Friday, March 14, 2008

The First Sarawak Stamp; The Three Cents of 1869

The first Sarawak stamp was officially issued to the public on March 1st, 1869. Of Three Cents denomination, it bore a portrait bust of the first Rajah, Sir James Brooke, despite the fact that he had died some nine months earlier.

Although the reasons which prompted the Government of Sarawak to order a stamp are not known, it is probable that it was intended to serve both postal and fiscal purposes.

The Design
The stamp illustrates a portrait bust of the first Rajah - Sir James Brooke, framed in a narrow colorless oval against an engine-turned background. Above the head, in colorless serif capitals, is the word 'SARAWAK' in a curved line following the arc of the oval. Below is the rectangular tablet bearing the value THREE CENTS in colorless non-serif capitals on a colored background. In each corner of the stamp appears an initial, the upper two enclosed in small colored circles and the lower two in squares at each end of the tablet of value. They read J B R S and represent James Brooke, Rajah, Sarawak. The whole design, in a vertical rectangular format, is enclosed bya thin colored frameline, and measures 26 1/2 mm. x 19 mm. The spandrels in each corner are ornamented with a foliate design and the three-quarter face portrait looks towards the right of the stamp.

The design is the work of the celebrated engraver William Ridgway who was later to be entrusted with the work of designing the second issue of Sarawak bearing the head of Sir Charles Brooke, the second Rajah.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Messrs. Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor Issue of 1875

The postal rates that had been the subject of the 1874 agreement between the Governments of Sarawak and the Straits Settlements were to take effect from January 1st, 1875. Since a single denomination stamp was considered inadequate, an order was placed for a series of five values - 2 cents, 4 cents, 6 cents, 8 cents and 12 cents, to augment the existing 3 cents stamp.

The order was placed with the same printers who had been responsible for the two previous stamps, Messrs. Maclure, McDonald & McGregor of 37, Walbrook, E.C. & Glasgow and the design remained virtually the same as the 3 cent stamp of 1871, only the value being altered. Although the actual date of issue is not known for certain it is reasonable to assume that the five stamps became available to the public on January 1st, 1875 as planned.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Three Cents Issue of 1871

(Above) 1871 "Three Cents"

About two years after the appearance of Sarawak's first stamp which bore the post-humous portrait of the first Rajah, a new stamp depicting the head of Sir Charles Brooke was issued to the public. The exact date of issue is not known, although it must have been early in January 1871 as the following Order was published on January 23rd:

'No more of the old stamps are to be issued from the Treasury, and a notice is to be sent around to the effect that the old stamps will be null and void after March 31st, 1871. Those that possess old stamps can exchange them for new.' - Order by H,H, the Rajah

The Design
The stamp illustrates a portrait bust of the second Rajah framed in a thin colorless circle against an engine-turned serif capitals. In each corner is a square containing the initials C.B.R.S, reading from top left to bottom right and signifying Charles Brooke, Rajah, Sarawak. Flanking the circle at each side is a vertical rectangular tablet ornamented with a design of diamond-shaped embellishments which the corner spandrels ear an engine-turned design. The head of the Rajah faces towards the left of the stamp. The whole design is more square than its predecessor and has an overall measurement of 23mm x 19mm.

Method of Production
The production and printing of this stamp was, like its predecessor, entrusted to Messrs. McLure, McDonald & McGregor of 37, Walbrook, E.C. & Glasgow. The methods employed were, in every way, similar but whereas a single printing stone was used for the 1869 stamp, no less than three were required to produce the large number of stamps of the 1871 issue, as it is believed that a total of 250,000 were printed. Only a small proportion of these can ever have been used for postal purposes, although a considerable number were utilized at much later dates for the production of provisional stamps, both in 1892 and 1899.

(Above) 1871 "Three Cents", Block of 4

They are all different!
There are a lot more to talk about with regard to this stamp, with the many flaws and varieties (different stones, plates and dies used during production). Looking (closely!) at my block of 4 above will tell you they are all different in their little ways - unlike other stamps which are all the same (usually) coming from the same sheet.

I will try to explain. This stamp was printed by 3 stones, each composed of 2 panes of 100 subjects. So there are 600 (!!) varieties. Every single stamp can be plated, meaning that each of the 600 positions has a unique and distinguishing set of lithographic flaws that distinguish it from all the others. The Stanley Gibbons Catalogue (the world's most used and well-known catalogue, which I have used for the valuation of my stamps, as per written about in my previous blog entries) recognizes only a few of the 600 varieties, although everyone one of the 600 varieties is unique and of equal philatelic significance. The Stanley Gibbons Catalogue chooses to list only the very few varieties that are very obvious and have been mentioned in the philatelic press for more than a century.


Monday, March 3, 2008

$50s of 1982-84

New in my collection of Mint Uncirculated banknotes of Malaysia are these two $50 notes of 1982-84.
(Above) Front of $50 of 1982-84.

(Above) Back of $50 of 1982-84.

These are the newly designed series, a departure from the series of notes used pre-1982.

The 1982-84 new notes have completely new designs to reflect the Malaysian character. The general design is based on traditional Malaysian ornaments, wood carvings and other crafts and flora from various parts of the country, including Sabah and Sarawak. The "tigerhead" watermark in the old series of notes has been replaced with a watermark portrait of DYMM the 1st Yang Di Pertuan Agong (that is to say when you hold the note up under bright light you will see the Yang Di Pertuan Agong's face!).

These two pieces of Uncirculated $50 notes of mine are signed by Abd. Aziz bin Hj. Taha.

Another thing I am happy with these 2 banknotes are that they are of running serial numbers - one following the other. I am adding these to my other Mint Uncirculated RM50 notes scanned below:
(Above) This is the 8.1.2000 series of new banknotes. The first of its kind was released on 20.7.1998, depicting the "Wawasan 2020" theme of the current Malaysian currency note series which reflects Malaysia's economic development and achievement towards a fully developed country. The first series were signed by the Banks' Governor Tan Sri Dato' Ahmad Mohd. Don. My banknote displayed above bears the signature of Banks' Governor Tan Sri Dato'Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

(Above) ... and this is the latest RM50 banknotes. The first 50,000,000 banknotes of this series will bear the 50th Anniversary logo on the top right at the rear of the notes. Subsequent notes will have the logo stripped.

I also recently added the 21.3.1953 Malaya & British Borneo $1 note in Almost Uncirculated condition. Might blog about it sometime in the future after I have received it.