Ebay Review - North Borneo, Labuan, Sarawak Stamps


1. Straits Settlement Stamps used in Labuan

I recall this stunning cover being auctioned in Spink Singapore on Sept 2010 as part of the Stolz collection. The hammer price then was S$1,100 (or approx US$840 in Sept 2010). It reappeared in ebay on May 2012 with an opening price of US$750 and ended with 1 bid after 7 days. It is apparent therefore that the seller didn't make any profit from the sale and in fact was making a loss of more than US$90 including buyer's premium. This proves my belief that for expensive items, ebay might not be the best place to sell afterall...

Back to the cover, this is a registered envelope to Scotland franked with six different values at 21c. (6c. Imperial rate plus 15c. registration) cancelled with superb "labuan" c.d.s. (Type D11), showing boxed "recommande" h.s. (Type R5) and registration label at foot.

Historically speaking, 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, explaining why within this time span, Straits Settlement stamps were being used in Labuan. It became part of the Colony of North Borneo again in July 1946.

2. Pead cover with Brunei and Labuan frankings

Pead cover with mixed frankings of Brunei and Labuan stamps. The Brunei postage rate is 23½¢ and Labuan rate of 18¢ with all stamps tied to the cover. Typical Paed cover date of 22 JUL 1895 in Brunei and Labuan cds dated 25 JY 1895. Registered no 1062, consistent with Brian Cave's listing of Peads cover which begins with number 903. Ended at US$499 in May 2012 after 2 bids.

3. Fake Maltese Cross

I'm glad that nobody actually bidded for this set of fake Maltese cross stamps at an opening bid of €95. As a rule there are two varieties of colour in the overprints - magenta or light carmine. Anything exceedingly bright red in colour as the picture above is likely to be forgery. Furthermore, the edges and the points at the centre of the cross are usually sharp in genuine overprints. The fake overprints on the contrary usually have blunt and wide edges and the points at the centre are usually thicker than the genuine ones.

In addition to that, when you start seeing a maltese cross overprint on a CTO North Borneo stamp, don't turn back, run away quick because you know it's fake!

4. Sarawak Japanese Occupation Cover

This is a registered Sarawak cover sent locally and franked with full set of un-overprinted Japanese stamps from 1937-40 series (1 sen - 8 sen); and the 1942 issue of 5 sen claret. Tied with Sarawak cds dated 1 OCT 1942 with Kuching boxed registration cachet. At the back is a circular "SARAWAK CONSTABULARY LICENSE OFFICE" with initials in red. Also stamped with an oval chop in blue with Chinese characters. Ended at US$610 in May 2012.

Historically speaking, Sarawak was invaded by the Japanese army on December 17th, 1941. Officially, on October 1st, 1942, a series of un-overprinted Japanese stamps were made available for use in British Borneo, having arrived at a much earlier date in September 1942. These stamps are usually cancelled with existing "English" postmarks before overprinted Japanese stamps became available together with the cancels.

5. North Borneo 'On Government Service' letter

This cover is a registered cover sent from Jesselton to USA in 1932. The interesting part is of course the red wax seals at the back, bearing the North Borneo's coat of arm impression. Franked with a block of four 12¢ stamps and cancelled Jesselton cds. There is also a faint chop at the lower left corner which I suspect to be the Jesselton GPO cancel. Ended at US$179.50.

People's Republic of China (PRC) - Stamps worth Looking for


People's Republic of China (PRC)

Everybody's been talking about it - China's stamp boom. Demand for most stamps issues of this country especially the issues of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, shows no sign of abating any time soon. Recent auctions realisations around the globe seem to highlight this huge demand.

According to Mike Hall, the Chief executive of Stanley Gibbons group, within 4½ years from Nov 2006 to April 2011, the catalogue values of high profile China stamps grew on average of 200%. Some stamps grew at a more astounding annual rate, for example the 1962 Mei Lan-fang set grew by about 790% within the last 4½ years (or on average of 175% annually)! Fah Onn Liau wrote a nice article on the growth of North Borneo stamps especially for the high values stamps, and this seems to apply to many other Asian stamps in general, but North Borneo stamps' growth is a long way to go compared to the mighty Chinese stamps.

Imperforated Mei Lan-Fang stamps issue (1962) - Finished US$1,500 in ebay May 2012.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Schneider, founder of Interasia auctionhouse, demand for Chinese stamps has exploded in the last 20 years since he started his first auction. "It's such a booming market because you have the influence of China, and an enormous Chinese diaspora too, and they tend to collect Chinese stamps whether they're living in the U.S., Scandinavia or South America," he says. And of course in addition to the 20 million strong collectors in China, westerners also collect stamps from this country. According to Louis Mangin, owner of auctionhouse Zurich Asia, half of the participants in Chinese stamps auction come from the mainland China and another half are from outside China.

In March 2011, Interasia auction shaterred the world record with the largest ever stamp auction in Hong Kong with a total reaslisation of almost HK$100,000,000. Dr. Scheiner was quoted as saying "Philately has a special place in Chinese culture, with rare stamps regarded as important cultural icons and treasures, just like art, and thus fiercely competed over. However, we are seeing a level of interest and excitement in People's Republic stamps that is absolutely breathtaking, with many increasing 200 per cent or more in value in the past two or three years in a white-hot market."

Red-Hot Stamps Issues

Strip of 5, 1967 issue used, Thoughts of mao Tse-Tung, sold US$1,300 ebay May 2012.

On 1 March 1955, a currency revaluation took place, marking a new era in Chinese philately. The cultural revolution was launched on 16 May 1966 by Mao Tse-Tung. It was aimed at getting rid of bourgeois elements from the society and to return to capitalism. This explains why almost all issues within this period are very scarce as stamp collecting was viewed as a burgeois activity. Even postally used examples of stamps within this period are difficult to obtain. Those with a deep pocket, the 1967-68 issue on Mao's poems is worth looking for especially in unmounted mint. Another issues to look for are the 1967 Labour day, Mao's 'Talks on Literature and Art' (1967) and Directives of Chairman Mao (1968).

The legendary stamp of 1968 issue 'The entire nation is red' is probably impossible to acquire with its current market value unless you're one of those Forbes magazine highlights. Alternatively you may start playing a jackpot now and pray that you win big bucks. This stamp is super scarce, being quickly withdrawn because Taiwan appears white instead of red.

Although the Cultural Revolution officially ended in 1969, its effects continued to be felt until mid 1970s, with stamp collecting still very much frowned upon. Difficult issues in this later period include Centanary of the paris commune (1971), Chinese Merchant shipping (1972), Giant Panda (1973) and Industrial products (1974) among others.

1980 year of Monkey (8f) Sold in ebay for US$1,275 in May 2012

Issues from 1978 to the early 1980s may be picked up more easily although not cheaply. Finally, another legendary China stamp is the 1980 Year of the monkey stamp. This is the penny black of China, or the inverted Jenny in USA. Every China collector reveres this particular stamp due to a combination of the design (monkey), colour (red) and value (8f) - all of which are considered to bring good luck. As everyone wants to own this stamp, the price keeps rising exponentially, so if you need this stamp in your collection, buy it sooner rather than later.