List of Postmarks of North Borneo Stamps


From the first issues through c. 1912, most North Borneo stamps have been cancelled with an oval of bars. Stamps with clear postmark of dated town are evidently more attractive and sells for much higher prices. Some of the rarest North Borneo postmark include Airmail postmark (1930), Paqueboat postmark, Silam, Gayah and other small town cancels. 4 commonest postmarks are from Sandakan, Kudat, Jesselton and Victoria (Labuan).

"Common" foreign cancels on North Borneo stamps may include Singapore and to a lesser extent, Hong Kong. There are also some fiscally cancelled marks.The Japanese occupation of Borneo introduced a new addition to the variety of postmarks in North Borneo stamps. Because the British Borneo was administered under one administration not only during the Japanese occupation but also during the BMA, some North Borneo stamps may have cancels from towns in Sarawak and Brunei. With regards to Labuan stamps, very few cancels are seen from outside the island of Labuan.

North Borneo Postmark:

1. Jesselton
     Jesselton Oval bars (1910-1955)     K1     K2     K3
     Jesselton     D1     D2     D3     D4     D5     D6     D7     D8     D9     D10     D11     D12     D13     D14     D15     D16     D17     D18     D19     D20     D21     D22     D23     D24     D25     D26     D27     D28     D29     D30     D31     D32     D33     D34     D35     D36     D37     D38     D39     D40 
     Jesselton Registered Marks (R)      R1     R2     R3     R4    R5     R6     R7     R8     R9     R10    R11     R12     R13     R14     R15
     Jesselton Avis de Reception (AR)
     Jesselton Paid (PD)
     Jesselton Parcel Post (PP)
     Jesselton Unpaid (UP)
     Jesselton Instructional Mark (I)
     Jesselton Ship Letter (Paquebot)

2. Ambong

3. Bandau

4. Beaufort
     Beaufort     D1    D 2     D3     D4     D5     D6     D7     D8     D9     D10     D11     D12     D13     D14     D15     D16
     Beaufort Registered Mark (R)

5. Elopura

6. Fort Birch

7. Gantian
     Gantian     D2
     Gantian Registered Mark (R)     R1

8. Gayah/Gaya
     Gayah (1885-1897)     D1     D2
     Gaya (1898-1899)     D3

9. Keningau
     Keningau     D1     D2     D3
     Keningau Registered Mark (R)     R1
     Keningau Unpaid (UP)     UP1

10. Kota Belud

11. Kudat
     Kudat Oval bars (1890-1894)     K1
     Kudat     D1     D2     D3     D4     D5     D6     D7     D8     D9     D10     D11     D12     D13     D14     D15     D16     D17     D18     D19     D20     D21     D22     D23     D24    
     Kudat Registered Mark (R)     R1     R2     R3     R4     R5     R6     R7
     Kudat Avis de Reception (AR)
     Kudat Unpaid (UP)
     Kudat Instructional Marks (I)
     Kudat Airmail (AM)

12. Labuan
     Labuan doted and oval  K1   K2   K3
     Labuan D1    D2   D3   D4   D5   D6   D7   D8   D9   D10   D11   D12   D13   D14   D15   D16   D17
     Labuan Hand Stamp Slogan (HS1)
     Labuan Registered Marks (R)
     Labuan Unpaid Mark (UP)
     Labuan Instructional Marks (I)
     Labuan Ship Letter (Paquebot)     SL2     SL3     SL4     SL5     SL7     SL8

13. Labuk & Sugut

14. Lahat Datu / Lahad Datu
     Lahat Datu     D2     D3     D4     D5     D6     D7     D8     D9     D10     D11     D12     D13     D14     D15     D16     D17
     Lahad Datu Registered Mark (R)
     Lahad Datu Unpaid (UP)
     Lahad Datu Airmail (AM) [Note: Jesselton AM]
     Lahad Datu Ship Mail (Paquebot)

15. Lamag

16. Membakut
     Membakut Registered Mark (R)

17. Mempakul
     Mempakul Oval bars

18. Papar
     Papar Registered Mark (R)

19. Ranau

20. Sandakan
     Sandakan doted and bars cancels
     Sandakan     D2
     Sandakan GPO mark
     Sandakan Hand Stamp Slogan (HS) British Empire Exhibition 1922
     Sandakan Registered Mark (R)
     Sandakan Avis de Reception (AR)
     Sandakan Parcel Post
     Sandakan Postage Paid (PP)
     Sandakan Unpaid (UP)
     Sandakan Instructional Marks (I)
     Sandakan Ship Letter (Paquebot)

21. Semporna
     Semporna Registered (R)
     D1     D2     D3
23. Sipitang
     Sipitang Registered Marks (R)
24. Tamparuli
     Tamparuli Registered Marks (R)

25. Tanjong Aru

26. Tangkulap

27. Tawao/Tawau
     Tawao (Tawau)
     Tawau Registered Postmark (R)
     Tawau Instructional mark (I)
     Tawau Airmail
     Tawau Ship letter (Paquebot)

28. Tenom
     Tenom Registered Marks (R)
     Tenom Unpaid (UP)

29. Tuaran

30. Train P.O. / Mobile P.O.
     Mobile P.O. (1962-1963)
     Train P.O.
     Train Registered Mark (R)

31. Other Miscellaneous Marks
     AC Postmark


[1] The Postal History of British Borneo by Edward B. Proud. 2nd Edition 2003

[2] The Stamps and Postal History of North Borneo Part I, II and III by L.H. Shipman A.I.B, F.R.P.S.L and P.K. Cassels F.R.P.S.L. Sarawak Specialist Society

[3] The Stamps and Postal History of Sarawak. W. R. Forrester-Wood, M.A., F.R.C.S., F.R.P.S.L. Sarawak Specialist Society. 1957.

[4] Sarawak Specialist Journals.

Censor Marks / Military Mails / P.O.W and Internee Mails

Postal censorship happened primarily before the advent of war and during the wartime. In North Borneo and much of British Borneo in general, this spanned from about 1939-1945. In general, censor marks might be applied by either one of the two opposing military alliances: the Allies on one side versus the Axis on another.

There are several censor marks recorded:

1. Allies Censor Marks
     Boxed Rectangular Type
     Unboxed Type
     Triangular Types

2. Japanese Censor Marks

Japanese Occupation Postmark (1942-1945)

The Japanese occupation period spanned from the 1st January 1942 when the Japanese force firstly invaded Labuan before capturing the rest of Borneo. The occupation ended on September 1945 when the Japanese army officially surrendered in Labuan. Within this less than a 4-year military campaign, British Borneo (Labuan, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei) was formed as a single entity of admistration, the headquarter of which was in Kuching. Other central postal offices include Sibu, Miri, Jesselton (Api-Api), and Sandakan.

W.R. Forrester-Wood[1] quoted October 1st, 1942 as the official date for the establishment of the postal services by the Japanese. It is clear however that an intermediary phase existed where previous stocks of stamps were used in conjunction with the existing postmarks. The official Japanese stamps arrived in September 1942 and were placed on sale at Kuching on 1st October 1942, in Sibu by 29 October 1942 and Miri by 7 December 1942[2]. The overprinted stamps of Brunei, North Borneo, Sarawak and Straits Settlement (Labuan) were also to be issued on the 1st October 1942.

It is important to note that during the occupation, the date stamps were of Japanese:

     Christian          Japanese Dynastic          Japanese regnal
         1942                         2602                                 17
         1943                         2603                                 18
         1944                         2604                                 19
         1945                         2605                                 20

The Japanese regnal date is calculated from the first year of the Showa dynasty, 1926, so "17" is equivalent to 1942. The first type of the Japanese cancellation usually bears this year format, firstly issued on October 21st, 1942. This consists of a rubber datestamp of a double circle divided across the centre by a horizontal partition, usually strucked in violet. The second type of Japanese cancellation was introduced during the second half of 1943, consists of a single circle metal date stamp with the town name above and 'North Borneo' below. This is flanked with a 5-pointed stars on either side. The year date used is that of Japanese dynasty. The ink is usually black but may be violet as well. 

1. North Borneo & Labuan
2. Sarawak
3. Brunei


[1] The Stamps and Postal History of Sarawak. W. R. Forrester-Wood, M.A., F.R.C.S., F.R.P.S.L. Sarawak Specialist Society. 1957.

[2] The Postal History of the Occupation of Malaya and British Borneo 1941-1945. Edward B. Proud & Lt. Col. Milo D. Rowell. 1992.

BMA postmark (1945-1946)

The Japanese army occupied North Borneo from 1942-1945. In June 1945 the Australian 9th Division landed in Brunei and liberated much of North Borneo before the end of the war. North Borneo was placed under British Military Administration (BMA) from 1945-1946. Before the BMA was set up, much of the area was devastated that civilians were allowed to use the Australian Army Postal Service.

During the BMA period, North Borneo, Labuan, Brunei and Sarawak were administered under one administrative area. Previous stamps from North Borneo and Sarawak were overprinted with "BMA" and remained valid throughout this larger British Borneo area. Brunei did not produce any BMA stamps and had to rely on supplies from North Borneo and Sarawak.

Hong Kong

Fiscal / Revenue Cancels:

The fiscal and revenue cancellations (and stamps) are another interesting domain in stamp collecting. They are generally scarce and some are extremely rare that we don't have a full documentation of many of the marks used. Stamps used on legal documents with fiscal cancellations are even harder to find. Our sources of information on the fiscal cancellations are also limited.

Nevertheless, it is an important and exciting area to venture. Many of the cancellations are indeed unique and more complex compared to the usual postage-used cancellations. The seal of North Borneo is used in many government-related documents. Inks used also vary from the usual black ink to blue and red.

Ivor D. Moore [1] produced a great book on this topic - "The Fiscal use of Postage & Revenue Stamps of British North Borneo" - this is, I think, the golden reference book on the postage and revenue stamps from North Borneo.

1. Revenue Stamps

    Revenue Stamps
    Revenue Surcharges

2. Banks

    State Bank of North Borneo
    Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank
    New Oriental Bank Corp. Limited
    Chartered Bank of India

3. Commercial

    Abrahamson, Sandakan
    Albert W. Nieuveld   
    Australia & China Telegraph Co.
    Behn Meyer & Co. Sandakan
    Darby & Company B.N.B
    Hadjee Adamsahib & Co.
    Harrisons & Crossfield
    Jardine Matheson & Co. Ltd
    J.P. Keasberry, Labuan
    Lorentson & Co.
    Lo Tian Cheok & Co.
    Mansfield Bogaart
    North Borneo Trading Co.
    Sabah Steamship Co.
    Ward Son & Co. Labuan

4. Customs

5. District Office

    Fort Birch

6. Government Seal

7. Harbour Master

8. Immigration
    Sandakan     Type 1     Type 2

9. Land Office

    West Coast

10. Legal
    Judicial (Perfin)

11. Judicial Department

    Sandakan     Type 1     Type 2     Type 3

12. Magistrates Court

    Jesselton     Type 1     Type 2
    Lahad Datu

13. Sessions Court
    British North Borneo
    The seal of the General Court of Labuan

14. Registrars Office

15. Resident's Office

    Keppel Province

16. Postal
    Jesselton GPO
    Sandakan PO

17. Telegraph Office

18. Treasury Department



[1] The Fiscal use of Postage & Revenue Stamps of British North Borneo. Ivor D. Moore. 2nd Edition.

[2] The Postal History of British Borneo by Edward B. Proud. 2nd Edition 2003.

[3] Sarawak Specialist Society (SSS) Journals.

Fake & Forged North Borneo Postmark:
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This list is no longer maintained. Please visit my new site on British Borneo stamps called The Stamps Journal.