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Overprints on Seahorses

As a young collector I got into serious trouble at home. I had spent my £25 savings (a considerable sum, hard earned from paper rounds in rainy northern England) on a stamp, and to say that my parents ‘didn’t get it’ would be an understatement!

I still have that stamp; it’s an “Irish Seahorse”. To be precise it is a GB 1918 2s6d chocolate brown Seahorse stamp printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co which was in use in southern Ireland when separation from the Union occurred in 1922, and after a short period of Provisional Government a Free State was born.

Having no stamps of their own, the new country seized all GB stamps and overprinted them in beautiful Gaelic script with the words “Provisional Government of Ireland, 1922” and a little later “Irish Free State 1922”. Perhaps the new authorities didn’t wish to add insult to injury, but King Georges head was not deliberately obliterated and the overprint seemed to add a little something, that hint of history and events that called to a young collector with money burning a hole in his pocket!

But that is not the end of the story, those wonderful GB Seahorses were utilized a number of times throughout the Empire when a small postal agency or colony required high value stamps but simple economics made a new design impossible.

Bechuanaland utilized all three printings between 1914 and 1923 adding a simple “BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE” overprint.

British Levant surcharged Seahorses in Turkish currency as well as a “BRITISH LEVANT” overprint for the British currency areas.

Morocco Agencies surcharged Seahorses in Spanish & French currencies as well as a “MOROCCO AGENCIES” overprint for the British currency areas.

Nauru, a very small place indeed, utilized all three of the printings by applying a “NAURU” overprint.

Many of these beautiful stamps can be found with varieties to the overprints, they also exist with “Specimen” overprints. All in all a fascinating area to collect with each different overprint or surcharge telling its own story of upheaval, geopolitics and small colonies.

In our current sale we have a pretty selection of Bechuanaland overprints on GB Seahorse stamps, perhaps not as precious as my Irish stamps but still very nice indeed!




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