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Chris Mobsby

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Chris 
Stamp Corner

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TRINIDAD

The first stamp attributed to the Caribbean island of Trinidad appeared in 1847 and was issued, not by the government of the colony, but by one David Bryce. He was the owner of a steamship - the “Lady McLeod” – that was used to transport the post between the capital, Port of Spain, and San Fernando some 25 miles down the coast, this at a time when there was no land-based mail delivery service on the island.

The authoritative Stanley Gibbons catalogue includes the stamp as SG1 of Trinidad in defiance of their normal policy of omitting non-official stamps from their lists. However, the “Lady McLeod”, as it is commonly known in philatelic circles, is extremely rare and a particularly desirable item amongst collectors, factors which doubtless combine to persuade Gibbons, as dealers, to price the stamp. Incidentally, these stamps were either cancelled by pen and ink or defaced by the removal of a corner, but their extreme rarity, even in such condition, ensures that they fetch prices of several thousand pounds.
It was in that same year, 1847, that a formal postal system was proposed for Trinidad and stamps were eventually ordered from the printers in Great Britain. The British Government, however, concerned that the scheme might run at a loss, delayed the implementation of the service until 1851. The stamps, when at last they did appear, were in a design showing Britannia seated on bags of sugar, a format later used for Barbados and Mauritius. It was intended originally that the colour of the stamp should denote the face value, this because most of the islanders, at that stage, were illiterate. In point of fact, stamps in various shades of blue, brown, red, grey and purple were all used as one-penny (1d) values. Whereas this might have seemed somewhat confusing, the only value used in the colony until 1859 was the 1d so the colour was, perhaps, not terribly important. Additional values, i.e. ½d, 4d, 6d and 1-shilling, appeared in a similar design between 1859 and 1876 but each inscribed with their face value. Nevertheless, the authorities persisted with the undenominated design for the 1d value although for the next 17 years it was somewhat more consistent in that it was issued only in various shades of red. Trinidad joined the Universal Postal Union in 1877 and from 1879 onwards all of the new stamps issued in the Colony were inscribed with the relevant face value.
Stamp supplies to the Colony were erratic and, between 1852 and 1860, this shortcoming was overcome by the introduction of a lithographed version of the stamp printed from locally engraved dies. In 1882, however, when there was, apparently, a shortage of both halfpenny and penny stamps, the undenominated and therefore one-penny stamps of the 1876 printing were bisected for use as a halfpenny value while the 6d values from the same issue were surcharged in manuscript in order to serve as penny stamps. Historically, more often than not, it has been considered prudent
to decrease the face value of a stamp when applying a surcharge, particularly one applied in manuscript. In this case, had penny stamps been overprinted to meet a shortage of the 6d stamp, it might well have been tempting for an unscrupulous merchant to purchase a quantity of stamps at a penny each and, after forging a surcharge, offer them for resale at a 500% profit.
Both of the emergency issues were used on the cover shown with a pair of the 1d surcharges in red on the 6d yellow-green and the ½d bisect of the (1d) rosy carmine making up the required 2½d rate. The cover is addressed to a Miss Annie Miller in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent in the Windward Islands rather less than 200 miles to the north of Trinidad. The stamps were cancelled in Trinidad on 23 November 1892 and the Kingstown arrival strike in red and dated 28 November has been applied twice on the reverse. I wonder if “Miss Miller” appreciated just what interest would be generated by the envelope that conveyed a letter to her more than a century ago?


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