It is good to take a little vacation from postmarks to look at the controversial but interesting issue of overprinted stamps that marked the 1922 Exhibition which was held in Singapore. Six of the countries taking part decided to commemorate the event by overprinting their current stamps. These included North Borneo, Brunei, Strait Settlements, Kedah, Kelantan and Trengganu.
When the announcement came out, it was met with derision by the philatelic press. It was regarded as a philatelic opportunity to make money for the countries involved. At that time North Borneo had a very bad reputation for excessive issue of stamps and overprints together with the use of the much maligned bar CTOs for the retail trade.
The overprints were done in a hurry due to the short time scales. The exhibition was opened for 17 days between the 31st of March and the 17th of April 1922. It was intended that the stamps would be available for sale during the event.
As a result, there were a lot of interesting printing errors. This occurred especially during the overprinting of the NB stamps which was carried out at the Sandakan government printing offices. Whether much of it was intentional, I shall leave it for readers to conclude. It covered all values of the then current 1909 set together with the 25c and 50c of 1911.
The errors included wrongly used letters, different colour overprints, double overprints and varieties like different shades and perforations. Some of the varieties are rare and very expensive. The most accessible are the items with stop after Exhibition. The 1c tapir stamp has the largest range of varieties. This set is now one of the most sought after of the NB issues. I very much doubt whether any one individual would have the complete set with all its varieties and errors.
Reference: The stamps and postal history of North Borneo part 3 by Shipman and Cassels which can be obtained from The Sarawak Specialist Society
HRH Prince of Wales at the opening of MBE 1922.
Lead tickets for the exhibition now worth hundreds of pounds!