Happy New Year 2011!


Happy New Year 2011!

2010 passes with good and fond memories. As we usher the new year, may it brings prosperities and endless joys.
Happy Hunting and Have a Great New Year 2011!

Cover: WWII illustrated cover from Labuan to England sent by a soldier on active service in Labuan. Shows the red Maritime Mail mark and the circular cachet inscribed Post office. On lower left aspect shows the shield-shaped censor mark in violet.

Stamps Hunting: Amsterdam and Athens, Greece


Amsterdam, Holland

First off, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011! May it bring prosperous and joyous year to you! So for my winter break I went to Amsterdam and Athens for one week. I finally get a break from busy schedule in the hospital everyday. The holiday is definetely a good excuse to escape the bitterly cold winter in Ireland where pipes get blocked or even burst. My visit to Amsterdam was very brief as it served only as a transit to Greece. Nevertheless, I had about one full day to spend in the city. Finding a stamp shop was one of my primary motives in Amsterdam as I've enjoyed all the fun in the city including the notorious red light district and the breathtaking windmills when I visited the city 2 years ago. This time I was determined to look for another attraction the city has to offer.

Stamps shop Amsterdam

Amsterdam on the 20th December was covered in snow. This made walking a bit difficult, slippery and wet. Finding philatelic shops without prior knowledge of the street was like finding rare stamps - you only find it if you are lucky. Fortunately I managed to find some 3 stamps shops in Nieuwezijds Voorbugwal Street after a long walk. The bad thing about stamps hunting in Christmas time is that many shops are closed and it was good enough that one of the three shops was open.

I went in and was duly greeted in Dutch. Then, realizing that I was clueless in Dutch the old man asked me "hello, how may I help you?". I said to him that I was looking for Borneo stamps and he then asked me "you mean Sarawak, Labuan, Brunei and North Borneo?" "Yes that", I replied, slightly amazed to the fact that he knows about the British Borneo. "Well I have some covers, postcards and some stamps, but unfortunately my assistant is not around today, he's usually the one handling that area of specialty, but you can come back again tomorrow...". I explained to him that I will be in Amsterdam only for the day and that I have to fly to Athens that night, so I requested to just see the collection, but unfortunately he didn't know where exactly the stamps were and insisted that I come back the next day.

After many futile attempts, I gave in and asked him whether he would take my email, but then being a traditional seller and IT-illiterate he said that he had no email and that he's not very familiar with selling stamps online. In the end, all I got was a picture of the shop :( The moral of the story is, plan your visit and stay longer in any one city.

Athens, Greece

Temple of Poseidon

I stayed in Athens for about a week visiting some Greek Islands, the ancient Greek ruins and temples. It was a fascinating country with beautiful panoramic scenes. But stamps-wise, it's no better than Amsterdam. I only started to look for stamps shops on Christmas eve which was of course pretty silly as many shops were closed. Finding a stamp shop in Athens was slightly more difficult than in Amsterdam as I didn't know much of the Greek letters, only relying from my vague Maths and Physics symbolisms. I had to look up in the internet so as not to waste my time wandering the many streets in the vast city. Nonetheless, I managed to find 2 stamps shops, both of which were closed. Both were situated in Stadiou street (10 and 39) between Syntagma and Omonia square.

Stamps shop in Stadiou 10

There are of course many other stamps shops in Athens but I didn't bother to visit them as I know they're closed. Even the philatelic museum in Fokianou street was closed around Christmas time. Many other shops were closed as well, but I still get the chance to visit some interesting shops selling antique stuffs such as old coins and banknotes. Although I'm not a big fan of collecting these, I ended up spending hours looking at the old Greek currencies from one street to another. They're just interesting with varying designs incorporating the ancient Greek gods and mythology. My personal favourite was the old coin depicting an owl, which resembles closely to the current 1 Euro coin from Greece.

A visit to Mediterranean Greece was supposed to be an escape of the Irish winter. Although a year back, we heard of a violent riot in the city against the police, the city was actually quite peaceful during my visit. Nevertheless, I've seen some remnants of vandalisms on public buildings and facilities - the post office included. A post office just facing the Syntagma square had its window broken and smeared with red paints. Its kiosk vending stamps was burnt to the point of non functionality. But overall, the city was pleasant enough that I would consider coming back again, that time perhaps I would hunt for the awe-inspiring Hermes head stamps of Greece!

Old Greek coins in Monastiraki area

The Greek Postboxes in Syntagma

To err is Divine: Labuan Inverted Centre


Inverted centre

Inverted Centre

Philately is similar to fine art - it is the satisfaction, appreciation and understanding that count. In general, collectors have a special interest in rarity. Perfection is not the only big thing in collecting stamps, quite the opposite, freaks and errors also generate equal if not more interests.

The picture above shows a Labuan stamp with an inverted centre. This is basically an 8 cent postage due stamp of 1901 issue, with CTO mark on top right. Reportedly, less than 40 of such stamps exist, with a catalogue value (SG D6ba) of £ 9,500. It is currently auctioned in an auction house from US and has a bid of $6,500.

Labuan Stampless Cover 1858: A New Discovery? or a Fake?


The Cover

The cover above appeared in ebay on 6 December 2010 with an opening bid of GBP9.00. A day after being listed, the seller ended the auction (without bids). I emailed him asking the reason behind it and here's what he replies "...just because due to its scarcity, I realized that eBay was not the best place to sell it maybe I will hand it over to Feldmann or another auctioneer".

The cover itself, from a quick glance, is not any attractive than the other earliest Labuan covers. In fact, there are no stamps found and apart from the postmark and the handwritten address, the cover is virtually void of any appeal. Nevertheless, from a more detailed inspection, the postmark shows a date of FEB 24, 1858 which means that the cover is probably one the earliest known covers from Labuan!

The Postmark

I'm not sure whether there's any reference about this particular cover or postmark in the literature or not. I have seen a number of early Labuan postmarks similar to this one, but typically show the year of 1864 or 1865 and may be strucked with either red or black ink. Proud mentions that a datestamp was ordered on 15.09.1851 with sliding dates plus ink pad and post office seal, but no other detailed note. The earliest Postal Regulation of Labuan was introduced in 1849 and free delivery to Singapore is only granted to letters on the public service (sent or received by authorized officers) and letters of non-commisioned officer, soldiers, seamen or marines.

Mr. Harvey of Borneo Co. Limited

The cover is addressed to Mr. Harvey of Borneo Co. Limited (BCL), Singapore. Mr. John Harvey was the then managing director of the company and one of its board members. BCL was founded in 8 May 1856 in London as a joint stock, limited liability company, doing import and export business including the formation of a shipping cartel. Singapore was the headquarter of the company in the Far East with braches in places like Borneo, China, Hong Kong, India, Java etc.

Note: Please read a further discussion on the cover HERE by the members of the Sarawak Specialist Society.

Land Ordinance Documents with Perfinned Revenue Stamps 1920


The Perfinned Revenue Stamps

Both documents show the use of perfinned stamps with the word REV / ENUE, arranged in 2 lines of 73 holes. The perfins may be upright or inverted as seen in the second document (although sideways perfins are also recorded). Stamps from both documents are cancelled using the "Land Office, Jesselton, B.N. Borneo" oval double ring cancel in 16 June 1920. I think both documents are related to the transfer of land ownership. All stamps are faulted (as usually the case for revenue-related use) but in general, perfinned stamps from North Borneo are quite rare. These stamps appear only very rarely in ebay!

Similar But Not the Same


Cover A

Cover B

Similar But Not the Same

Both covers are similar in many ways: they are both franked with a complete set of 1894 stamps from 1c. to 24c, they are both sent from Sandakan to Germany and tied with the same cds. Both are registered mails with reg. no 36 and 26 respectively, and both are philatelic in nature.

The main differences are the franking style, the cover used, and the address. Cover A is clean, fault-free cover with the address printed, definetely with philatelic market in mind; whereas cover B is handwritten with slight fault on top, but with a feel of genuine postally used cover.

The question is, if you were to choose from one of these covers, which one would you choose? Cover A or Cover B? I like a clean, fault-free cover but I also prefer a cover with a feel of genuine postally used rather than purely philatelic in nature. But what do you think? Cover A or Cover B and why?

Or follow the discussion in Stampboards here