamps are listed. Therefore, there are no credible references as to their values. Values are therefore an educated guess at best. The general rule is that the CTO stamps should be valued at around their face value although this can be slightly lower or higher depending on the sellers. The mint stamps should be relatively more expensive than the CTOs and therefore should be valued higher than the face value. In ebay however, there is a wide range of prices depending on the individual seller. On average, these stamps would sell around $15-$25 each. A block of stamps would sell much higher but not in direct multiplication of the general market price for an individual stamp. For example the block of 6 imperforated CTO stamps above sells for around $45.

(Part II - Die flaws in 1889 issue)
(Part III - Die flaws in 1894 issue)


Burns said...

When i have the 5 the 10 and the 25 dollar stamp...
For how much can i sell them?

nice regards ;)

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