Thursday, 28 January 2016

Early Sabah Postal History


I am quite interested in postal history during the transitional period when North Borneo joined Malaysia and became Sabah. It has been written that when North Borneo became part of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, its name was changed to Sabah. But the state annual legislative annual report for 1963 stated that the the name was changed on independence on 31 August 1963.  But it evidently took some time for the postal system to catch up.
The name Sabah was in use before Europeans arrived and was probably derived from an old Brunei Malay word implying "upstream of the river". This applied to the western part of the state and we have no idea how the Suluks refer to the eastern part of the country in the old days.

Kudat Cachet

Only almost a year later in June 1964 was the name Sabah used officially on formerly North Borneo mail. But there was some delay with the arrival of the cancellers as well as stamps of the 1961 issue overprinted with the new name. So temporary cachet cancellers for the various post offices were issued.  But they were used for the month of June only in 1964 and so are fairly uncommon especially for the little known post offices.
The triple ring cachet used would be similar for all the post offices but there is somehow a slight difference with the one used at Kudat. It has addition small lugs on either side of the inner ring as shown. This cancellation should be in violet but blue and black ones are reported.
The one shown here is probably from Tawau rather than Ranau, Bandau or Keningau. The cds used was an Australian type with North Borneo at the bottom.

This is a Jesselton cover with the same SABAH MALAYSIA cachet in violet. The Jesselton cds is not clear but it should read 25 JUN 64. On further reflection, I do wonder whether the various town post offices were issued with an individual stamper with the cachet. It was more likely that the cachet was applied as the letters past through the GPO at Jesselton. 

On the 1st of July 1964, the Sabah cancellers and overprinted stamps were in use at the various post offices but probably with slight delay at the smaller outpost offices. However, the previous North Borneo stamp issue was still valid for another 10 years. Anyway, we now have a situation where North Borneo stamps were cancelled with a Sabah Malaysia type cds.
The one shown here is from Labuan right at the beginning of this period in July 1964. Postal history with this combination of a North Borneo stamp or stamps with a Sabah Malaysia cancellation are not easy to find.

This is another similar item from Jesselton, also used in July 1964. This is official government correspondence and evidently, they are trying to use up stocks.

This is much later in 1967. So the unoverprinted stamps were valid for some years after joining the Federation of Malaysia. This cover is grotty but I still have to pay good money for it at the bourse while visiting the Singapore Stamp International exhibition in August last year.

When Sabah became part of Malaysia, Sabah stamps were valid in all the other states including Singapore and vice versa. Sabah stamps used in this way is often seen on philatelic covers but they are still unusual items. I showed a combination cover here previously. Sabah stamps used on covers and also on parcel post in Singapore were also shown previously.
Singapore and other Malaysian state stamps used in Sabah are very uncommon. Here we have on piece stamps from Tregganu and Singapore used at Jesselton with a Sabah cds. Even though Singapore left the federation on 9 August 1965, its stamps were still valid for use in Malaysia for another 2 years.
Update: Straits Times 30 January 1967 "The Deputy Prime Minister's office announced today that it had been mutually agreed between the Governments of Malaysia ans Singapore that the interchangeability ans sale of Malaysian and Singapore postage stamps will not be valid for postal purposes throughout the Republic. Such stamps will also cease to be on sale in Singapore."

During this period, still to be overprinted North Borneo stamps were eligible for use in Singapore even though not officially on sale at the post office counter in Singapore unlike the Sabah stamps. A North Borneo stamp used in Singapore can be regarded as rare.
This 4c 1961 issue has a Singapore Airport cancellation and was possibly sent by a traveler just arriving from Sabah. It is unlikely to be an arrival cds as the airport was not a receiving post office with no residential areas nearby. I only wish the date was more discernible but it was probably 15JUL64.

Update 15/10/2016
This is probably as good as it gets with this clear date of 16 MAR64. I am fairly sure this was rare usage in Singapore rather than a transit cancel.

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