Straits Settlement Stamps with Borneo/Sarawak postmark

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Straits Settlement Stamps used in North Borneo

Historically, before North Borneo joined the Universal Postal Union (U.P.U) in 1st January 1891, its postage stamps were only valid to far as Labuan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Letters going beyond these countries had to be franked with either Labuan, Straits Settlement or Hong Kong stamps, which at that time were available in Sandakan, Gaya and Kudat post offices. As Jesselton was only opened as a new settlement after the burning of Gaya in 1897, I find the Jesselton cancels both on the Perak stamps (SG19a,1891) and on the St. Settlement stamp (SG104, 1892) to be very unusual if genuine. There is no doubt, however, that the blue-ink Sandakan double ring cds may be genuine...

The two lots above appeared in ebay recently. The Perak stamps ended with a mere C$15.49 while the other lot was suddenly no longer available. The seller obviously received, as the famous Godfather movie quotes, an offer he could not refuse. Happy Halloween.

Related topic:
The elephant stamps of FMS
Malaya stamps
Straits settlements stamps

Picture Postcards of North Borneo

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Picture Postcards

Deltiology is a term referring to the study and collection of postcards. Related closely to philately, collecting postcards is said to be the third largest hobby worldwide (after stamps and coin/banknotes). In those days of 1900s, where internet, email, telephone and even camera are not available, picture postcards would have been the only sensible way of communication between families and friends. The depiction of scenes/old towns/local people in many of those postcards now give us some invaluable historical images and a rough glimpse into the life, activity and scenery of North Borneo in the olden days.

In the last few weeks, several interesting North Borneo postcards have been listed in ebay. As the ancient saying goes 'A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words', here's some of the nice postcards of North Borneo/Labuan to be admired and appreciated:

1. Harbour Office, Labuan coloured Postcard

This coloured postcard depicts the Harbour Offices of Labuan. The backside is not shown. It reached a remarkable final price of US$ 400.50 with 9 bids. The top right is affixed with two stamps of 2 cents and cancelled with what possibly a Jesselton cancel to me. The seller mentions the year to be 1917. I'm not sure which one is the publisher but possibly from Singapore.

2. Sandakan Fishing Boat

This one ended with C$255 after 3 bids. It shows two native fishing boats and a bigger ship at the horizon. There is no caption or reference on the front side apart from number '66' at the right lower corner. At the back, the postcard is franked with 8 cents stamp and cancelled Sandakan, 20 Jun 1927. The message is written in English but surprisingly sent to one of the most uncommon European destination - Talinn, Estonia. There is no mention of publisher at the back but based on the heading "Postcard" above, this is probably produced in Singapore by Japanese photographers and artists in the 1920s. This can be confirmed by finding a triangular space for affixing stamp at the top right - covered in this postcard.


3. Jesselton Scene, North Borneo

Sold for £54.10 by a seller from Poland. This one depicts a view of Jesselton in the olden days. Published by Phillippe & Sons, Sandakan. The back has two 1c. stamps - both uncancelled. Sent to Germany. Curiously, the above right is scripted 'Registered'.

4. Type of Native Children (Bajau Tribe), North Borneo

The postcard captures a nice atmosphere within the sea-dwelling Bajau tribe of North Borneo. There are about 22 children shown in the picture (I might be wrong) - The hero must be the one at the very front! There are also several boats characteristic to the sea-Bajaus shown in the picture. 2 cents stamp of the British Protectorate issue is affixed on the front. The postcards is published by Phillippe & Sons, Sandakan (No.40) Final price US$ 174.95.

5. Maxi Card of a Native Riding a Buffalo

Maximaphily is a special branch in philately related to the study and collection of Maxi Card (or Maximum card). This is a type of card whereby the photo depicted resembles the picture shown in the stamps. The above postcard is pretty much the best possible example - the stamps used depict a native riding a buffalo - the card shows the exact same scene. The stamps are cancelled with Sandakan double ring cds dated 1 Jan 1939 - Earliest possible use. At the back shows some scribbles. The postcard is published by K Ltd (Kodak Limited).

6. Liwan Dusuns (or Hill Dusuns) of North Borneo

The postcard presents the Liwan tribe called Dagas (or Hill Dusuns) of North Borneo. This group of 10 women and men are carrying their produce - possibly for a trade in a local market (Tamu). One guy is carrying a gong - the most important musical instrument among the natives of North Borneo. The postcard is sent to the US but I'm not sure if 3 cents is the right rate for such a destination. Nonetheless it's a nice collectible. This postcard is published by Funk & Sons, Sandakan (No.49) but note also that the same picture is also published by another postcard publisher in Singapore, S.P.G (series 21) with a capital that reads 'Carriers in North Borneo'. Final price: US$ 192.50.

7. Mount Kinabalu, B.N.B

An interesting real photo postcard sent by Mr. Fung Shong Kong of Sandakan - a renowned name in postcard collection. This one depicts the majestic Mount Kinabalu (13,450 ft.) franked with two stamps of 3 cents and 5 cents. The card is type-written on 11.1.37 and sent to New Jersey, US. Final price: US$ 167.50.

8. Dyak, Wild Men of Borneo

Shows two Dyak men of Borneo with their traditional headhunting dress. Both men have their weapon at the sides. Franked with multiple North Borneo stamps (7) and sent to an uncommon destination of Zamboanga, Philippines. Unknown publisher.

Agnes Keith Letter Sold for over £1000

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Agnes Keith Letter 1943

This cover appeared in ebay on 29/09/2011 and ended on 09/10/2011 with a jaw dropping price of £1022! Surprisingly there were only 6 bidders involved in the whole 10-day frenzy with a total of 16 bids. Unfortunately the auction was privately listed where the bidders' identities were completely unknown.

The cover itself is a remarkable piece of history and antiquity from Agnes Keith. It was sent from Los Angeles, California (cds dated Oct 30, 1943) to Kuching, Sarawak, during the occupation of Borneo. It was received in the women and children's camp at Batu Lintang, Kuching. The letter itself brings that warm sentimental feeling because it was sent by Agnes Keith's aunt from California (Mrs. H. M. Kimball) who would have been distressed by the news of their captivity by the Japanese - I wonder what the content of the letter would have been.

The cover is marked with two censors - the US and the Japanese censor markings. The U.S. censor is strucked at the left lower corner in circle numbered 849, while there is a rare boxed Japanese censor mark at the centre left. The cover also bears an unusual "Ag" (Auslandprufstelle) transit mark indicating a transit to Vienna, Austria. A transparent examiner's tape was applied at the left aspect of the cover numbered 793.

Another examples of Agnes Keith's letter here.

Introducing A Brilliant North Borneo Blog!

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I would like to thank G. Express for introducing a new blog on North Borneo stamps. I find the blog to be very informative, well written and a great pleasure altogether. It is a great blog to learn about some rarities, postmarks, forgeries etc. Please visit the blog at:


I would like to welcome our new friend and I'm looking forward for his writings, sharings and above all his excellent North Borneo stamps collection!