Friday 3 February 2012

Tonga And Niuafo'ou Are Back; Nauru And Russia; South Sudan.

Apart from some provisional surcharges, Tonga has not issued any stamps since 2008 when two stamps and a miniature sheet were issued to commemorate the coronation of King Siaosi Tupou V.

That issue itself was the first to be released since 4 May 2005 when a miniature sheet had been produced celebrating whale watching off the coast of Tonga. Now, as announced on the WWF Stamp Shop website, it appears that Tonga is returning to stamp issuing since it is planning to release a set of stamps in February or March 2012 depicting local endangered wildlife in the form of the thorny seahorse. Additionally, the subsidiary philatelic entity of Niuafo'ou which has not issued any stamps since 2005 when it too released a "whale-watching" miniature sheet is also to issue a set of WWF stamps in February or March which depict the zebra shark. Previous Niuafo'ou WWF commemoratives depicting the blue crowned lorikeet, have most recently been surcharged to produce provisional stamps for use in Tonga in general and the first, issued July 2008, which is depicted below is exceedingly rare although the second, issued May 2010, is much more easily obtainable.

The WWF site also lists other forthcoming WWF stamps from Commonwealth countries:- Bahamas depicting the Caribbean flamingo (21 March 2012), Fiji depicting the collared lory (April 2012), Rarotonga depicting Cook Islands land snails (February or March 2012), South Georgia with south Atlantic seabirds (February or March 2012) and Nauru depicting the dragon moray (date open).
On the subject of Nauru, I drew attention to the set of 5 stamps that the country issued last year which commemorated the Russian space programme and expressed surprise that Nauru was releasing an issue on such a subject and said that Nauru was "not previously known for ....(having) a close relationship with Russia". How wrong was I? In fact Nauru has had a remarkably close relationship with Russia in recent years and there is a special Wikipedia entry on Nauru-Russia relations. The article alleges that the Russian mafia used Nauru banks to money launder in the 1990's, "approximately USD 70 billion owned by Russian mafia were held in Nauru banks. This equated to 700 times the country's annual output." Then, in 2009, Nauru became only the fourth country to recognise Abkazia and South Ossetia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia which had declared their independence with Russia's support (the other three countries were Nicaragua, Venezuala and Russia itself) and subsequently established diplomatic relations with South Ossetia. The Wikipedia article states that "Russian officials visited Nauru in March 2010 to discuss the allocation of the "huge aid grant" that Russia will be providing to the small country". It is fascinating the things that one discovers about the world through stamp collecting. I guess, if a "huge aid grant" is involved, that we may be expecting a few more future stamp issues from Nauru stressing the country's links with Russia!

Finally to South Sudan. In my blog of 14 November 2011, I highlighted that the first set of this new country's first ever stamp issue to be auctioned on E Bay realised an incredible sum of $231. In the last few days two of the three values were again auctioned on E Bay and this time achieved a more modest price of £31 although of course that left the buyer with the need to track down the missing 2.5ssp value which depicts the country's coat of arms.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Cayes Of Belize.

San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.

As reported last time, Stanley Gibbons has listed Rarotonga as a new philatelic entity in its stamp catalogue although sub-territories with no real political or postal need to issue their own stamps tend to have been given the cold shoulder since The Islands Of Tuvalu deluge of issues in the mid-1980's. The Cayes Of Belize is another short-lived philatelic entity which never received full catalogue status as Rarotonga has done although the stamps were produced in a fairly moderate manner by The Crown Agents which was about as respectable a philatelic agent as you could find at that time. Indeed, the Belize Post Office could even claim a precedent for the issue of stamps by The Cayes, which lie off the coast of Belize, since a type-written stamp (a form of stamp production not unknown elsewhere including the early issues of Uganda) was produced for use on a privately-operated postal service from St. George's Caye to Belize City and is known on covers dated between 28 July 1894 and 27 September 1895. The service was operated by Sydney Cuthbert, a well-off merchant in Belize City who had a summer residence in The Cayes, and having run a service for free on behalf of his neighbours for a while from 1892 he decided to recoup some of the running costs of the yacht he used to transport the post by charging 3c per letter and producing a stamp to be used to indicate that postage had been paid. The costs of professionally printed stamps were deemed to be too high and he therefore resorted to the use of a typewriter to produce the stamps. The stamps were tied to the covers by a straight-line rubber stamp in blue ink, the inscription being "CUTHBERT BROS", and a separate rubber straightline postmark indicated the date of carriage. All examples of this stamp are known applied to covers and no unused examples are known to exist.

Sydney Cuthbert.

On 30 May 1984 the first modern Cayes Of Belize definitive stamps were issued and the set consisted of nine values ranging from 1c to $5 and they showed various aspects of The Cayes, especially tourism, being very attractively designed by the excellent stamp artist, Gordon Drummond and lithographed by the now defunct House Of Questa. Some of the designs are illustrated below. Accompanying the basic set was an extremely difficult to find $10 booklet which included three different panes of stamps (4 x 25c and 2 different 4 x 75c) as well a fourth pane which consisted of a miniature sheet which illustrated a cover with one of Cuthbert's stamps on it and also contained one of the new $3 values which showed a map of Ambergris Caye. The miniature sheet was only available from the booklet.

pane 1 of the $10 booklet showing a Cuthbert stamp on cover.

Two types of inhabitants of The Cayes.

The high values.

I visited Belize myself in November 1989 and visited Ambergris Caye. The Belize Post Office had given up issuing Cayes stamps as early as 1985, one supposes due to poor sales which were probably inhibited by Gibbons' failure to catalogue them. I was able to purchase Cayes stamps at an ordinary counter in the main post office in Belize City but they had long sold out in San Pedro (the "capital" of Ambergris Caye). Following the first issue, several sets of commemoratives had been issued including four stamps which were part of the Crown Agents omnibus set which celebrated the 250th anniversary of Lloyd's List and for which Benham's had produced a "silk" first day cover postmarked at San Pedro (see below) (issued 6 June 1984), four stamps for the Los Angeles Olympic Games (5 October 1984) and four excellent stamps noting the 90th anniversary of the issue of Cuthbert's stamp (5 November 1984). On 20 May 1985, four stamps were issued which commemorated the birth bicentenary of John J Audubon, the American ornithologist, and it was these which were still on sale in Belize City in November 1989. One final issue of a se-tenant strip of four stamps and a miniature sheet which depicted various shipwrecks was issued later in 1985.

The Audubon set used at San Pedro.

One of two silk covers issued to commemorate the Lloyd's List anniversary.

Two of the four Lloyd's list stamps used at San Pedro.

San Pedro post office, November 1989.

Part of a cover with mixed frankings of Belize and Cayes Of Belize stamps posted at San Pedro.

Used at San Pedro, 1989.

Perhaps all these stamps were completely unnecessary but most of them are actually quite attractive and interesting and seem to have been available at ordinary post counters for use by the public on mail. Their status seems to be similar to that of the present Rarotonga stamp issues and are no less collectable than those stamps.
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