Friday, 25 January 2013

Mobile PO part 3

For the next few weeks, the main theme of the posts would be transport. I would try to cover mail transported by train, van, boat etc or the associated cancellations on stamps. Part 1 and part 2 of mobile PO were originally posted in December 2011 on this blog.

The mobile POs used vehicles to service a certain fixed route in suburban and rural areas near to some towns in North Borneo/Sabah. There are none in existence at present as they were gradually replaced by more permanent post offices. Mobile PO1 served areas around Kota Kinabalu between 1965 and 1971.
Mobile PO2 served areas around Kota Kinabalu including Tanjong Aru between 1966 and 1972. If you look at my original post in December 2011, you may notice that these philatelic items has the same plain envelope and address as the Railway TPOs even though they were obtained separately from different sources.

Mobile PO3 served areas around Sandakan between 1966 and 1972. The initial published schedule was as follows:
Monday, Wednesday and Friday
0805 hours : North Road, Mile 1½, Market
0810 hours : North Road, Mile 3, opposite Shop Yun Him.
0833 hours : Junction Batu Lima and Pumping Station Road.
0855 hours : Junction Labuk Road and Airport Road.
0905 hours : Airport.
0950 hours : Labuk Road, Mile 9, Sin Hwa School,
1005 hours : Junction Labuk Roa and Sungei Manila Road.
1020 hours : Labuk Road, Mile 13.
1035 hours : Labuk Road, Mile 15, Min Chung School.
1055 hours : Junction Labuk Road and Gum Gum Road.
1105 hours : Vehicle returns to Sandakan Post Office.
1400 hours : Govt. Primary School Berhala Darat.
1413 hours : Shop Sim Sin, Sim Sin Road.
1430 hours : Kampong Galam, Leila Road, opposite Dato Building Site.
1443 hours : Teck Guan Company.
1500 hours : Junction Cecily Road and Leila Road.
1513 hours : Melantah, opposite Chiap Hua Company.
1523 hours : Shell Depot, junction of Batu Sapi Road, near Karamunting Golf Course.
1538 hours : Vehicle returns to Sandakan Post Office.

Tuesday and Thursday
0805 hours : North Road, Mile 1½, Market.
0825 hours : North Road, Mile 3, opposite Shop Yun Him.
0843 hours : Junction Batu Lima and Pumping Station Road.
0900 hours : Junction Labuk Road and Airport Road.
0913 hours : Airport.
0955 hours : Tai Tong School, Sibuga Road.
1033 hours : Pei Ying School, Cecily Road.
1102 hours : Happy Theatre, Cecily Estate.
1130 hours : Vehicle Returns to Sandakan Post Office.
Afternoon schedules are the same as for Monday, Wednesday

Mobile PO4 served areas around Tawau between 1967 and 1972. There were also Mobile PO5 for Labuan and Mobile PO6 for Kudat. The list of mobile POs went all the way up to 17 for Tambunan and 18 for Kuala Penyu but after MPO6 used the letters PPB instead of MPO. This stands for pejabat pos bergerak which is Malay for mobile post office.  So there is still a lot to look out for and I should think the ones for the lesser known places would be quite rare.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Update on L&S and Christmas Is post

I have included some maps and also covers from Christmas Is and Cocos Is. No L&S cover yet but you 'd never know. Click here to see.
I have also added a google translate toolbar. It is quite nice to use if you prefer to read the blog in a different language, though I can not vouch for accuracy of translation.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Some beautiful stamps of North Borneo

I was reminded recently on looking at a mint stamp why I collect NB stamps. One reason is that they look so good! I shall try to show some of the most attractive specimens. There would be many which will have to be left out. I am only showing adhesives pre 1939 to concentrate on the "classic" designs.

A company shield showing a native prahu in full sail and a lion. The lion was a strange choice as there were no such creatures in Borneo or SE Asia. Perhaps it was meant to signify "Britishness" but then there were no lions in Britain either except for Richard the First who was also known as the Lionheart.
The very first NB stamps were engraved by Thomas Macdonald and printed by Blades, East and Blades Ltd. The 1883 8c is shown rather than the very first stamp, the 2c brown. They both have the same design. The 8c stamp has a better colour.
The high values follow a similar format over the years showing variations bearing the arms of the company. They were also printed and designed by the same company. The motto "Pergo et Perago" in Latin can be interpreted as "I proceed and I accomplish" but has been translated with a slight difference elsewhere. A good motto to follow where collecting stamps is concerned!

                The inclusion of a native hut in the distance makes a charming scene.
The use of two colours in these 1894 stamps by the Waterlow and Sons was certainly the one big step in making NB stamps highly attractive. These were probably among the very first stamps to make use of contrasting colours in a pictorial format.
They were recess printed leading to a much higher level of detail showing designs which would have been considered to be highly exotic at the time. Anyway, the aim was to increase sales and generate income.
Somehow, in comparison to earlier issues, they have left out the native and Chinese scrip. The 8c stamp shows a large native prahu with Mt Kinabalu in the background. These native ships were invariably manned by pirates prior to colonisation.

The situation was corrected in 1897 with a new pictorial issue with similar and also additional designs, each stamp with values depicted in three languages. It mostly certainly made the stamps more desirable. My favourite here would be the Estuarine Crocodile in a frame that is more attractively ornate when compared to the previous issue.
The Waterloo's records indicate the engravers on these set of nine stamps were James Bain,  Joseph Rapkin and his son who was also called Joseph Rapkin. The design for the above stamp was revolutionary because in order to accomondate the full majestic length of the beast, the frame on the left side was broken to make way for the tip of the tail. This also happened with the 5c Great Argus pheasant stamp.

The Mount Kinabalu scene is also exceptional in its detail. It was copied from a drawing by Frank Marryat aboard the HMS Samarang which surveyed the coast of Borneo in 1843 rather than 1841 as stated in part 2 of the NB handbook. He was the son of the famous author Captain Marryat. I remember reading his most famous novel "The children of the New Forest" while at primary school.
The view was possibly from Ambong Bay which he visited. He only surveyed a small part of North Borneo and spending most of his stay in Sarawak, many a time in the company of Rajah James Brooke. As far as I can tell, he did not visited Maruda Bay in the north or any of the enclaves on the east coast of North Borneo.

The 1911 high values are all well designed stamps. They are my overall favourites and it is hard for me to choose between the $5 and $10 stamps in terms of colour scheme. The $5 shown here is an unlisted variation in shade being a lot brighter and much nearer to the 1929 issue in colour.

The two shown here are perf 12 and therefore from the 1925 issue rather than 1909. They showed the same designs even though there are slight differences in shade of colour. The animals were well depicted in these series but not without controversy. The two shown here were not indigenous to North Borneo. It is difficult to know what went on to allow these designs. I suppose the main aim was to sell more stamps by making them attractive regardless of accuracy, thus generating more profit for the company that ruled North Borneo.
The 12c stamp shows the Palm Parrot  and the 24c shows the Cassowary which are indigenous to Australia and New Guinea  respectively.
A few interesting observations here include the printing plate getting rather worn on the 12c stamp. The lines are lacking near the R of revenue and above L of London at bottom right. The other inconsistencies in this set includes the lack of a stop after British Protectorate in the 18c/20c stamp and no stop after Postage and Revenue in the 2c, 3c, 4c, 5c, 12c, and 18c stamps. There is also an unessential gap in postage & revenue in the 24c stamp as seen above. A lack of consistency pointed to some haste in preparing the original 1909 issue.

For many, the 1931 issue is the best in terms of design and pictorial content. Almost certainly they were very well executed and has none of the flaws and perforation varieties of earlier issues.
After much reflection, I have decided that the Murut would be my favourite here. Examining it carefully, one could palpably feel the dignity and charisma of the person depicted within a very well designed frame.  It was certainly exotic to the extreme. Others would have chosen the 25c Clouded Leopard or the $5 stamps with fair justification.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Goebilt, Brooketon & Muara

The English sounding names of Goebilt and Brooketon probably evokes a mental image of picture postcard towns and a congenial life style. This was far from the truth as these were actually places of toil and grime.

Goebilt was the site of a jelutong estate not far from Kuching which was backed by the Goelets and Vanderbilts, rich American families of the day. The name was a clever use of part of both names. Jelutong is a hard wood tree from which latex can be extracted. The factory was started in 1910 during the rubber boom but was eventually closed some 20 years later due to the decline in the price of rubber.
The cancellation is normally in violet and is one of the rarer postmarks of Sarawak. It was in use between 1910 and 1924.  There was actually no official post office and the hand stamp was kept in the office on the estate. Our friend, Ha Buey Hon, was the chief clerk. Hence most of the surviving postal history of Goebilt would have had something to do with him. 

Date of 15 MAR 1900. Only 1900 where the year was in 4 digits. The year is invariably smudged to varying degrees as shown here. This 1900 CDS is said to be scarce and has numerals which are smaller than the other letters and numerals (ref SJ v59 p133).

Brooketon was named after Rajah Brooke of Sarawak even though this was and still is part of Brunei. He took over the concession for mining coal from William Clark Cowie in 1888. As a sign of the murky politics of the day, Brooke had total run of the place using his own officers and police. At the time, a weakened Brunei in disarray, was under pressure from both Sarawak and the British North Borneo Company who were both expanding their territories at its expense. 
This cancellation(1898-1907) is probably the most popular of the Sarawak postmarks. Even though it is relatively more common in comparison to Goebilt for instance, it still commands a fair premium. The cancels dating from before 1900 was very much harder to find and as such are much more valuable.
The Brooketon cancellation has the unique distinction of being available on all the four territories of British Borneo. It is very more uncommon on Labuan, Brunei and North Borneo stamps. The circumstances as to how this all came about remains unclear even though much of it was probably paquebot usage as there was a regular steamer service to Singapore after the mail was transported there by native craft. No postal history exists with this cancellation as far as I am aware and probably a significant portion of postmarked items were cancelled by favour.

These are all examples of D1 which was in use in 1909 only. It is one of the "curved" year postmarks of Brunei. Muara came into being after the closure of the Brooketon post office which was located about 2 miles away.
Surprisingly, it only has a rating of  20 in Proud's book. The 1907 25c stamp has a SG catalogue value of £48 and its good large part cancel should enhance its value significantly.
What gets even more interesting is that the Stanley Gibbons catalogue states that the stamp in the middle, the 5c in black and orange was issued in 1916. So how did it manage to have a 1909 cancellation? It would seem that D1 was a "loose" handstamp which was deployed to cancel adhesives by favour long after it has ceased its function in the post office. This was the case for the earliest of Brunei handstamps in general as Brunei was economically a very quiet place with little commercial mail.

A present day map of Brunei. The Malaysia bit is more accurately Sarawak which encircles Brunei. It also cuts it into two sections due to a historic policy of progressive annexation of territory. The district around Bangar is known as Temburong and has a nice desirable postmark. A bit more about Brunei postmarks can be read here.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Fake North Borneo Japanese Occupation one line overprints

I have been rather perturbed by the amount of fake material that has been on offer recently on a very well known online auction site. To be fair at least one dealer does describe his items accurately whereas there are others who concocted some sort of unlikely story to make them sound authentic. This is not good for our hobby now nor in the future. If an item looks or sounds too good to be true then it should be subjected to the highest scrutiny. I say this from personal experience.

I got this lot recently, apart from the 4c pair, in the knowledge that they were unlikely to be true. The genuine stamp would have a catalogue value of up to £500 each. However, the 4c pair is most likely to be authentic. The black overprint is somehow much more common on the 4c stamp. Looking at the the pair, one could see slight differences in the inking and less so in the the japanese characters which would be normal in an individually applied handstamp.
The rest of the stamps have fake identical looking overprints which would suggest a modern printing process. Significantly, the individual characters are also a little larger whom compared to genuine looking examples.
Click on the picture if you would like to see a larger image.

I show examples here which I think are the real McCoy even though one can never be entirely sure. They are in violet which are the more common versions. Note how the inking is not so precise and is different from stamp to stamp. Of course I can not rule out that these were applied by fake handstamps applied individually. Those postwar fakes can be very difficult. It would not be easy to reproduce a violet overprint convincingly with a modern printer, I think.
The $2 overprint on the 1c stamp and the Labuan overprints on Straits stamps are rare as hen's teeth and so do not expect to get them for a relatively small sum of money from a total stranger online. I am not aware the Labuan overprints are even listed in the SG catalogue. I could be wrong. The war tax overprints are not so rare and are also frequently forged.
I once saw almost a whole stock book filled with all the fakes I have mentioned at a stamp fair passed off as normal. There are so many around and so are worth little in moneys. There are many rogues out there. I have updated a comment on the Showa overprints. You can read it here.
Expensive JO stamps should ideally be accompanied by a suitable certificate of authenticity. Organisations such as the Royal Philatelic Society of London have access to reference collections where they could compare the stamps. I understand that they also possess an expensive ultraviolet lamp which can show up the differences in the ink that has been used in such overprints.
For collectors who would like to find out more about these overprints, there is a whole series of articles in past copies of the Sarawak Journal. They are available in pdf form on CDs at a very reasonable price. You can order them directly from the Sarawak Specialist Society.