Labuan Postal Stationery with St. Settlements Overprint


Labuan Postal Stationery

People say that good wine needs no introduction, but this postcard remained the source of my amazement for the weekend primarily because of the final end price . The card was auctioned in ebay in a 7-day format and ended on the 28 January 2012 with a stagerring US$1,001.60 (£637) after 15 bids! Superficially, the card is a simple enough item with an overprint of the Straits Settlement and a nice Labuan cds - but philatelically speaking, surely it's one of the rarest Labuan/St. Settlement gems!

In July 2011, similar postal stationary of 4 cent was auctioned and reached an even higher final price of £870!


Labuan (and Brunei) officially became part of the Straits Settlements administration in 1st January 1907 to 1st January 1942, when the Japanese first landed in Labuan. By letters Patent dated 30 October 1906, Labuan was incorporated with Straits Settlements and ceased issuing its own stamps. It became part of the Colony of North Borneo again in July 1946.

In the initial period within this 35-years-span within the Straits Settlement, most Labuan stamps and postal stationeries were overprinted with the word "Straits Settlements". In a short period of time however, this soon was replaced with the St. Settlements stamps of KEVII and KGV. This then became the norm and explains why some St. Settlement stamps used today bear Labuan cancels.

Sarawak First Air Service 1930s


Sarawak First Air Service, 1930s

I recently stumbled onto this curious, yet amazing document from the Postmaster General of Sarawak to presumably a collector in airmail philately. It first appeared in ebay with an opening bid of  £199.99 on 26 December 2011, and ended with a jaw dropping price of  £515.67 on 3 January 2012 after 5 bids.

We know that in 1930, there was a seaplane expedition to various cities in British Borneo including Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo. The plane started their voyage in Singapore in 26 May 1930 to Kuching. From there they flew to Sibu and Miri on 30th May 1930 before continued on and reached Kuala Belait and Brunei capital on 1st June 1930. They landed in Jesselton on 2nd June 1930.

The Document

The document is written by the Postmaster General of Sarawak as an Officer in Charge of the new Sarawak Airmail chop. There are three marks in the middle of the letter, the left one bears the Seal of Baram, Sarawak circular mark with the PMG's signature and "o-in-c" below it. The middle aspect is affixed with Sarawak's 4c stamp of Brooke and is cancelled with the circular "Air Service" postmark, the left side then bears the air service mark alone.

The document reads:

"I got yesterday, the new air postmark stamp of Sarawak which is left by the o-in-c [officer in charge?] to stamp such letters, official, as he wishes to send by airmail. The services consist of two months and is the first ever run in Borneo. Though it has not really started yet, I send you a Sarawak chop as in future(?) it may be of interest as the first air service in Borneo. It is put on with my own fair hand and I'm not sure if it isn't against the law?! "
This is certainly a great document and surely it's an illegal one? :)

Related reading:
North Borneo First Airmail 1930
Brunei First Airmail 1930

50 Fabulous Stamps of the British Empire


"A Selection of the most historic, most beautiful, oddest and rarest philatelic items from British territories overseas"

Fabulous Stamps of British Empire

Stamp magazine UK recently published a 116-page guide magazine on the 50 Fabulous Stamps of the British Empire. The guide came about for the first time in a celebration of the philatelic achievement of the British Empire.

50 great stamps/issues from 50 different colonies were chosen for us to marvel at their legacy - stamps that combined artistic beauty with eminent practicality with fascinating stories and wonderful rarities.

And of course, Sarawak and North Borneo stamps issues were among the 50 distinctive list.

No 18 - Sarawak's first stamp issue - Portrait of Rajah Sir James Brooke

Queen Victoria's face is perhaps the most recognised portrait in philately due to extensive portrayal in early British (and Empire) stamps. The penny black for example portrays the Queen's face for the first time in philatelic history. However, her majerty's face wasn't the only British sovereign portrayed on the early stamps. In 1869, Sarawak's first stamp was issued depicting the face of the white rajah - Sir James Brooke.

James Brooke was born in India to English parents. He gained control of Sarawak from the Sultan of Brunei by helping to quell an uprising against the sultan. He later became the Governor of the neighbouring British Colony of Labuan and introduced reforms, fought off pirate attacks and brought greater stability to the region.

James' Brooke personal correspondence, which he transported personally in his yacht to Singapore before posting in the normal way, graced and enriched Sarawak philately today. Before the first stamp was issued in 1869, Indian stamps were used for overseas postage. Unfortunately, James Brooke never lived to see his face on the stamps. He died nine months before they went on sale...

Example of Rajah Brooke's personal letter written in 1863 to Mrs Browne in London, bearing India stamps.

No 25 - North Borneo's 1894 Issue

Low values of 1894 issue of North Borneo

The low values of North Borneo's 1894 issue was selected among the list. It is a story between beauty and overexploitation in stamps marketing. North Borneo's 1894 issue broke the traditional designs of the 19th century stamps by introducing unrivalled eye-catching designs and noted to be among the most attractive and innovative design around that time. The depictions of Dyak chief, a Malay dhow, a sambar stag, a great argus pheasant, a sago palm tree, an estuarine crocodile and the majestic Mount Kinabalu created desirable philatelic results, delivering a romantic insight into island life.

However, the British North Borneo Company's overexplaitation by means of selling excess material to stamp trade, encouraging varieties, and special ties with a philatelic dealer in London, Mr Parker, tarnished the philatelic reputation of North Borneo.

Today, the stamps market of North Borneo is flooded with an endless myriad of cancelled-to-order remainders, printer's waste, improbable perforations, spurious overprints and of course blatant forgeries. While the market value of North Borneo and Labuan are rising steadily, the presence of the CTOs necessitate the third column in many worldwide stamps catalogue. The many pitfalls faced in collecting North Borneo stamps cause many aspiring collectors to avoid this country altogether...