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Postage Stamps

Write me a letter …write it today

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Let me hear from thee by letters.
‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ by William Shakespeare

St Helena has been issuing its own postage stamps since 1856, and has an active philately office.

This page is in indexes: Island Detail

Postage Stamps [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
Commemorative of the Flax Industry

Go to: Post Office first; stamps secondThe first St Helena stampsKing Edward VIIKing George VKing George VIQueen Elizabeth IIStamps TodayStamps with errorsSHATPSDon’t break the law!Read More

Post Office first; stamps second

Postal Stone [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
Postal Stone

Although St Helena was frequently visited by ships on their way to and from India and the East via the Cape of Good Hope, letters prior to 1815 bear no external indication of having come from or passed through the island. Such letters would not carry any St Helena marking, as there was no post office on the island at that time.

Originally letters were left under large stones, one of which can still be seen at the entrance of The Castle, or were handed directly to ship’s captains to be carried. Later it was arranged that they could be left at the Government Secretary’s office in The Castle to await the next ship.

The first Post Office on the island was established by proclamation of Governor Mark Wilks on 20th February 1815. The Proclamation provided for a “regular Post Office” to be set up on the Wharf in Jamestown under Mr. William Brabazon as the first Post Master. Letters would no longer be received for transmission at the Secretary’s office but only at the new Post Office. Thereafter, all letters carried by mail packet had to have an official Post Office mark or stamp, and anyone sending a letter from the island otherwise than through the Post Office was liable to a fine of 5s{1}. The Post Office was opened on 23rd February 1815.

The first St Helena stamps

The 1856 6d Blue [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

The UK Post Office began issuing pre-paid postage stamps in the UK in 1840 but it was not until 1st January 1856 that the first stamp of St Helena was issued - a 6d blue imperforate stamp portraying Queen Victoria.

From 1863 to 1880 this stamp was issued in various colours, perforated and overprinted for each value from 1d to 5s. This design continued to be used until 1884.

6d Red o/p for 1d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
6d Red o/p for 1d

6d Blue o/p for 2½d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
6d Blue o/p for 2½d{a}

Early stamped letter, 1856 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
Early stamped letter, 1856

King Edward VII

The Victorian key types were replaced by a short-lived set of two King Edward VII key types in 1902 and in 1903 a new pictorial definitive set of six values was issued: three stamps showed King Edward and the Government House, and three others showed the King and the Wharf.

In 1908, a set of four key types was issued. The values were additional values which were not included in the 1903 pictorial definitive: 2½d, 4d, 6d and 10s.

Edward VII, 1d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Edward VII, 4d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Edward VII, 10s [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

King George V

The 1912-1916 King George V definitives were similar to the 1903 definitive, the only difference being the King’s profile. However this time there were ten values in the set, ranging from ½d to 3s. Between 1912 and 1913 4d and 6d stamps (not included in the pictorial set) were also issued in the form of a key type.

The 1922-1937 George V stamps were designed by Thomas R. Bruce (postmaster 1898-1928) - the first islander to design a postage stamp{2}. The design was similar to the 1912-16 pictorials, but instead of the Government House or the Wharf, these stamps showed the badge of St Helena - a three masted sailing ship near two large rocks. These values ranged from ½d to £1, and there were many varieties, such as the broken mainmast, the torn flag, and the cleft rock.

1912-16 pictorial definitives 1.5d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

1912-16 pictorial definitives 4d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

1912-16 pictorial definitives 4d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

1912-16 pictorial definitives 5d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

1912-16 pictorial definitives 15s [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

War tax 1d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

St Helena’s first commemorative set was issued in 1934; a set of 10 values up to 10s commemorating the centenary of British colonisation (1834-1934).

Centenary issue 1934: Lot [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{a}

Centenary issue 1934: Map [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Centenary issue 1934: Quay [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Centenary issue 1934: James Valley [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Centenary issue 1934: Badge [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

In 1935, the Crown Agents omnibus issue commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V was issued. An air-mail service from St Helena was introduced in 1936, letters being carried by ship to Cape Town and thereby by air.

Early air-mail, 1936 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
Early air-mail, 4th December 1936

King George VI

The first King George VI set was that of the 1937 Coronation. Between 1938 and 1949, a new definitive was issued portraying King George VI and the badge of the Colony. However, the design was totally different from the 1922 badge set.

All the commemorative sets issued in this reign were Crown Agents omnibus issues, being for the Coronation of King George VI (19th May 1937), the Victory issue (21st October 1946), the Royal Silver Wedding issue (20th October 1948) and the for 75th Anniversary of the Universal Postal Union (10th October 1949)

George VI, ½d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{a}

George VI, 3d [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Royal Silver Wedding 1948 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II Coronation [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

The first Queen Elizabeth issue was for the 1953 Coronation (right), followed by a pictorial definitive issued 1 month later. Issues were mainly commemorative or omnibus.

First local post 1965 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

An overprinted definitive (left) was issued to commemorate the island’s first local postage delivery.

On 12 October 1961, after the volcano eruption on Tristan da Cunha, four Tristan stamps were overprinted ‘St Helena/Tristan Relief’ with a surcharge (below). Note the dual currency - Tristan used South African Rand at the time but the relief surcharge was collected on St Helena in £sd. Only 454 sets were sold, mainly to tourists from a visiting cruise liner. This set was withdrawn on 19th October, and is currently the most expensive set of St Helena stamps (Follow for more information).
Tristan Relief stamps [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

 

For more postal history contact the St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society.

Stamps Today

St Helena now issues commemorative stamps regularly and still takes part in Crown Agents omnibus issues. St Helena stamps and First Day Covers can be purchased over the counter at the Post Office in Jamestown, or online from the St Helena Post Office Philately Sales website.

Heart Shaped Waterfall [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Centennary of stamps [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Fairy Tern [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{a}

Fernando Lopez [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

da Nova [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{a}

Cavendish stamp [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{a}

London postal exhibition 1980, 5p [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

London postal exhibition 1980, 8p [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

London postal exhibition 1980, 47p [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

150th anniversary of Napoleon’s death [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

150th anniversary of Napoleon’s death [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

25 years of St Helena stamps [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Royal engagement 1981 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{a}

Seabirds [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Wirebird stamp [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

St Helena’s first car [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Famous Visitor: Captain Bligh [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Famous Visitor: Edmund Halley [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Famous Visitor: Charles Darwin [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Famous Visitor: Edward VIII [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Old RMS St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Inclined Plane (Jacob’s Ladder) [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Radio St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{3}

2006 Christmas issue [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

RFA Darkdale [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Witte Leeuw [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{a}

Dutch attempted landing in Lemon Valley, 1672 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Plantation House [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Quincentenary: Janish [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Sets & First Day Covers

Flowers, 1993 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

First Day Cover: Maritime Heritage [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

First Day Cover: Early settlers [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

First Day Cover: 25th Anniversary of the RMS [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Souvenir Sheet: Margaret Thatcher [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

First Day Cover: New Banknotes, 1976 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Princess Ann’s visit, 2002 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Anniversaries, 1992 [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]{b}

You could also check out the “complete list of Saint Helena mint postage stamps, souvenir sheets (miniature sheets) and booklets”.

You may also be interested in our collection of Postcards of St Helena and also the St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society.

See also in this article (3.1Mb){4}.

Stamps with errors

As anywhere else, St Helena stamps are sometimes issued with errors. We present examples below{5}:

1976 Commemorative printed without Gold, resulting in the loss of the Queen’s head and country name [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
1976 Commemorative printed without Gold, resulting in the loss of the Queen’s head and country name

1987 40th Wedding Anniversary, with overprint missing (shown without and with) [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]
1987 40th Wedding Anniversary, with overprint missing (shown without and with)

SHATPS

SHATPS Logo [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

If you’re interested in St Helena stamps you might want to join the St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society (SHATPS).

Founded in 1976, the objectives of the Society include: to promote the study and research of philatelic materials relating to St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha; to promote and develop the collecting of such philatelic material; to disseminate news and knowledge concerning these islands; to foster friendship among such collectors; to foster philatelic aid and friendship with the residents of these islands; and to aid members of the Society to acquire and/or dispose of philatelic or philatelically related items.

Membership in the Society is open to all interested individuals worldwide. To join and receive regular publications about stamps of the region go to www.shatps.org or their Facebook™ page.

Don’t break the law!

In UK law it is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British monarch upside-down. (Exactly what punishment would be demanded for this heinous crime is not known.)

Read More

Article: “St Helena Postal History 1677-1903

This exhibit is a very comprehensive study of the postal history of St Helena, starting with the earliest known mail from the island.It is also packed with many interesting illustrations.

It’s too long to reproduce here but you can download the exhibit (15.9Mb).

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]

Laugh at funny postagestamps humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Postage Stamps]


Credits:

{a} St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society (SHATPS)

{b} Manfred Rippich (Germany)



Footnotes:

{1} A note on old UK money: Prior to February 1971, when Britain’s money was Decimalised, a Pound (£) comprised 20 Shillings (‘s’ or ‘/-’), each in turn comprising 12 pence (‘d’). There were, thus 240d in £1. A typical price might be expressed as ‘19/6d’ - nineteen shillings and six (old) pence (97½p in modern terms) or ‘£1.10.6’ - one pound, ten shillings and six (old) pence (£1.52½ in modern terms).

{2} He also painted “The ‘Rollers’ of 1846”, from an earlier sketch by an unknown artist.

{3} There was a friendly dispute on the SHATPS Facebook™ page as to whether the person depicted was Ralph Peters or Tony Leo. Ralph resolved the issue, writing: “There was a dispute when the First Day Cover came out in December 1992. Yes it’s me; the only thing that is a little confusing is the hair colour - mine is/was black. Proof that it is me: check the little finger on the right hand, I only have one joint! (You might need a magnifying glass.)” and Tony Leo confirmed this.

{4} To be published in the UK Railway Philatelic Group Journal, March 2016.

{5} If you have other examples please contact us.



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