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Bermuda’s 1920 & 1921 Tercentenary Issues

The Intriguing Tale of Two Sets!

Bermuda's first commemorative stamps provide a surprisingly large area of interest for collectors. As a result of poor communications TWO DIFFERENT sets were issued for the same event - each with values on differently watermarked papers.

The Legislative Assembly of Bermuda - the oldest representative institution in the British Commonwealth except for the British Parliament - met for the first time on August 1st, 1620.

In early 1920 the Governor of Bermuda, General Sir James Willcocks, decided that the 300th anniversary of this event warranted a special issue of postage stamps, and with the approval of the Executive Council forwarded to the Crown Agents his own suggestion for a design with the request that De La Rue & Co. proceed with the manufacture of the stamps.

Unaware of the action already taken by the Governor in Council, the Legislative Assembly decided unanimously to commemorate their Tercentenary by the issue of a set of nine stamps (¼d to 1s), and requested the Governor to obtain a suitable design. The Governor informed the Assembly of what had already been done and submitted his essay to them. The Assembly, however, were not impressed and felt that the design should include emblems appropriate to the Tercentenary - they produced their own design (prepared by H.J. Dale, a Hamilton architect) which incorporated the coat of arms of the colony, the Sword of State and the Speaker's gavel, in addition to the ship "Sea Venture".

As the production of stamps featuring the Governor's design was well advanced, it was decided that two sets of stamps should be made, one of each design, in nine denominations from ¼d to 1s:-

1920 (11 Nov) - 1921 (19 Jan) 1st issue (Governor's design) SG 59/67

1921 (12 May) 2nd issue (H.J. Dale design) SG 68/76

The 1st issue had the 1d, 2½d and 6d values produced on the new Multiple Script CA watermarked paper, the other six values being on the established Multiple Crown CA watermarked paper. These 1d and 2½d values were THE FIRST COLONIAL STAMPS TO APPEAR ON THE NEW WATERMARK PAPER. The 2nd issue had the ¼d, ½d and 1d stamps on Mult Script paper, with the other six values on Mult Crown paper.

The two sets provide further interest to collectors due to the complexity of the watermarks:-

The 1st issue has sideways watermarks, normally with Crown to LEFT of CA (as seen from the back of the stamp), whereas the 2nd issue has sideways watermarks, normally with Crown to RIGHT of CA (as seen from the back of the stamp). However for both issues many values exist with reversed watermark, inverted watermark or inverted & reversed watermark; and some values have the "C" of "CA" missing from the watermark or the "A" of "CA" missing from the watermark.

A fascinating issue to collect!


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