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The Island of Madeira

The island of MADEIRA (along with the island of Porto Santo) was first explored by two of Henry the Navigator's captains in the early part of the 15th century - although in ancient Greece Ptolemy wrote of an island called Erythria ("Red Island") and the Romans certainly referred to them as the “Purple Island” because of the dyes extracted there.

Since its 'rediscovery' Madeira has always been administered as part of Portugal and all her stamps were printed at the Mint, Lisbon.

A brief history of the stamps of Maderia:

From 1853 to 1868 the stamps of Portugal were used in Madeira, cancelled by a "51" within bars postmark, these are eagerly hunted by collectors and are often found hidden in rather mundane old collections mistaken for regular Portuguese issues! Specialists also dream of finding Portuguese stamps with experimental perforations sent to Madeira to be used up, they are only found used at Maderia.

1868 to 1881 stamps of Portugal overprinted "MADEIRA" were in use, specialists recognise three basic types of overprint applied to a wide range of different Portuguese issues (Gibbons list well over 100 different basic stamps & shades)

It is worth noting that a large number of official reprints of these overprinted issues were produced in 1885 & 1905. They are usually easy to detect being almost always mint (as they were made available to collectors after their official postal use was discontinued) with sharp impressions & different gum, amongst other indicators. They are collectible but often of lower value compared to their originals!

1881 to 1892 stamps of Portugal (unoverprinted) were again used in Madeira.

1892 to 1905 the administrative title of Madeira was changed to the District of Funchal (the chief town on Madeira) and stamps inscribed "FUNCHAL" were in use.

1905 onwards saw the unoverprinted stamps of Portugal again in normal use - although issues in 1898 (Vasco da Gama), 1925 (Charity Tax & Postage Dues) and 1928 (Funchal Museum Fund) were inscribed "Madeira".

From 1980 onwards stamps have been issued inscribed "MADEIRA Portugal". These were also sold and valid for postage in mainland Portugal.

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