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British Guiana

FIRST STAMPS ('cottonreels') 1 July 1850
(these were produced locally pending arrival of definitive from London).


1850, 100 cents = 1 dollar.

The three Dutch counties of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice, settled by the Dutch West Indies Company c. 1620, were captured in 1796 by Britain, ceded to it in 1814, and united as British Guiana in 1831. The colony became an independent member of the Commonwealth on 26 May 1966 as Guyana.

A packet office existed in Demerara from 1796 and in Berbice somewhat later. A local boat met the Falmouth packet at Barbados. Datestamps are known from soon after. From 1842 the service changed to steam and British Guiana shared the services of the West Indies packet until World War I. An inland P0 was established by London on 1 July 1850. In 1856 a crowned circle 'PAID' mark was supplied. Prepayment of letters to Britain was made compulsory in 1858. In 1860 the colony took control of the P0. Difficult terrain and broad rivers with rapids impeded communications until regular airmails started in 1944. In 1880 there were 49 POs and even by 1938 only 73.

British Guiana boasts the world's highest-priced stamp in the one cent black on magenta of 1856 (of which only one copy is known).

Stamps of Britain were used on mail to Britain in 1858-60
(oblit. A03, Georgetown; A04, Berbice).

Venezuela & the Guianas to 1903
Click map for larger view

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