Friday, 26 August 2011


These registration postmarks are relatively common in the 1940s and 1950s issues. They are often found on the high value stamps and as such probably indicate some fiscal use of this cancellation.

An unfortunate forged registration postmark on a relatively uncommon stamp. A well known  NB dealer told me the ink just does not feel right and he is absolutely correct.

Arrival postmarks

Clear arrival postmark for London.

2c green with a " Micky Mouse" type mark with the letter R on top, some sort of return letter mark perhaps. I assume it is of UK origin but I could be wrong. It is not like any postage or fiscal marking for NB that I know of.
Update It looks like part of a "registered London E O" cachet that I have seen on an Oswald Marsh envelope.

Probably not of UK origin but still very interesting to look at.
Update It is a "Killer" oval duplex cancellation from USA with the example on cover as shown below. It cost me a fiver and I wonder how much a good cover like this would sell for if it were NB.

A very nice clear arrival cancellation for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Wavy line killer cancellation likely to be of GB origin but a smaller version was also used in the Straits Settlements.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

An elaborate hoax?

There are 2 postmarks superimposed on each other. One reads "BROBRO"  and  beneath is "TZETZEN". There is no discernible date. I thought it was some sort of European arrival postmark but has had no success with google translate with known european languages. The half cent rose 1888 stamp is good condition genuine. There is no extra stroke in the uppermost chinese character and the corner ornaments all well centred. What I can not understand is why go through the expense and effort of using 2 fake hand stamps to create an unusual postmarked stamp which was probably worth more in its mint state? Nonetheless, I found it an interesting exercise.
Update Been doing more research on this interesting item. The letters NI in the left lower corner may represent Nederlands Indies. So there is a possibility that this stamp may have been used in neighbouring Dutch Indonesia. I am still looking for a comparable NI postmark. I think this postmark is too complicated to be a fake.

"naked" Sandakan postmark

A rather unusual Sandakan postmark without the outer circle. I make the date as 5 OCT 1924. Some Sandakan date stamps, in particular D3 and D13, can become worn and the circle appears as a series of dots rather than completely disappeared. This date stamp looks more similar to D24.

1c stamp with dotted circle postmark dated APR 1900 probably D6. It has part of a "D" in blue at the lower margin possibly the end bit of "registered".

Dotted postmarks D4 and D5.

Dotted D3

Labuan & Singapore transit date stamp

It took me a bit of time to work it out. Seeing whole examples on Cassels' covers helped a lot. The partial franking on the 1c stamp has an "E" on its upper end and a small cross at the other end. There are some letters in between but it is too smudgy to decipher the word. It has a date with month followed by day on the same line with the year below it which is unlike the Labuan postmarks of similar design. It is a Singapore transit date stamp.
The franking on the 4c is probably a "straits" period Labuan postmark but can be Singapore. The postmark has the same thick bar as Singapore but one can see above the year is part of the number "24" probably followed by the month on the same line. Possibly a Labuan D10 postmark on the Proud classification.

Another straits type franking but larger. It is most probably a Singapore transit date stamp.

Yet another straits type cancel with the thick bar within a double ring. There are letters to suggest "sungei". It is possible that it may be an arrival postmark for a place in Malaya. But with the letters AP in the second postmark, I think this is again a Singapore date stamp with an error of a "U" instead of an "I". But Sungei Pettani etc is still a possibility.

1886 stamp and the thick curved bar straits type at the extreme right bottom corner is likely to be a very small part of a Singapore transit marking.

A clear Singapore straits type cancellation. Note the small Maltese Cross left lower corner which adds a nice touch to the design.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Forgeries of the 1888 issue

It has been estimated that up to a third of  the stamps of the NB 1888 issue in any one collection would be frauds. It was about 15% in my case. There are broadly 3 types of forgeries with this issue. In the first type we have 3 examples above which should be easy to recognise. The printing is coarse and blurred with different shades of colour. The paper is thicker and the perforations are inconsistent and variable. The other 2 types can be difficult as they were well printed. They were attributed to Rene Careme of Paris and Francois Fournier of Geneva. They were similar as Fournier was thought to have made use of the printing plates from Careme. However, Careme's creations were said to be of a better quality but in practice it is difficult to differentiate. The main differences from the genuine stamps include type of paper used and the shades of colour. Most of them are also pristine looking with full undisturbed gum. Genuine stamps very often have cracked gum. Also stamps with an irregularly thick Labuan type bar cancel are more likely to be from Carame. 

I have highlighted the differences from the genuine stamps which are all on the left. The main feature in the half cent stamp is the extra stroke in the uppermost chinese and the left corner ornaments centre more to the right. I have also noticed in my collection, the forgeries were all in the magenta stamps and none in the rose which is the cheaper shade.

With the 2c stamp, the shade is a lighter brown. The left bottom ornament is more centred to the left and the 2 is closer to the upper frameline.

This is probably a Fournier with the usual irregular bar cancel. It is perhaps a lighter shade but this stamp is rather faded. The main thing is the crew cut appearance of the lion head.

The 10c does not have a dot flaw just above the letter TH and the CENTS  has variable thickness. The T is shorter and the S has a sharper tail stroke. The colour has a greyer shade. Update I have updated the image. My apologies for highlighting the wrong flaw previously. This is a small dot which is constant in the genuine stamps.

The only genuine item here is the half cent. I would say most of the imperfs of this issue are forgeries unless proven otherwise. They are all pristine looking with full shiny gum. Whole sheets or high multiples are often available. The 3c has no rope from the mast to the flag pole. The left bottom ornament is centred to the right. The 6c has 2 parallel ropes from the deck that does not converge to the mast. The 8c has a thick and distorted rope from mast to flag pole. The ornaments on the left are centred more to the left. The upraised paw of the lion almost touches the frame above.

British North Borneo government seal used at Kudat

There are 2 fiscal cancellations of the coat of arms of North Borneo on this stamp. The upright image shows part of the right sided native holding the sword/parang near the left margin . The upside down image shows the faint impression of the shield belonging to the native on the left, at the bottom half of the picture on the left side. You can also make out his cheerful face in the middle of the stamp. This was the official seal of  the government office at Kudat.  I first though it might be the immigration seal they used at Sandakan  which was very similar in design but slightly bigger. The wording is different. It should read "Government of British North Borneo" at the top with "Kudat BNB" below. I can just make the word "North Borneo" within the double circle on the left side of the stamp.It is really interesting when the stamp itself can give reference to the franking as the designs are similar. I suppose this type of marking would mostly be found on high value stamps. I shall try to get more information and update in the future.

Fiscal cancellation of The Resident's Office at Kudat.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Madame Joseph fake postmark

I bought this stamp with a GPO/BNB postmark recently for I thought was a very fair price. On closer examination, it has a date stamp of 22 AUG 1911 which unfortunately correlates with one of 5 known date stamps of Madame Joseph for North Borneo. The others include a double ring Sandakan postmark dated 16 JAN 1916, 2 double ring Jesselton postmarks dated 22 AUG 1931 and 22 AUG 1941 and lastly a single ring post-war type Jesselton cancellation with the date of 15 JA 48 in one line.
Madame Joseph operated from premises near to Charing Cross Road in London in the early part of the twentieth century. In all there were over 400 different fake cancellers which were also sold or rented to corrupt dealers who used them to manufacture more valuable postmarked copies from cheap mint stamps.  They were mostly applied onto commonwealth stamps. When she died, her post marking equipment passed through various hands, the most recent date of one of her fake cancellations was1967. Eventually, they were bought up by The Royal Philatelic Society of London to prevent further use of the equipment. They also publicised the existence of these fake postmarks.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

postal used bar cancels

My study of NB bar cancellations is getting more interesting. This bird stamp of 1892 appears to have a 11 bar cancel which should exclude a CTO which is normally made of 14 bars. It is also not placed at the corner of the stamp as most CTOs tend to be. However I can find no further information on this 11 bar in oval cancellation at present which makes it even more intriguing. Is it a fake cancel? If so there should be more of it around. And also why bother to CTO a stamp that is worth very much more in mint. The other possibility is that this is a partial 14 bar cancel but the there seems to be a single longest bar in the middle whereas the 14 bar cancel is symmetrical in the middle portion.
Update Having examined it more carefully in comparison with a similar partial 14 bar strike, I am not so certain of my original hypothesis. It is probably a 14 bar but ?postally used. I have been advised to get Ted Proud's book on postmarks, make a tracing on a transparency and then superimposed to compare.

This 1888 3c violet is unfortunately a much faded copy with 3 different cancellations. It has a pen cancel of a date in red, possibly fiscal. There is part of a thin bar type cancel on the left margin, possibly and very speculatively, the 8 bar cancel of Labuan which is rarely seen. It also has a thicker bar cancel at the left top margin. Difficult to estimate how many bars there should be in total but it appears to be rectangular in shape rather than oval. A 4 bar rectangular cancel was recorded for Labuan. Possibly this stamp was used there. Unusual and I hope to find out more about it. A very very interesting item indeed.

This 1888 5c stamp has a full on 14 bar chop. It would very unusual for a CTO to be placed centrally as it would be quicker to try to frank 4 stamps at a time as they were doing whole sheets. Also the stamps with postal used 14 bar on envelopes that I have seen tend to have this franking placed centrally.

This 1888 1c has 16 bars visible is probably a 17 bar cancellation. Unfortunately, no sharp ends are accessible and it is not very "eye" shaped. Perhaps those features are more typical of the 18-19 bar cancels. 

This 1888 3c violet has a full on cancel with 15 bars visible is probably an 18-19 bar postally used item.

This 1886 4c stamp is again a rather faded item. There is a 13 bar oval cancel with 2 Sandakan postmarks in red even though this bar cancellation is more associated with Kudat and Elopura..

This 2c 1888 stamp is more uncertain. I was drawn by the unusual shape of what seems to be a 14 bar cancel. The bars are irregular in thickness and direction. It looks like a worn chop. Would that make it more likely that it was applied in a busy post office rather than the clean pristine appearance we tend to see with a CTO? But then it is a corner cancellation. And also with stamps of this issue, one wonders whether the stamp itself is a clever forgery with a fake cancel.
Update Anon, I think you are right. It is a Fournier probably.

A thick bar cancellation which corresponds well with the 9 bar cancel of  Labuan. This stamp was probably used in Labuan. The 7 bar Mempakul cancellation is a possibility but I think the bars are thicker.

Silam post office

Rightly, this may be the most sought after postmark of  North Borneo. Potentially, it is also the most beautiful of postmarks but unfortunately, the ink used does not adhere properly. Very often it appears as a smudge. The hand stamp has been applied upside down on this stamp. One should see most of the lion except the tail and also quite a few the words can be deciphered.  This post mark would look at its very best intact on an envelope. There are 3 colours recorded, blue, black and orange red. Most of the examples are in blue. Orange red is quite rare and black is even more uncommon even though I think this is probably a variation of the blue shade. I have seen copies with a blue black variation in colour. To the learned, it is also described as a negative seal. This is because the image is contained in the inkless part of the postmark.
Silam stills exist and is probably smaller than in its heyday as it is now known as Kampung(village) Silam. It lies 10 miles to the south west of  Lahad Datu on the coast of the Darvel Bay near the trunk road between Lahad Datu and Tawau. This road also runs north to Sandakan. It came into existence as an experimental garden in 1881. Tobacco grew very well in the area. Many estates were set up largely ran by Dutch companies and at one stage, tobacco accounted for a very significant percentage of overseas exports from North Borneo. However, with time, demand and value declined especially after WW1 and most of the tobacco estates went bust. By June1899, Silam was noted by the British North Borneo Herald, in its fortnightly review, to be in terminal decline due to lack of produce and and having a very poor harbour. 
The Silam strikes were first used in 1888, apparently as a mail bag seal surcharging the top of a batch of letters. The mail were then sent on to Sandakan to be sorted and a secondary date stamp  of Sandakan applied. The post office was closed in December 1895 and the mail operations transfered to Lahad Datu which was outgrowing its neighbour. It appears that the postmark continued to be used in Lahad Datu up to 1897. It really intrigues me as to why Silam was able to use such an unique and beautiful hand stamp (lucky for us!). Who authorised it, designed it etc etc?  
Of recent interest, the cancellation of a coal fired power station to be located at Silam is certainly good news for the surrounding environment.
Click on map to see Silam  
GoogleEarth: One could see a side road leading from the main trunk road with some houses or shops on either side. This leads onto a village/kampung built on the shallow bay on stilts presumably. There are about 50 houses here. The surrounding area is given mostly to planting with oil palms but it is good to see that there are still some large areas of what looks like secondary forest.  

My second Silam! Let us hope there are more out there. It was described as black but it is more bluish gray.