Spain: Commemorating Goya

Spain is the home of many world renown artists including Diego Velazque, Salvador Dali and of course, Pablo Picasso – all of which have been celebrated on Spanish postal stamp issues. Another to have appeared more than once is Francisco José Goya. Indeed, Goya was the first artist to be commemorated on a Spanish postal stamp issue of 15 June 1930, his death centenary. Goya is widely considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and celebrated as one of the last of the Old Masters and one of the first of the New Modern era.

Goya was born on 30 March 1746 and studied painting from an early age, becoming the court painter to the Spanish Crown. Goya remained in Madrid during the 1807-14 Peninsular War against the French led by Napoleon. The war affected him deeply and is believed to have influenced his penchant for portrayals of a dark nature including the Disasters and War series and paintings concerned with insanity, asylums, fantastical creatures and corruption, for which he is most known today.

The 1930 issue comprises standard postage stamps with denominations ranging from 1c to 10p employing three very recognisable designs. Two of the designs feature an image captured in the 1826 portrait painting by Vicent López Portaña, just a couple of years before Goya’s death. These two stamp designs differ only subtly in the frame design and were used on no less than fourteen denominations from 1c to 1p.

Spain 1930 10c stamp featuring Goya
Spain 1930 10c featuring Goya
1826 portrait of Goya by Vicent López Portaña
1826 portrait of Goya by Vicent López Portaña

A further three denominations of 1p, 4p and 10p feature one of Goya’s most noted paintings, The Naked Maja – one of a pair of paintings (one featuring the model clothed, the other naked) completed during the artists middle period 1790-1800. It has been described as ‘the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art’ and in 1813 the Spanish Inquisition confiscated both works as ‘obscene’. The stamp also features the text ‘QUINTA DE GOYA’ in the top left, a reference to the country home of Goya situated on a hill in the old municipality of Carabanchel on the outskirts of Madrid. It was here that Goya painted the Black Paintings comprising fourteen murals, portraying intense, haunting themes, reflective of both his fear of insanity and his bleak outlook on humanity.

Spain 1930 10p stamp featuring The Naked Maja by Goya
Spain 1930 10p featuring The Naked Maja by Goya

Also in the 1930 issue are thirteen Airmail stamps ranging in denominations from 5c to 10p featuring numerous Goya artworks from a substantial backlog of fantasy etchings published towards the end of the 18th century. Goya described the works as depicting “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilised society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance or self-interest have made usual”. The images include Volavérunt (They have flown) (1p, 4p, 10p), Disparate Volante (Flying Folly) (5c, 15c, 25c), Asmodeus and Cleofas (5c, 10c, 20c, 40c), and Manera de Volar (A Way of Flying) (30c, 50c, 4p).

Spain 1930 10c stamp featuring Asmodeus and Cleofas by Goya
Spain 1930 10c featuring Asmodeus and Cleofas by Goya
Spain 1930 15c stamp featuring Disparate Volante (Flying Folly) by Goya
Spain 1930 15c featuring Disparate Volante (Flying Folly) by Goya
Spain 1930 1p stamp featuring Volavérunt (They have flown) by Goya
Spain 1930 1p featuring Volavérunt (They have flown) by Goya

Goya retired to the French city of Bordeaux in 1824 and, following a stroke that left him paralysed on the right side, he died on 16 April 1828. Goya featured again on a Spanish postal stamp issue of 1958 celebrating Stamp Day and commemorating 130 years since his death with further images from many of his most noted paintings.

To view postal issues of the Spain, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Germany: The Hitler Provisional

A stamp issue released just days before the 1923 Munich Putsch – an attempted coup d’état by the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler – is often referred to as the Hitler provisional. The reference is misleading as the putsch was unsuccessful and the stamp issue itself had no other direct connection with the event other than the fact that it had been issued Munich.

Germany 1923 200m Definitive stamps
Germany 1923 200m Definitive

The definitive stamp issue introduced in March 1923 serves to demonstrate the challenging economic conditions that Germany faced at the time. Inflation had risen to alarming proportions – a loaf of bread that cost around 160 Marks at the end of 1922, cost 200,000,000,000 Marks by late 1923. The stamps featuring a utilitarian numerical design, ranged in value from 100 to 1,000m and by July, additional stamps featuring Wartburg Castle and Cologne Cathedral were added with denominations of 5,000 and 10,000m.

Germany 1923 5,000m stamp featuring Wartburg Castle
Germany 1923 5,000m featuring Wartburg Castle
Germany 1923 10,000m stamp featuring Cologne Cathedral
Germany 1923 10,000m featuring Cologne Cathedral

The postal rates charged so regularly that it proved impossible to keep pace with new definitive designs. Between August and October 1923, regional postal authorities surcharged the existing stamp issues with denominations ranging from 20 Thousand (tausend) to 2 Million (millionen) marks. A new stamp design was introduced in September and a further design in October 1923 with denominations ranging from 500 Thousand (tausend) to 50 Billion (milliard) marks. This latter series was itself surcharged in November 1923. On 7 November in Munich, the original 100m stamp from the March 1923 issue was surcharged with 1 Billion (milliard) Marks and it is this stamp that is often referred to as the Hitler provisional.

Germany 1923 800 Thousand surch. on 1,000m stamp
Germany 1923 800 Thousand surch. on 1,000m
Germany 1923 2 Million surch. on 500m stamp
Germany 1923 2 Million surch. on 500m

The Munich Putsch, also known as the Beer Hall Putsch took place days later on 9 November 1923 and involved approximately 2000 Nazi supporters led by Adolf Hitler, who marched on the Feldherrnhalle, a monument in the centre of Munich. The event was an attempt to bring down the government of the Weimar Republic and resulted in the deaths of four police officers and 16 Nazi party members. Hitler escaped the event but was wounded and later arrested and charged with treason. He was sentenced to five years in prison although only served nine months. However, the event had brought Hitler to the attention of the German nation and the rest as they say, is history.

In general, these stamp issues were produced in such vast quantities that they hold little value to the collector. However, there were numerous surcharging errors and variations that are of interest to the philatelist.

To view postal issues of Germany, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Anguilla: Battle for Anguilla

Anguilla is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and directly north of Saint Martin. Dedicated postal stamp issues for the small Caribbean island begin in 1967 and celebrate its peaceful and colourful culture. However, a stamp issue of 1976 provides insight of the military battles fought on land and on the high seas surrounding the small island.

On 8 November 1976, Anguilla issued a particularly striking set of six stamps commemorating the Battle for Anguilla. An online search on the history of this event is likely to reference a military land engagement that took place on the island in June 1745 during the War of the Austrian Succession. However, the stamp issue actually refers to a sea battle that took place more than 50 years later in June 1796 during the time of the French Revolution.

Anguilla 1976 1c stamp featuring French ships approaching Anguilla
Anguilla 1976 1c French ships approaching Anguilla
Anguilla 1976 3c stamp featuring Margaret (sloop) leaving Anguilla
Anguilla 1976 3c Margaret (sloop) leaving Anguilla

The French privateer and revolutionary leader, Victor Hughes led an expedition of several hundred men in two frigates, the La Vaillante (4 guns) and the Le Desius (30 guns). Hughes paid little regard to instructions from the revolutionary leaders in Paris and set out to devastate Anguilla. His forces landed at Rendezvous Bay, the landing site of French forces during the earlier battle in 1745. The land engagement was said to be vicious with widespread looting and plundering.

Anguilla 1976 15c stamp featuring Capture of Le Desius
Anguilla 1976 15c Capture of Le Desius
Anguilla 1976 25c stamp featuring La Vaillante forced aground
Anguilla 1976 25c La Vaillante forced aground

A sloop by the name of Margaret left Aguilla with news of the attack, which reached Captain Barton of H.M.S. Lapwing (76 guns) that had been stationed at Basseterre, St Kitts. The French, who had faced determined resistance from local inhabitants, hastily re-embarked their ships and faced H.M.S. Lapwing in a brief sea battle. La Vaillante was forced aground at St Martin and Le Desius was so riddled by shot that she was easily captured and torched.

Anguilla 1976 $1 stamp featuring H.M.S. Lapwing
Anguilla 1976 $1 H.M.S. Lapwing
Anguilla 1976 $1.50 stamp featuring Le Desius burning
Anguilla 1976 $1.50 Le Desius burning

Sadly, the land engagement that preceded the sea battle is less well recorded but it is understood that the local inhabitants had taken up resistance at Sandy Hill Fort (now the site of a Government building). Under the command of Deputy Governor Benjamin Gumbs, Anguilla’s militia were able to harass and delay the vastly superior French forces.

The stamps in the issue commemorate the 220th anniversary of the battle and comprise the following denominations:

1c French ships approaching Anguilla
3c Margaret (sloop) leaving Anguilla
15c Capture of Le Desius
25c La Vaillante forced aground
$1 H.M.S. Lapwing
$1.50 Le Desius burning

Victor Hughes survived the Battle for Anguilla and later declared war on the United States which he accused of selling arms and ships to Britain. His attacks on American shipping were initially successful but his influence dwindled in light of the subsequent American declaration of war on France and later Napoleonic wars.

To view postal issues of Anguilla, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Bahamas: The Interinsular Stamp

The Bahamas post office became independent in 1859 following the publication of a report by the English novelist and civil servant, Anthony Trollope. The first distinctive stamp issue clearly identified that the mail posted externally from the Bahamas remained under the control of London. Despite full independence postal services just a year later, the ‘intersecular’ stamp remarkably remained in service for 25 years.

The first adhesive stamps to be used in the Bahamas were contemporary British stamps that were first distributed to the colony in 1858. These comprised 1d, 2d, 4d, 6d and 1s stamps. These stamps can be distinguished from stamps used in the British Isles by the oval obliterator with the digits A05 assigned to Nassau, the capital and largest city of The Bahamas.

In 1858, the celebrated novelist Anthony Trollope visited the West Indies as a surveyor for the Post Office. It is understood that he disliked his work at the Post Office and acquired a reputation for unpunctuality and insubordination. However, it was Trollope that recommended that many of islands of the West Indies be given responsibility for their own postal affairs. As a result, the Bahamas post office became independent in 1859 and the first issue of distinctive stamps were produce on 10th June of that year.

The stamp featured the Edward Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria, an image of a pineapple to the lower left and a conch shell in the lower right. The 1d denominated stamp was inscribed ‘INTERINSULAR POSTAGE’ denoting the fact that mail posted externally from the Bahamas remained under the control of London until May 1860 – whereupon the use of British stamps ceased. However, use of the interinsular stamp continued.

Bahamas Interinsular 1d stamp showing dramatic colour variations across issues

Bahamas Interinsular 1d stamp showing dramatic colour variations across issues
Bahamas Interinsular 1d stamp showing dramatic colour variations across issues
Bahamas Interinsular 1d stamp showing dramatic colour variations across issues

The first interinsular stamp was recess printed by Perkins Bacon of London and was first released imperforate on unwatermarked paper. The philatelist will find many various shades and paper thicknesses and in October 1860, the first perforated varieties were issued of varying gauges. In 1862, responsibility for printing was transferred to De La Rue of London. These issues can be distinguished from earlier issues by the lower gauge perforations. Between 1863 and 1882, the distinctive Crown CC watermark was introduced, later transitioning to the Crown CA watermark until 1884 when the interinsular stamp supplies were exhausted.

To view postal issues of Bahamas, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Netherlands: Computer Generated

Early postage stamp issues for the majority of countries predominantly feature images of leaders – kings, queens, presidents, ministers as well as mythological characters and celebrities. These were definitive stamps – part of a regular issue – that broadened out to include national emblems and coats of arms. The first commemorative stamp issue is believed to have been the 1870 Peru 5¢ scarlet stamp to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first railway in South America.

These stamps all featured designs commissioned by people and many of these designers became well established notorieties of philately – including Roland Hill, Dorothy Wilding (UK Wilding series), Arnold Machin (UK Machin series), Jacques-Jean Barre (French Ceres series) and Clair Aubrey Houston (United States Curtis Jenny airmail) to name just a few.

Netherlands 1970 computer generated stamp issue, 12c. + 8c.
Netherlands 1970 computer generated issue, 12c. + 8c.
Netherlands 1970 computer generated stamp issue, 15c. + 10c.
Netherlands 1970 computer generated issue, 15c. + 10c.

However, the 1970 Netherlands summer charity issue marked a new age in stamp design. It is believed to be the first time a computer was used in stamp design, although the issue is also attributed to Professor Robert Deodaat Emile “Ootje” Oxenaar. Oxenaar was a prolific designer and is probably most noted for his commission of two series of Dutch banknotes that were internationally celebrated and remained in circulation from 1964 until the introduction of the Euro in 2002.

The Cultural, Health and Social Welfare Fund issue of five stamps was released on 7 April and features complex geometrical shapes.

12c. + 8c. Black on Yellow (Circle to Square)
15c. + 10c. Black on Silver (Parallel planes in Cube)
20c. + 10c. Black on White (Overlapping scales)
25c. + 10c. Black on Light Blue (Concentric circles in transition)
45c. + 20c. White on Silver Grey (Spirals)

Netherlands 1970 computer generated stamp issue, 20c. + 10c.
Netherlands 1970 computer generated issue, 20c. + 10c.
Netherlands 1970 computer generated stamp issue, 25c. + 10c.
Netherlands 1970 computer generated issue, 25c. + 10c.

The stamps were printed by Royal Joh. Enschedé of Haarlem in the Netherlands on unwatermarked paper with a perforation of 12½ x 14. They are a striking set of stamps and arguably opened up stamp design to a whole new world of possibilities including the personalisation of stamps using simple home computing facilities.

The United States Post Office (USPS) ran a service allowing personalisation of postage stamps but was discontinued in 2020 as a result of declining demand and insignificant contribution to Postal Service revenues. The USPS added ’Customized Postage program constitutes an unacceptable risk to our legal brand and business interests that outweighs any countervailing benefits’. The UK Royal Mail similarly provided customers with the opportunity to personalise stamps known as ‘Smilers’, although this service was discontinued in 2018. Other countries such as Austria, Bhutan, India, Indonesia and Malta have also experimented with personalised stamps.

To view postal issues of Netherlands, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Barbuda: On the Map

Barbuda is one of many small Islands in the Caribbean that form a chain known as the Leeward Islands. It is now part of the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda, with Barbuda located just north of its larger sister island. The first stamp issues were released on 13 July 1922 – stamps of the Leeward Islands overprinted with ‘BARBUDA’. Stocks of this issue were exhausted by October 1925 and from then the island used the stamp issues of Antigua until 1968 when a series featuring a map of Barbuda was released.

1968 Barbuda stamp issue featuring a map of the island
1968 Barbuda issue featuring a map of the island

The island of Barbuda is just 160 square kilometres and was populated by the Arawak and Carib Indians when it was discovered by Columbus on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493. The island was settled by the Spanish, the French and then the British who established a colony in 1666. In 1685, Barbuda was leased to the Codrington family who had grown wealthy on the sugarcane plantations of Antigua. Despite the family’s close association with the slave trade, their name lives on in the only notable town on the island – Codrington – which hosts the vast majority of todays population of approximately 1,500 people.

1971 Barbuda stamp issue featuring the Martello Tower
1971 Barbuda issue featuring the Martello Tower

Barbuda is noted for it’s Frigate Bird sanctuary in the Codrington lagoon, Indian Caves and beautiful Pink Sands Beach, all of which have featured on the island’s stamp issues. Also to have featured on more than one stamp issue is the River Fort Martello Tower which is located on the south coast of Barbuda and seven miles from Codrington. Martello Towers are small defensive forts that were built across the British Empire during the 19th century, from the time of the French Revolutionary Wars. Most of these towers were coastal forts and follow a similar design, standing up to 12 m high with two floors and typically supported a garrison of one officer and 15 to 25 men. The River Fort Martello Tower was built on the site of a former Spanish fort to protect River Landing, which at the time was Barbuda’s principle quay. It was the first of the many Martello Towers to be built in the Caribbean and remains the highest building on Barbuda.

1974 Barbuda stamp issue featuring the Martello Tower
1974 Barbuda issue featuring the Martello Tower

Sadly, the island has been severely damaged by repeated hurricane storms. In September 1995, Hurricane Luis destroyed much of the islands’ fledgling tourism industry and the shells of multiple luxury hotels can still be seen in close proximity to the spectacular beaches that edge the island. In September 2017, Barbuda was hit again by Hurricane Irma which destroyed virtually all of the island’s infrastructure and buildings, and all of the island’s population were temporarily evacuated to Antigua. Antigua and Barbuda gained full independence from the UK in 1981 and is now a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth.

To view postal issues of Barbuda, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

The Bahamas: 1967 Definitive Issue

In 1966 the Crown Colony of The Bahamas introduced decimal currency, transitioning from the former imperial currency used almost extensively across the British Commonwealth, to The Bahamas dollars and cents. On 25 May, an earlier 1965 definitive issue was overprinted with surcharges in the new currency. Later that year, three commemorative issues celebrating the World Cup Football Championships, Inauguration of the World Health Organisation Headquarters and the 20th Anniversary of UNESCO, also carried the new currency. It was not until 25 May 1967 that the first definitive issues featuring the new currency appeared.

The design of the 1967 issue is very similar to that of the aforementioned 1965 definitive issue with each of the horizontal format stamps bearing an Anthony Buckley portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to the right. The set comprises 15 stamps of different denominations from 1c to $3, printed by Bradbury Wilkinson & Son Ltd. on toned, C.A. block watermarked paper. The offset vignettes feature images of various scenes, services, pastimes and fauna of The Bahamas.

The Bahamas 1967 1c stamp featuring the Coat of Arms
The Bahamas 1967 1c featuring the Coat of Arms
The Bahamas 1967 4c stamp featuring the Caribbean Flamingo
The Bahamas 1967 4c featuring the Caribbean Flamingo

The 1c stamp features an image of The Bahamas Coat of Arms granted in 1728 consisting of a crown on a red background above a naval scene and motto ‘Expulsis Piratis Resititua Commercia’ that alludes to the end of piracy under the Governorship of Woodes Rogers in 1728. Woodes Rogers was himself a privateer and is best known as the captain of the vessel that rescued the marooned Alexander Selkirk whose story is believed to have inspired Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. In 1973 The Bahamas achieved independence and the Coat of Arms was replaced with national symbols including a shield supported by a marlin and a flamingo.

The 4c stamp features an image of the scarlet-hued Caribbean Flamingo which is regarded as the King of Bahamian Birds. In the account of his first voyage, Columbus referred to the creatures as the ‘tall red bird’ and they can reach heights of 4.6ft and a wingspan of 5ft. Flamingo populations in The Bahamas are fragile and in 1959, The Bahamas National Trust was established to protect the birds’ remaining colonies on the islands of Inagua and Andros. It became illegal to eat the birds and to fly aircraft below 2,000ft in the vicinity.

The Bahamas 1967 12c stamp featuring the Rawson Square
The Bahamas 1967 12c featuring the Rawson Square
The Bahamas 1967 50c stamp featuring the Aircraft
The Bahamas 1967 50c featuring the Aircraft

The 12c stamp features an image of Rawson Square in Nassau which is named after Sir Rawson W. Rawson who was Governor of The Bahamas during the late 1860s. The buildings were modelled on a group of public buildings in new Berne, North Carolina and built by Loyalists who fled from North Carolina after the American War of Independence. In the middle of the square is a bronze bust of Sir Milo Butler, the first Bahamian Governor General after independene. The area immediately south of Rawson Square is known as Parliament Square and is the site of the colonial-influenced pink buildings including the House of Assembly, the Senate Building and the Supreme Court of The Bahamas. Today, Rawson Square is recognised as the gateway to the city for cruise ship passengers.

The Bahamas 1967 $1 stamp featuring the Williamson Film Project
The Bahamas 1967 $1 featuring the Williamson Film Project
The Bahamas 1967 $2 stamp featuring the a Conch Shell
The Bahamas 1967 $2 featuring the a Conch Shell

Between 1970 and 1971 further printings were made of the stamp issue on white paper as needed – in the case of the 12c, $1, $2 and $3 only weeks before the issue was withdrawn. Due to limited runs on this stamps, they are generally of higher collectable value to the philatelist and in many cases introduce a variety of hues and shades.

To view postal issues of Bahamas, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Thematics: Jeffryes, Benjamin and Sarpy

Forgeries might be regarded as the bane of the philatelist. Many are difficult to spot and are perceived as a threat to the integrity and value of a collection. However, in some cases the history and events associated with a forgery can actually add to a stamp’s value. The operations of a trio of forgers that operated in the late 19th century – Jeffryes, Benjamin and Sarpy – has been recorded and provides an interesting insight into a group known as the ‘London Gang’.

George Kirke Jeffryes lived in Bow, London and it is believed that his career as a forger started as young as 15. In the early 1880’s he began forging surcharges to Colombian issues. His overprint of a 2½ centavos stamp with the surcharge ‘DOS Y MEDIO’ earned him a nickname of the same title. Meanwhile, in 1888, Alfred Benjamin and Julian Hippolite Sarpy established the partnership of Benjamin & Sarpy, trading from 1 Callum Street in east London. Their blatant forging activities were boldly advertised on their business cards which proudly announced ‘BENJAMIN & SARPY – dealers in all kinds of facsimiles, faked surcharges and fiscal postals … Fakes of all descriptions supplied on the shortest notice’. On the walls of the shop, a poster declared that the business would not guarantee the genuineness of a stamp unless a written confirmation had been provided.

New South Wales 'Sydney View' 1d stamp forgery
New South Wales ‘Sydney View’ 1d Jeffryes forgery

Jeffryes was employed as the Benjamin & Sarpy engraver and his techniques and quality of the forgeries steadily improved. The New South Wales (Australia) 1850 issue known as the ‘Sydney View’ 1d sold so well that Benjamin named his house Sydney View Villa. In 1891 police arrested all three perpetrators following a backlash from the legitimate stamp trade including the Philatelic Protection Association. Jeffryes was arrested at his home on Christmas Eve. The gang were found to be in possession of machinery including a press and a perforator. The London Gang were charged on 26 counts of forging foreign stamps (‘unlawfully forging and uttering a Sandwich Islands postage-stamp, and other counts for forging and uttering other foreign stamps‘) and of conspiracy to defraud.

Grenada Jeffryes stamp forgery
Grenada Jeffryes forgery

The trial at the Old Bailey in London on 7th of March 1892, received media attention and is recorded in the Central Criminal Court Archives. The evidence of a postman, George Frederik Clayton, was particularly damning, claiming that he had seen Jeffryes ‘gum and perforate’ Sandwich Island (Hawaiian Islands) stamps and had seen him ‘put a surcharge on some Costa Rica stamps with a small printers press and type’. Albert Felsenthaal, a dealer in foreign stamps, claimed he had been at Jeffreys’ house and saw him ‘surcharge some stamps of the Argentine Republic—he stamped them with the word “official”’. Citations were predominantly from stamp dealers and collectors but also included a cabdriver who had found a large envelope bearing Jeffryes’ address and containing a lot of stamps, in his cab. The envelope was discovered after the cab had been used to convey Jeffryes and a police Detective Sergeant to the police station following the arrest. By a quirk of law, 23 of the counts relating to forgery were dismissed because stamps were not considered to be documents in writing and therefore could not be forged. However, the remaining three counts for conspiracy to defraud were upheld and all three were found guilty.

Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) Jeffryes stamp forgery
Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) Jeffryes forgery

The London Gang were sentenced on 14th March 1892. Benjamin and Sarpy received a sentence of 6 month imprisonment and hard labour and Jeffryes got 4 months. Following their release, Benjamin and Sarpy resumed their postal services business in Callum Street although the records suggest that their activities were legitimate. The full extent of the forgeries is difficult to assess but certainly stamp issues of Ceylon, Colombia, Ecuador, Grenada, New South Wales, New Zealand, North Borneo, Sarawak, St Vincent, Sung Ujong, Tasmania, Victoria, Zululand and, of course, Hawaii are known to exist. Each forgery has its distinctive marks. For example, the Ceylon stamp in the feature image shows the lower part of the ampersand and the ‘O’ in ‘CEYLON’ are both larger than on the original stamp. Many of the forged stamps are now considered to be desirable items in their own right.

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Egypt: Dating by Country Denotation

In 1958 Egypt and Syria formed the United Arb Republic (UAR) to protect common interests in the Middle East. From that year, postage stamps issued by the union countries carried the letters ‘UAR’ as well as the country where the stamps were issued. These denotations were to change in the following years and, in the absence of a catalogue, often provide the philatelist with an easy way to date a issue even when they adopt the same image design and colour.

The United Arb Republic was formed as a political union between Egypt and Syria and was intended to be a step towards a pan-Arab state. Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had become a popular figure in the Middle East following the Suez War of 1956. Following the Syrian Crisis of 1957, Syrians sought stability by proposing a union with Egypt. Nasser initially resisted a union but, fearing the threat of communism in Syria, he ultimately agreed.

From 1958, Egyptian postage stamps carried the letters ‘UAR’ as well a the country name ‘Egypt’ (see featured image). Many Arab countries considered the union a threat but there were attempts from Iraq to join following the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy in 1958. Indeed a new flag of the union was proposed with three stars symbolising the three states of the proposed union. However, Iraq never cemented their place in the union although bizarrely, the three-star flag was later adopted by Iraq as its national flag and remained so until 2007. Meanwhile the UAR adopted a flag based on the Arab Liberation Flag of horizontal bands of red, white and black accompanied by just two stars. In 1959, the postage stamps of Egypt merely carried the letters ‘UAR’ and the country name was dropped altogether.

Postage Stamp of Egypt with 'UAR' country denotation
Postage Stamp of Egypt with ‘UAR’ country denotation

Nasser introduced sweeping economic reforms across Egypt and Syria including a wave of nationalisations. Syrian political parties were dismantled and the federation became increasingly dominated by Egypt. The tempestuous relationship between the union countries eventually lead to the Syrian coup of 1961, followed by a declaration of Syria’s independence from the UAR. Nasser never gave up on his dream of an Arab union but by 1971 the UAR had been dissolved. Egypt became the Arab Republic of Egypt and its postage stamps reflected this change by carrying the inscription ‘AR Egypt’

Postage Stamp of Egypt with 'A.R. Egypt' country denotation
Postage Stamp of Egypt with ‘A.R. Egypt’ country denotation

By 1973 the ‘AR’ component of the inscription was presented in an ever smaller font size and by 1978, it was dropped completely and stamp issues returned to the denotation of country name only.

Postage Stamp of Egypt with 'Egypt' country denotation
Postage Stamp of Egypt with ‘Egypt’ country denotation

To view postal issues of the Egypt, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Haiti: Toussaint Louverture Remembered

Haiti (officially Republic of Haiti) has appeared in in the 21st century news bulletins for all the wrong reasons having endured a coup d’état in 2004 and a sequence of catastrophic earthquakes, most notably in 2010 that killed more than 250,000 people. However the country, located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles Archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, has a fascinating history and a claim to be the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, the first country to abolish slavery and the only state in history established by a successful slave revolt.

Initially led by a former slave and the first black general of the French Army, Toussaint Louverture, slaves and free people of colour launched the Haitian Revolution between 1791 and 1804. Louverture was born a slave in Haiti, then a French colony known as Saint-Domingue on the plantation of Bréda at Haut de Cap. His birth year is estimated to have been between 1739 and 1746 and little is known of his early life. It is believed that Louverture was freed from slavery in 1776 although he remained employed at the Bréda plantation, perhaps responsible for livestock, acting as coachman or organising the workforce.

Haiti 1904 2c stamp featuring image of Toussaint Louverture
Haiti 1904 2c featuring image of Toussaint Louverture
Haiti 1904 5c stamp featuring image of Toussaint Louverture
Haiti 1904 5c featuring image of Toussaint Louverture

Inspired by the French Revolution (1789–99) freed slaves of Saint-Domingue sought to expand their rights, whilst perpetuating the denial of rights to slaves. In August 1791, a major salve rebellion in the north (which had the largest plantations and enslaved population) marked the start of the Haitian Revolution. Louverture became involved in negotiations between rebel leaders and the French Governor for the release of white prisoners and a return to work in exchange for improved freedoms and rights of slaves. Whilst the offer was rejected, the white prisoners were released and escorted to safety by Louverture.

With the rebuff of French authorities, Louverture become committed to the complete abolition of slavery. Louverture’s role transitioned to that of a highly successful military leader with particular success in developing guerrilla tactics. The politics of the time were complicated and influenced not only by local interests but also the ebb and flow of the ongoing French Revolution. Louverture was forced to secure alliances with the Spanish in 1792 (who occupied the the eastern territories of Hispaniola) and the French in 1794. Having secured significant territories, Louverture focused on keeping the peace, developing agricultural trade and on on 20 March 1796, appointed himself Governor.

Haiti 1954 25c stamp commemorating 150th anniversary of Haitian independence
Haiti 1954 25c commemorating Haitian independence
Haiti 1954 50c stamp commemorating 150th anniversary of Haitian independence
Haiti 1954 50c commemorating Haitian independence

By November 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte had gained power in France and confirmed Louverture’s position whilst promising to maintain abolition. In March 1801, Louverture appointed a constitutional assembly, composed chiefly of white planters, to draft a constitution for Saint-Domingue which officially established his authority over the entire island of Hispaniola. Napoleon, fearing a loss of direct control over the colony, sent a force of 20,000 men under the command of his brother-in-law, General Charles Emmanuel Leclerc, to restore French authority. With both sides shocked by the violence of the initial fighting, Leclerc reverted to diplomatic means, successfully persuading some of Louverture’s generals to switch loyalties. On 6 May 1802, Louverture was forced to negotiate an acknowledgement of Leclerc’s authority in return for amnesty for himself and his remaining generals. Hostilities ended and Louverture retired. Just days later, Louverture was arrested and deported to France where he was imprisoned at Fort-de-Joux in Doubs. He died in prison on 7 April 1803. Ironically, it was one of his arguably disloyal generals, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, that took up the revolutionary cause, defeating a French army at the Battle of Vertières in 1803 and declaring Haiti an independent nation in 1804.

Black Spartacus, book authored by Sudhir Hazareesingh
Black Spartacus, book authored by Sudhir Hazareesingh

The epic life of Toussaint Louverture has been captured in film and in literature. In 2012 a French film was released based on the life of Louverture, written and directed by Philippe Niang and staring the Haitian, Jimmy Jean-Louise, in the title role. The life of Toussaint Louverture was captured in a book first published in 2020 entitled Black Spartacus written by the acclaimed author, Sudhir Hazareesingh. The book is a fascinating read and features images of Louverture that have appeared on numerous international issues of stamps, coins and bank notes.

To view postal issues of the Haiti, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.