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Collect Provisional Stamps!?

I was admiring the front cover of next week’s Hunters catalogue and admiring the various British Empire high value stamps displayed there, including a 1922 £75 value from Kenya and Uganda… when my eye drifted down to a little blue Bolivian stamps with a red overprint. Above this picture we have helpfully added “COIJA PROVISIONAL”.

Provisional Stamps can be very interesting indeed; they are often produced under unusual and sometimes extreme circumstance. They can be created for any number of events including surprise changes of postal rates such as those caused by inflation in Germany, Hungary or even Zimbabwe which can quickly render existing stamp stocks ill-suited for the task at hand. A change in name or government can create stamp- chaos too (consider our discovery of a previously unheard-of 1976 “Central African Empire” overprint on a cover posted just a few days after a coup saw the CAR renamed by one of Africa’s most unstable leaders) or by occupation of foreign territory such as the myriad of fascinating stamps issued in wartime Europe with the stamps of Russia overprinted as the Nazi forces rolled across the Baltic states. A change of currency can do it, or the simply need to provide stamps that are in short supply for any reason whatsoever. A typical example of issuing provisional stamps occurred during the Spanish–American War when supplies of stamps were low and the U.S. had occupation forces in Cuba. Or the Rhodesian 1896 Matabele provisionals which were regular stamps surcharged during an uprising that commenced with the ambushing of the Salisbury to Bulawayo mail coach which contained a consignment of stamps.

Almost every provisional stamp has a story and it surprises me that few so-called “Topical” collections have been formed on the subject of Provisional Stamp issues, such collections would surely make for fascinating reading…


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