The Pen Cancels of North Borneo


2 cents stamps with 8 cents surcharge pen-cancelled with "Silam"

Pen Cancels

Pen cancellation is relatively common among the North Borneo stamps but currently there is a limited reference or study done on the subject. This resulted in very few attention or interest on the subject itself. If looked carefully, some pen cancels are actually quite interesting and possibly rare.

Most pen cancels are seen in revenue or fiscally used stamps. The cancels can range from a simple meaningless scribble to something describing the date and town, and in some case, the initials of the postmaster.

Pen cancels with Chinese characters?

Pen cancels are usually associated with fiscal or revenue stamps, however, in some instances it may be used as a substitute to handstamp on postally used stamps. It is not certain whether North Borneo ever necessitated pen cancels because of the shortage of handstamps, however in some countries a shortage of handstamps may be solved simply by using the pens. Nicaragua for example exclusively used pen cancels for seven years after its first stamps issue due to unavalability of handstamps.


Of course because of the nature of the cancellation, pen cancels worth significantly lower than handstamped collection. Even a CTO stamp may worth more than a pen-cancelled stamp. It is probably the less desired cancels of all and some people even attempt to remove the cancels to make the used stamps appear mint.

A variety of pen cancels on fiscally used stamps

Nevertheless, pen cancel is still unique in its own way, and clearly someone has to do a research or study on the topic. It would be nice to know whether there is a regulation or guideline issued by the North Borneo Company on how to pen-cancel a stamp.


Anonymous said...

Hello Marcel,
Is that Silam or Skan (Sandakan) written on the SG3 ?
Orang KK

Marcel said...

Hi, now that you mentioned it, it looks like "SKAN" instead of "SILAM"! The "L" would look awkward if it was Silam! I think Sandakan would be a more sensible guess.

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