Thursday, 21 July 2011


One of the most exciting aspect of stamp collecting is to discover an unnoticed variety in one's collection. I have scanned some examples. You certainly need good eyes or a magnifier to spot the BORNEQ error in the  Malayan Borneo Exhibition 1922 stamp.  The large "S" in the 6 cents overprint is clearly seen when compared to the normal. It is easy to miss on its own.You will need to click on the 50c pair of stamps to see the error Jessleton instead of  Jesselton. There is definitely a lack of  detail and quality with these more modern stamps using the photogravure process.

1890 and 1892 surcharges

The overprints were said to be done to a lack of the 2c and 8c stamps at the time. The first printing had 3.5mm between the lines of surcharge. A second printing was made some years later with the space between at 5mm. Again with NB stamps, the reasons for doing so are unknown except to serve a philatelic purpose. The "8 cents" surcharge was made purely for the pleasure of collectors as there was no need for a stamp of this denomination in 1892 when the international letter rate has been reduced to 6c. It is relatively uncommon as apparently only 300 stamps were overprinted. 

1886 1c error

A very nice error especially as seen in a row of 3 in between the normal stamps. The 1c error is on stamp number 13 in a complete printed sheet of 50. It was due to inserting the incorrect die of the 1c stamp at the time of printing.. 

high values

This is when CTO is useful. The CTO versions are a lot cheaper! Very good for gaps and the unaffordable items. But it is still the aim of most to collect reasonable mint or postal used specimens. The high values prior to 1892 and their derivatives were lithographed by Blades, East and Blades of London. They continued to be designed by Thomas McDonald. Here I have shown a selection. In case you wondered, the brown $5 stamp was a colour trial before deciding on the final colour of the stamp.

bar cancels and CTO


North Borneo was infamous for stamps which had been cancelled to order, also known as CTO. The North Borneo Chartered Company ran the place like a business as they were answerable to their shareholders. Selling stamps was a way of making money, hence the new issues, overprints, surcharges etc. The stamps were printed in London and part of them sold direct to dealers via their sole agent, a Henry Grieve Parker aka F R Parker, a name which appears on many covers of that period. 
There were probably hundreds of thousands of stamps which were subjected to CTO and sold on at a fraction of face value. The 1888 "arms" issue as shown above in the first picture was sold at an old penny a CTO set to dealers!! Still it was like selling bits of coloured paper at a premium. It was quite a surprise that Francois Fournier in Geneva and Rene Carame in Paris bothered to make good forgeries of these stamps at these silly prices. The problem for collectors is learning to recognise which are CTOs and which are postally used.
The 14 bar cancel that was used in London was the same as the one used in Sandakan for normal post between 1885 and 1891. However, there were similar but different bar cancels in postal use as well. The common ones were the 17 bar and its bigger brother with 18-22 lines. The ways to differentiate from the 14 bar cancels are the former have more pointed ends as shown in the second picture and also they are "eye" shape rather than oval. CTOs have a cleaner appearance and they are usually located at the corners of the stamp as the printers tried to frank 4 stamps at a time though less often with high value stamps.The stamps were in sheets of  50 and there were literally thousands of sheets to be done. 

Note the the more pointed ends and the "eye" shape of these 17 bar cancellations. These postally used cancels also tend to be more smudgy and untidy.

These three stamps includes the 8c stamps of the 1883 and 1886 issues with postal used 14 bar cancellations. The 3rd stamp on that row has a thicker 9 bar cancel ? postal used in Labuan.

These are 1888 1c  and 6c stamps with a cancellation from a modified 14 bar oval chop with lines cut diagonally giving rise to an oval dots postmark. There were similar postmarks in use in Labuan and the Straits but they were round in shape. A relatively uncommon cancellation. I am wondering whether the 6c has a modified 17 bar cancel as it looks longer. But a modified 17 bar dots cancellation is not on record.

. I have also included these stamps as a warning to unwary collectors. They seem like good postally used stamps at a glance. But look carefully, you can see faint bars of CTO at the corners. They have fake postmarks or later postmarks applied by an obliging postal clerk on top trying to obscure the bar cancel. They are misrepresented items which have been passed onto collectors at a higher price. A lot of these stamps have the box/circle postmark. The controversial practice of  bar CTO on North Borneo stamps at the London office was sensibly stopped in 1916.

Saturday, 9 July 2011


1909 10c Wild Boar blue, turquoise blue and grayish blue
1909 12c Palm Cockatoo deep bright blue and deep blue

1909 3c Jesselton Railway Station lake and rose lake
 1909 6c Rhinoceros olive green and apple green
 1909 5c Elephant yellow brown and dark brown
 1897 8c Malay Dhow brown and brown- purple
 1897 10c Sun Bear slate-blue and slate- lilac
1897 5c Great Argus Pheasant orange-vermilion and lighter shade probably bleached by sunlight.

 1886 1c orange and orange-yellow. note printing flaw of left bottom rosette.

1899 4c on 50c slate-purple and chalky blue

These are the common shades listed in the SG catalogue but the definitive text by Shipman and Cassels listed a lot more. Colour shades have several different causes. The printer may use a different ink; in the early days, inks were made up in batches as needed, and were rarely consistent. In such cases, the shade provides information about when the stamp was made, and possibly even identify a particular printing. Extreme variations may be considered colour errors. Inks may also be diluted or applied more thinly. It can also happen randomly, if a printing plate is accidentally under-inked.Ultraviolet light is destructive to a great many pigments, and can cause considerable lightening. In addition, some countries have used water-soluble materials known as fugitive inks to prevent reuse. Stamps of this type may be much lighter in color after being soaked.Some dramatic color variations occur as a result of chemical action; such stamps are called colour changelings. Forgers have also used chemicals to try to produce seeming rarities, although by now experts know how to identify these attempts.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

prepaid postal cards

I have lifted the image of the bottom card from an online auction site. My card has the return portion intact. There is a short message saying 2 other cards has been sent as requested. They both have the same address and date of 27 Jan 1905 posted at Sandakan. They are therefore more philatelic than commercial use. My card also has secondary post marks of Victoria, HK and Shanghai. It would be interesting to be able to own all 3 cards which were dispatched for the same purpose. 

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Quicksand and mist. Travellers Palm overprint

A good pair. Looks like one is sinking into quicksand and the other is disappearing into a mist. Under printed due to lack of  ink.
The Travellers' Palm or Travellers' Tree originated from Madagascar and was previously thought to belong to the banana family. It is so called because the fan tend to grow in a east-west line, thus providing a crude compass. It grows to an average height of 7 metres.

North Borneo crocodile stamps 1894 and 1897

A NB classic and a thematic dream. Beautiful design and a good balanced colour scheme. I have now also included the 1894 stamp which I think is not as interesting but still good.
Read on the news recently that a 4 metre salt water crocodile given the name Girang living in the Kinabatangan has been electronically tagged and monitored by satellite. There is a grave threat to their numbers due to the growth of oil palm plantations with their effluent, increasing numbers of humans and falling fish stocks. Their cousins in Sarawak seem to have acquired a liking for human flesh.
The largest recorded example of  a dead crocodile was 6.2m long, 20 ft! It was shot by poachers in N Australia in 1974. They can weigh well over 1,200kg and live up to 70 years on average.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

North Borneo train stamp 1902

A  very desirable item even though I am not entirely sure about the choice of colour. A classic NB stamp and design. It is like a picture within a very ornate frame. I am sure it is very popular with thematic collectors. It was first issued in 1902 to commemorate the building of the railway line which commenced in 1896 with a 20 mile section between Weston and Beaufort. It was finished by 1905 with a total length of some 116 miles building in 3 stages with the line terminating at Jesselton.
The North Borneo Railway reopened in January 2011 after a 5 year fitting. Apparently it is quite popular with tourists. The original line ran from Sembulan in KK to Tenom. The refurbished line now starts from Tanjung Aru and I am not sure it runs direct to Tenom. There is probably a change of train at Beaufort. I had the pleasure of taking the journey in 1974 but I guessed the scenery has probably changed a lot. There is a good account in the following link:

Printers waste! 1894 issue

double and triple printing as well as inverted. There should not be any serious value attached to these stamps. I have them out of curiosity.
Printers waste generally refers to stamps that appear to be errors but are not. They are misprinted material either by accident or intention. They were supposed to be discarded but enters the philatelic market through carelessness or greed. They were originally imperforated sheets. The perforation were added later to make them look more philatelic.

North Borneo stamps with inverted overprints

My small collection of inverted overprints.

North Borneo 1902 postage due double overprint

The second stamp has a double overprint. This example looks like a smudge and is easily overlooked. There are more obvious examples. Double overprints are usually a lot more expensive such as ones from the 1922 MBE overprinted issue.

North Borneo imperf stamps

Broadly speaking, NB imperfs are mainly divided into complete imperfs and imperfs with perforated margins. Imperfs between stamps can be vertical or horizontal as shown in the above examples. Whole sheets of imperfs are also quite common especially with the smaller stamps of the 1888 issue. One wonders whether it is mostly intentional as the value can be many multiples of the original.
The bottom stamp of the 1909 1c tapir with the imperf margin is uncatalogued. Comments are welcomed.
Update I have just realised that the 2c "postage and revenue" is a complete fabrication! It is a very cleverly forged imperf  stamp probably a Careme rather than Fournier. There are a few subtle differences from the real item.The give away is the irregular thick bar cancels, similar to the Labuan bar cancellation, usually deployed by Careme. It amazes how he can falter with a simple thing like a bar cancel and yet produces such convincing forgeries.

Friday, 1 July 2011

North Borneo 1883 SG 1, "2" and 3

These were the first stamps of  North Borneo. They were engraved by Thomas Macdonald and printed by Blades, East and Blades in London. SG 1 was issued in March 1883 followed in June by SG 2 & 3. The second stamp has a fake overprint on a later, more common stamp issued in 1886 with a different perforation. It should have been a perf 12 rather than a 14.
2c was the rate for post within North Borneo and 8c was required for overseas mail via Singapore or Hong Kong. The overprints were carried in the government offices of the Borneo Herald at Sandakan.
Stamps 1 and 3 have Sandakan blue cancellations. Stamp 2 has the infamous bar cancel which was also used to cancel remainders in London (CTOs) to be sold on to collectors below face value like selling coloured bits of paper at a premium. However similar bar cancels were used postally in NB at the same time. You need good eyes to distinguish between them. There will be further information in a future post.

Fournier forgery. North Borneo 1883 50c stamp.

The top item is a Fournier fogery with a fake postmark. The one below is genuine and you could argue that it is not as good looking.  The distinctive difference apart from the different tone of the paper is the letters "PERCO ET PERACO" (I persevere and I achieve) in the coat of arms are not centered in the band. Most of these letters touch the top or the bottom of the band. Did Founier do it on purpose to distinguish his facsimiles from the real thing? 
Francois Fournier (1846-1917) operated as a forger in Geneva. It was postulated that unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not seek to defraud the public. He described his material as fasimiles and promoted it to collectors who could not afford to purchase genuine items and to the uneducated collectors as a preventative measure against being deceived by dishonest stamp dealers. But that does not explain why he forged relatively common and cheap stamps as well, such as the small stamps of the 1888-92 issue.  
They are now very collectable.
Search google for "The Fournier Album" to see some of his other creations.
Update I have included the Fournier $1 partner stamp which I lifted from ebay. This looks decidedly bogus. Note the same date 23 Jun 1886