British Colonies Postage Stamps.

During the last decades of the 19th century, and well into the first five decades of the 20th century, the British Empire was not only the ruler of the seas but also the sovereign power of approximately sixty other countries of various size and distance. The sun never set within the boundaries of the Empire. Bearing in mind Australia, India and Canada, one may have more than just an idea of the vast revenue generated by both Britain and the British companies which monopolized the products and resources of the countries under their rule.

All that came to an end after World War II, when the British economic disaster brought the USA into the ruling foreground. On behalf of all their colonies, the British issued postage stamps some of which are nowadays considered to be classic items for their superb printing method.

pic 1

Pic 1

Up to 1930, those stamps are not characterized by any particular variety of image as they strictly adhered to the royal portrait, which was of utmost importance for the projection of the British power. From 1901, in particular, we almost have no other postage stamps than those depicting Queen Victoria in a variety of colors and wonderful printings lacking, however, in thematic imagination (Picture 1).

Those postage stamps are much sought after. From 1902 to 1910, once more, we have only one theme and that is the head of Edward VII (Picture 2). From 1911 until 1936 we have George V: a king who is known as one the finest collectors in the world. He had also made “The Stamp Day” an institution during which absolute silence was observed. He would not even receive his ministers so as not to be distracted during his work with his stamp collection (Picture 3).


Pic 2                                                       Pic 3

From 1930 onward  there has been a significant turn in British Colonial stamps. We have images depicting wonderful landscape, animals, fish, birds, historical buildings as well as any other theme which featured a particular colony and for which those exquisite London printings were produced (Pictures 4). You may have a look at the balancing stones (Picture 5) of the nowadays Zimbabwe (the then Rhodesia): a recurrent theme which is still present on their banknotes today. The printing is made through the use of the engraving method and it is of high standard on quality paper having the royal crown as a watermark. On the upper corner we notice the royal head of Edward V, just… in case.


Pic 4


Pic 5

Within the 1937-1952 period, which was the era of the next king, George VI, there is a continuation of those wonderful issues, and, above all, those of great definitive issues that are really very impressive with their minute detailed engravings (Pictures 6).


Pic 6

One cannot possibly ignore the fine workmanship done by the engraver in the depictions of all the above-mentioned issues. The circulation of those fine issues lasted until the enthronement of Queen Elizabeth II in 1965 (Pictures 7). After 1965, their method of printing is gradually changing as there are new methods which are faster and more cost-effective.


pic 7

It is most evident that such postage stamps (with features of landscape, animals and with the royal head in the upper corner) were considered as Colonial type by the British! They had never issued similar stamps for their own country! In this way they “bequeathed” those masterpieces to their ex-colonies. Today, among others, English-speaking collectors are obsessed with English Colonial postage stamps.


What is characteristic is the fact that the definitive issues almost always “ended up” in postage stamps of high nominal value such as 10 shillings or one pound. Naturally, therefore, those values could not be used to post single letters but only parcels. Used postage stamps of those values are very rare indeed and they do attract the collector’s interest.

The topic of the British Colonial postage stamps is a vast one and it surely cannot be fully covered within the bounds of this article as it concerns about sixty countries. However, new collectors may well have an idea of those, gone for ever, golden ages of this particular philatelic field.

And a very RARE colonial example!


“Britannia” combination franking with “De La Rue” issues 1859 (9d) dull magenta together with 1859-61 blue and two De La Rue 1d plus 2d singles, all tied by mute cancels on 1860 small size envelope to Scotland, showing London registration cds on face, MAURITIUS AU7 60 GPO dispatch cds on reverse, together with Scottish arrivals. A very rare combination cover!

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The Stamp Collection of Philipp von Ferrary


Pic. 1: Philipp von Ferrary

Philip Ferrari de La Renotière (Picture 1), who was a pioneer in philatelic and numismatic collections, managed, during his lifetime, to acquire a legendary mixture of postage stamps, including the most significant philatelic items of the world. This must have been the most complete collection to have ever been or will be built up in the future. 

Ferrary was born on 11th January 1850 in the luxurious Matignon hotel in Rue de Varenne, in Paris, where he stayed until 1917. Louis XVIII exchanged this recreational place of meeting for the Elysee Palace, at the beginning of the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815. Nowadays this is the official residence of the prime minister of France.

Ferrary was the son of the duke and duchess of Galliera. His father, Raffaele de Ferrari, was a rich entrepreneur who was appointed both as Duke of Galliera of Genoa by the Pope, Gregory XVI, and as a Prince of Lucedio by the King of Italy, Victor- Emmanuel II. Raffaele de Ferrari was the founder, along with the Pereire brothers, of the Credit Immobilier de France. They were entrepreneurial rivals of the Rothschilds and funded many of the construction projects in the latter half of the 19th century: the railways in Austria, Latin America, Portugal, northern Italy and France (Paris-Lyon-Marseilles line); the construction of the Frejus Rail Tunnel and the Suez Canal; as well as, the reconstruction of Paris which was designed by Earl Haussmann. The Ferrari mother, duchess of Galliera, born as Maria de Brignole-Sale, was the elder niece of the princess of Monaco and daughter of Marquis Antoine de Brignoly-Sale, ambassador of the king of Sardinia in Paris, during the Louis-Philippe reign.
When the father, Raffaele de Ferrari, died in 1871, Philip came into a legendary inheritance.
Ignoring everything and disposing of every title by introducing himself as Philip von Ferrari, the “kid” went on with his childish hobby: stamp collecting. At last it was there where his interest focused on and, by spending an enormous part of his fortune, he managed to assemble the greatest and most expensive collection of postage stamps of all times.
Philip von Ferrari purchased many great old collections including the one owned by the judge Frederick A. Philbrick (1835-1910), which he bought for 7,000 pounds, and which included a significant part of the historic collection of Sir Daniel Cooper, the first president of the Royal Philatelic Society London. Perhaps he was the greatest buyer of his time in all European capitals for many years. Apart from his great collections wholesale purchases, the files of Stanley Gibbons mention that his general purchases amounted to 3,000 – 4,000 pounds per annum, on average, only from that house: a huge sum by the standards of that period.
Philip von Ferrari became known throughout the world as the grand stamp-buyer and, thus, creating a kind of unique collection of exceptionally rare postage stamps in Paris where he lived. He rarely hesitated to buy something that aroused his interest and he frequently paid for its value in gold sovereigns on the spot. It was inevitable, therefore, to act as a provocation for the forgers and the conman of the time who managed to take him in by selling wonderful fakes to him, which, even today, bear the name of “Ferrarities”! Philip was interested in all rarities around the world which he would obtain at any cost.
However, his interest focused on single rare stamps and not on big blocks or blocks of four.

Pic. 2: The famous Bordeaux Cover with Mauritius stamps

Pic. 2: The famous Bordeaux Cover with Mauritius stamps

I do think that there are not any collectors who will not be impressed by Philip’s unprecedented collection. At least seven of the Mauritius “Post Office” (1847) stamps reached his hands (Picture 2). Those are the first British Commonwealth postage stamps which were released outside Britain and were immediately replaced by the common variety of “post paid”.

Pic. 3: The Two Cent Hawaii Missionary stamp of 185

Pic. 3: The Two Cent Hawaii Missionary stamp of 185

The only mint item, along with other cancelled ones, of the two-penny of the “missionary” Hawaii (Picture 3) became, sooner or later, part of the Ferrari collection. This belongs to the very few, first stamps, surviving and which were used on that Pacific island by the missionaries: a fact that goes to justify its very name.

The Penny Magenta of the British Guinea (Picture 4) also took its deserving place in the Ferrari

Fig. 4: The 1856 one-cent “Black on Magenta” stamp of British Guiana

Pic. 4: The 1856 one-cent “Black on Magenta” stamp of British Guiana

collection. This stamp was created as a temporary measure of correspondence dispatch in 1856, when a parcel failed to reach its destination within the colonies using ordinary postage stamps. The octagonal pink piece of paper was sold at an auction in 1980 for something less than one million dollars and it is the only one known today.

Fig. 5: The unique “Tre Skilling” Yellow stamp of Sweden, οφ 1855

Pic. 5: The unique “Tre Skilling” Yellow stamp of Sweden, οφ 1855

The three skilling stamp from Sweden – 1855 issue obtained in 1894 (Picture 5) – could not possibly be missing from the collection of that obsessed collector. This stamp is of yellow color instead of the usual turquoise. There has, apparently, been some confusion in the printing process of this eight Skilling stamp which regularly bears this color  Only one has been found today and is being considered the most valuable one in the world. In a most recent auction, in 1996, it fetched the astronomical amount of 2,300,000 dollars!

Many other rare stamps were bought by Ferrari in his course of being in search of rarities and topics including the postage stamps of early German states. He had a particular preference for the three-pfennig red ones of Saxony (Picture 6). The impressive collection included the Baden stamp of the wrong color (Picture 6). The first postage stamp of this state was issued in May 1851. The nine-kreuzer stamp was printed, by mistake, in greenish-grey color instead of pink. There are only three copies known and two of them are on heads.

Fig. 7 &8: A 3 pfennig        Saxony stamp & the Baden stamp of wrong color

Pic. 6: A 3 pfennig Saxony stamp & the Baden stamp of wrong color

This devoted collector could not keep his hands off from the Greek stamps. It is known that two blocks of nine of the forty lepta postage stamps with the renown distorted overprints (positions 116-118, 126-128, 136-138) are part of his collection (Picture 8). We could certainly admire all seven values from the impressive “essays of Barre”, as they came to be known, in multiples and in sheet corner with the inscription “TYPOGRAPHIE ERNEST MEYER, RUE DE VERNEUIL 22 A PARIS” (Picture 7). I should point out that these blocks are the only ones known in values of 2 and 40 lepta.


Pic. 7: Block of 9 & the “Barre Proofs” of the Greek Hermes Heads

This endless collection was handed down to the Postal Museum of Berlin along with instructional chapters upon its maintenance by Ferrari himself. However, the collection failed to reach its final destination as the French government confiscated it shortly after his death in Lausanne, in Switzerland, in May 1917. Due to his Austrian origin, his collection was put to auction in the name of World War I damages fetching the sum of 30 million francs!

Pic. 8: The Liechtenstein’s stamp of 1968 that depicts Ferrary

Pic. 8: The Liechtenstein’s stamp of 1968 that depicts Ferrary

There are still many important postage stamps, in excellent collections, being referred to under the name of Ferrari. Every collector always felt proud of being the owner of at least one ex-Ferrari piece under their possession. It would surely mean a lot…
This great collector, whom we owe so much for having rescued so many rarities, was honored on a postage stamp issued by Lichtenstein in 1968 (Picture 8).

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