Thursday, 7 April 2016

Labuan stamps used in North Borneo

Labuan started as a British colony after it was ceded to Britain by the Sultan of Brunei on 18 December 1846. It did not thrive as an economic hub and port as envisaged as there was really no requirement for ships to stop by on their way from Singapore to China and back. The development of the coal deposits on the island was a complete failure. It was however an useful base in the early days for the defeat of piracy on the west coast of North Borneo. The administration of Labuan was then handed over to the North Borneo Chartered Company on 1 January 1890. So from that day, North Borneo stamps were valid for use in Labuan and vice versa. This probably continued until 13 October 1906 when it officially became part of the Straits Settlements. But at the start of 1906, links with North Borneo were severed and practically all internal affairs were administered by the Straits Settlements. It was not until December when the Labuan Crown stamps were overprinted and these stamps with a used date of December 1906 are very uncommon.

North Borneo stamps used in Labuan are relatively common even though covers and used postcards are hard to come by. But it was more uncommon the other way round. The first two Labuan stamps were used in Jesselton in 1902 and 1906 respectively. Jesselton cancellations are the most common of this group of stamps due to the proximity of these two ports. The third stamp is a little unusual as Straits overprinted Labuan Crown would not have been valid for use in Jesselton. But the very early date here of 17 Jan 1907 probably meant it slipped the net. 

A Sandakan cds on a Labuan stamp is relatively uncommon as are the various bar cancellations. The Labuan Victoria head stamp was likely to have been from the 1892 set and would reflect a very early use of a Labuan stamp in North Borneo. There is also a pair of 1894 2c Samba Stag stamps with the Sandakan 14 bar cancel which was most likely CTO by mistake with the wrong canceller but still very uncommon. The 1897 2c Samba Stag with the 19 bar cancellation is most unusual and rare. 2c was the local letter rate for a long period between 1883 and 1921.

Kudat postmarks on these stamps are uncommon as this town took a back seat with the ongoing development of Jesselton Town. These two show clear dates for D7. These two 1c stamps were most likely used on locally sent postcards. 1c was the local rate for postcards between 1891 and 1905.

I am happy with this small part Mempakul D2. A short distance across the sea, Mempakul was a very small trading station with a quiet post office. Therefore postmarks from this town are uncommon to rare. The other rare North Borneo town cancellations on Labuan stamps would include Lahad Datu, Tawao, Beaufort and Tenom.

The Mempakul 7 bar postal cancellation is very similar to the Labuan 9 bar CTO cancellation. It is difficult to be certain about the 18c but it looks very likely as the bars are of similar thickness and spacing. On the Labuan Crown stamp which I have 2 other examples, it represented late use of this cancellation which may indicate a fiscal function as well. 
Gayah postmarks are somehow very desirable but generally Gayah B cancels are not that uncommon especially as some of them were cancelled by favour. However, a Gayah cancellation on a Labuan stamp is a real coup. Of course, the later and rarer Gaya without H cancellation would be even better. The earliest recorded Gantian cancellation is on a Labuan stamp and that is something else.

Thought that I might as well show this nice Ipoh arrival cancellation. The date is not clear but I hope it was not 1922 as it have been a most unlikely situation.

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