Once in a Blue Moon...




Jesselton blue cds, 1931

Got new additions to my postmark collection of Jesselton cds, strucked in blue ink dated 9 Feb (?) 1931. Not sure if it's common or not or if it's genuine at all. I got these among the complete set of the used 1931 stamps. From the 8 stamps that I received, only the $1 and $5 have the blue cds, the rest are marked with various black cds of Jesselton and Sandakan. 

Blue postmark is generally a rare occurence in North Borneo stamps. You only get to see it once in a while. I haven't seen much of these in recent years, perhaps more will turn up this year? Nevertheless, I'm still not entirely sure whether the cancel is genuine or indeed a forgery, hopefully someone can shed some light...

New Views on the Labuan Stampless cover, 1858



I posted this in my blog sometime ago and received some interesting comments that it could very likely to be fake. The cover first appeared in ebay around December 2010 and was listed by a French seller. Around that time I had some correspondence with the SSS committee including the then president, Mr. Peter Cockburn, the Labuan specialist Mr. Jeremy Dickson, the current president and librarian of the society Mr. Simon Martin-Redman and the Vice President, Mr. Chan Kee Tex. From the collective correspondence, there are several interesting views that have surfaced, and I thought it is worthwhile to share them here.

Genuine or Fake?

This was the primary question regarding the stampless cover as pictured above - is it genuine or fake? Jeremy Dickson has provided a wealth of information on whether the cover is genuine or not. We know that so far, only six known covers that bear the earliest Labuan postmark  as illustrated in Proud's book. This Harvey cover is dated "Feb 24, 1858" which means that if it's genuine, it predates all the other six known covers. In Proud's, there's a reference on a cenceller sent by the Colonial Office in London to Labuan on 15 September 1851, so the date on the Harvey cover is not at all impossible.

Jeremy had compared the dimension of the genuine cancellation (30mm for the outer ring and 29mm for the inner ring) with the one in the Harvey cover above. There is no way of telling what the dimension is in the Harvey cover so he reduced the size of the picture to match the 30/29 cancellation dimension. This resulted in the cover being measured around 100mm x 60mm - a rather small cover, but not altogether impossible.

Comparison to the other known cancellations based on the numerals was not conclusive either, as there are some parts of the lettering and numerals that are not replicated on the six known examples. Furthermore, Proud's cancellation is not accurate in terms of the lettering and numerals, making such comparison a difficult one. Nevertheless, a lack of evidence does not necessarily means that the cover is fake, as Jeremy pointed.

Regarding the comments sent by anonymous, Jeremy pointed that:

1.  The red cancellation on the Stafford covers has no bearing on whether the Harvey cover is or is not genuine.  The Stafford covers were datestamped in July, September and November 1864; whereas the Harvey cover is datestamped in February 1858 - over six years previously.  All the other two ring cancellations (including - I think - the earlier De Saumarez July 1864 cover) are in black.  It is entirely possible that over the six plus year period (1858 to 1865) different coloured ink pads would have been used. The 1864 De Saumarez cover has a rectangular boxed Singapore Ship Letter handstamp.  By itself, I do not see this as any evidence that the Harvey cover is 'wrong'.  It would however be helpful to consult Singapore philatelists to gain an understanding whether the boxed handstamp was used in 1858 and, if so, whether it was applied without fail to incoming mail. 

2.  I don't think that the suggested differences in the 8's is conclusive evidence the cover is 'wrong'; indeed I don't think that any conclusion can be drawn from this observation.  Firstly, the copy I have looked at has been through the email system three times - you got it off eBay, then to Simon and then to me and each transmission would have resulted in the loss of some clarity.  Secondly, there are no other known covers with '8' as the last slug in the year date.  It is entirely possible that there would have been small differences between different slugs.

3.  The fact that Mr Harvey was managing director of The Borneo Company could actually be said to provide authenticating evidence, rather than a reason to cast doubt on the cover.  The alternative argument that, as Mr Harvey could be identified by trawling the internet, the cover is 'wrong' is inconclusive. The 'too good to be true' argument is a starting point - not the finishing line!  Recently, there has been another amazing Labuan find, which goes to show that over the years covers and other material do emerge that none knew existed.

I have taken the liberty to post his comments verbatim here and I hope he wouldn't mind. :)

The Harvey Covers and French-connection

Mr Simon Martin-Redman added that in the Sarawak Journal vol 60 no 4 page 141  he described a pre stamp cover which appeared and was sold for £20,000 at a SPink auction after being touted by Lugdunum and Feldman Auctions.  This was first discovered in France in 2007 and is addressed to Mrs Harvey.

Last year he saw on ebay another cover previously unrecorded bearing the Sarawak Post Office cancellation and bearing East India Stamps.. This has turned out to be the second earliest cover known from Sarawak bearing adhesives.  It turned out that the cover is worth about £20,000! The interesting part was that the dealer was in France and the cover is to Mrs Harvey as well!

And now this Labuan cover from France and again Harvey. The two Sarawak covers are most definitely genuine and he therefore believes that this Labuan cover to also be genuine.

Mr Peter Cockburn and Mr Chan Kee Tex had similar view although with lesser explanations.


Although there are some good points to support that the cover could be genuine, these remain inconclusive as the only thing we have is the low resolution picture of the cover. It is obviously difficult to draw any firm conclusion based on this alone. I have recently emailed the French seller who listed the cover in ebay to give a higher resolition picture of the cover, but unfortunately he hasn't replied my message as yet. Perhaps we should just wait for the cover to re-appear again. At the meantime, I would appreciate your views and comments on this. Please let us know what you think.

Stamps Hunting: Cork, Ireland


Raven stamps, Washington Street, Cork

Raven Stamps & Coins

I finally got the opportunity to re-visit the shop after extensive renovation last year. The first time I visited the shop was in 2005, about 5 years ago. At that time, the shop was still in its old location. In 2010, I got myself a nice assortment of low values Irish stamps and some British Commonwealth stamps. Unfortunately they didn't have any collectible stamps from British Borneo or Malaya.

Raven stamps' owner, Padraig O' Shea discussing about stamps

Raven stamps & Coins is the only philatelic shop in Ireland's second largest city, Cork. Situated in Washington Street, it is the centre for collectors from the southern province of Ireland, largely collecting Irish stamps, GB stamps overprinted the Irish Provisional Govt, as well as GB stamps used in Ireland. My favaourite Irish stamps is the engraved seahorse overprints (2/6, 5sh, and 10sh) but these are quite expensive and difficult to acquire. Another area of interest is the pre-stamps entire and Victorian covers used in Ireland.

Stocks of Irish stamps and GB stamps used in Ireland

The owner, Padraig O' Shea and his assistant are friendly gentlemen and would warmly welcome you to their shop. There's a radio interview by RTE to Mr. O' Shea a couple of years back, and you may listen the interview here. You can get an idea about the Irish stamps in general and listen to the Cork accent. :)

In my most recent visit, I asked about book reference relating to Irish postmarks as I'm getting more interested in collecting Irish stamps, especially the postmarks. His assistant handed me two books, one by David Feldman (1976) and another newer book but without reference on the postmarks. I didn't buy them as I already have my Stanley Gibbons for Irish stamps issues and the one by David Feldman is only for the shop's reference and not for sale. Nevertheless, it is quite unfortunate that I couldn't get any stamps from British Borneo esp. North Borneo. It would be nice to see covers sent from North Borneo to a rare destination like Ireland. Perhaps I should continue the hunt in Ireland's capital, Dublin!

The Seahorses overprinted "Irish Free State 1922"

What is A.V.2 Postmark?


Brunei 1947 cover franked with 1c. to $1 stamps (12) bearing the circular A.V.2 mark in black ink

What is A.V.2 postmark?

I recently got this Brunei cover with A.V.2 mark on it. In ebay there're several North Borneo covers that appeared with the same circular mark, and I managed to get another one. A.V.2 stands for "Avion 2", a UPU term that signifies that the letter arrived at a transit point and had to be forwarded by air to its intended destination. It appears in airmail letters of certain countries between 1940s to 1960s. During and after the war, many countries tried to avoid the war zones routes and resulted in longer route requiring transits. A.V.2 is then applied on a letter on top of the bundle in the transit point, explaining the relative rarity of such postmark. The equivalent mark for A.V.2 is the O.A.T mark (usually in red) which means "Onward Air Transmission".

Registered cover from North Borneo bearing the A.V.2 circular mark, 1947.

Another registered cover from Jesselton franked with Sarawak BMA stamps with A.V.2 mark, 1947

A.V.2 and O.A.T postmark

A.V.2 and O.A.T marks are virtually the same. Murray Heifitz did a pioneering research on these and published his findings in the Airpost Journal (from American Airmail Society) in December 1992. According to him, A.V.2 mark was used in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Amman, Cairo, Tripoli and San Francisco from 1940 to 1957, and later in other places such as Prague in 1966. The O.A.T marking was used in London, Prestwick, Tangiers, Hong Kong and Amman from 1940 to 1945. Of these two, Heifitz estimates that about 1000 to 1500 of A.V.2 marks exist in collectors' hand (maybe even higher) while many more of letters with O.A.T mark exist, making the A.V.2 mark relatively rarer than the O.A.T mark. He lists 20 types of A.V.2 mark and 15 O.A.T marks based on about 500 letters.

Example of A.V.2 mark used in Bangkok, 1947

The circular O.A.T mark in red used in a cover from Canada to Switzerland, 1948

Collecting A.V.2 mark

Because there are about 20 types of A.V.2 used in countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, the US etc., this should be an interesting area to explore and collect, knowing the fact that only letter on top of the bundle receives the marking, making it quite rare. The O.A.T mark is probably not as common as the A.V.2 mark with regards to letters from British Borneo (N.Borneo, Sarawak, Labuan, Brunei) but discovery may still be made! Happy hunting.

The North Borneo Gems of 2010 in ebay


"The Gems of 2010"

<>As we left 2010 behind, the records remain. Over the year, many interesting items turned up and high realisation prices achieved. The following list shows the most wanted and coveted philatelic materials of North Borneo in ebay for the whole of 2010, based on the final price. Of course price alone does not necessarily reflects rarity, and other factors such as supply and demand as well as the economic condition at that time play a pivotal role in determinng the overall desirability. We've gone through the economic uncertainty at one stage in 2010, it probably has settled down a bit but around that time, although the rare items remained expensive, some of the common ones became much more affordable. This list serves as a future reference not only for the rare items of North Borneo and Labuan but also the price trend throughout the year. 
Some items were expected to reign the top 10 while others may never reach the same realisation in ebay at least for the time being due to increasingly more supplies. This in general is good for the collector, items becoming cheaper and hopefully the trend will continue. The rare items though remain in their own class, not affected much by the economic conditions. As we are now in a new year, hopefully many interesting items turn up and listed.



This lot surprisingly came first of all the other lots, stamps or covers. In January 2010, this is not very surprising but now after 1 year, this kind of mint lot, no matter how perfect they are, probably won't achieve the same realisation (at least not in ebay). This lot illustrates the steep downward trend of the price. It steadily devalues from $961 in Jan 2010 to $460 in August the same year. Now, the whole issue from 1c. to $5 probably won't even sell for $400. Nevertheless, the issue remains one of the most wanted North Borneo stamps issues. The engraved design gives it an extra appeal and the colourful designs make it one of the finest North Borneo engraved stamps.    

Ended January 2010


South Africa

3 bids




This one stamp rules ebay in 2010. It is the single most expensive stamp in ebay throughout the year. This is SGJ15 in S. Gibbons with violet overprints. The catalogue value is only
£500. We know that in ebay, prices rarely realised above the SG catalogue, but this stamp did. The perfect perforations, the mathematically centered design and the clean surface must be the primary reasons. Furthermore, in addition to that the seller also offered the certificate of authenticity from RPSL.

Ended October 2010



23 bids




This airmail cover of the first flight of North Borneo remains the most expensive cover in 2010. The unique boxed cachet is very attractive and eye-catching. For only a month in 1930, the airmail cover is one of the most celebrated and coveted cover of all. This particular cover is addressed to Mr. H. A. Dabell, the then postmaster of North Borneo. 

February 2010



4 bids



This is another interesting cover from the Japanese occupation period (1942-1945). The cover is addressed to the Lahad Datu post office (c/o postmaster) and is franked with 3 North Borneo stamps including the 1c. "War Tax" stamp overprinted with the Japanese characters which translate "Imperial Japanese Government or Dai Nippon Teikoku Seifu". Tied neatly with the circular Japanese cancels in violet from Sandakan dated "20.04.1942". The most remarkable aspect of the cover is probably the vivid censor mark in violet and red, applied in Sandakan Central Post Office.

Ended April 2010



10+ bids



Next comes this $10 stamp of 1911 issue overprinted with black "Red Cross two cents" for the 1918 issue. For mint, the SG Cat value is
£425. This is again, in excess of the Gibbons' price although very slightly. The perfect centering and perforations as well as the fresh and clean look all contribute to the high realisation. Nevertheless, barely a month after being listed, a similar $10 stamp with the overprint was again listed in December and only managed to get
£275 final price. Who knows what the price would be the next time the stamp appear again, could it be up or down or remains the same?

Ended October 2010



21 bids




This is to my knowledge one of the most interesting covers in ebay because not only that it bears the very rare "A.R." postmark, it also defies Proud's recorded usage of such postmark. Proud recorded the A.R. mark to be in use from 16.9.11 - 6.3.29, but this cover has it on 09.09.1901, which means that the cover probably bears the earliest usage of "A.R" mark known. I'm not sure though if there's any more information regarding the A.R. mark but I think this alone should be enough to make the cover one of the gems of North Borneo postal history. In addition to that the colourful frankings, the arrival registration mark in red and the general feel of the cover makes it a great showpiece!

Ended February 2010



4 bids




This lot is the complete set (almost) of 1909 and 1911 combined, just short the 18c. green stamp of Banteng without the "20 cents" surcharge. For mint never hinged and overall good condition, it is no surprise that the lot reached a high hammer price. In January 2010, the MLH $10 stamp reached $360 realisation, while in May it reached $310. In 2011, the market may remain strong for such a stamp.

Ended September 2010



4 bids




The blue registered cover of Labuan is no. 8 in the list. It is an interesting showpiece, franked with Labuan stamps of 8c. 2 times 10c. and one 20c., with registration mark of Labuan and London.

Ended February 2010



4 bids



This cover is unique because of the mixed franking of Brunei stamps and Labuan stamp. It is a registered cover from Brunei to London via Labuan, dated 19 Jul 1895. $610 is a reasonable price realisation for such a cover as I have seen two similar mixed franking covers  addressed to Mr. F. R. Parker on 22 and 23 July 1895, both of which ended with close to $800 final price. The fact that the cover is sold from Bulgaria is another interesting aspect about the cover (unrelated of course...).

Ended December 2010



14 bids



Last but not least is this 1918 issue of $5 overprinted in black "red cross two cents". Beautiful stamp with well preserved perforations. 

Ended January 2010



1 bid

Comments, improvements and additional information are welcome!

Joke of New Year: Sarawak FDC 1953 offered for £1,579!


Joke of the Year

Couldn't believe my eyes when I found this cover in ebay. The seller, apparently with just 13 feedbacks, tries to sell this very common, very typical generic FDC for an eye-poping price of £1,579! Even the opening bid is £1,200. In his description he writes: "This First Day Cover was released in conjunction of the coronation day of H.M Queen Elizabeth 2. In that year, Sarawak (now under Malaysia) was still  under British ruling. This rare artifact is more than 50 years old and is highly valuable. If you have successfully purchased it, please handle with care."