These are the first stamps listed in the Stanley Gibbons catalogue under the general heading of “Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika”. The first stamps of British East Africa were issued on 23 May 1890, these three stamps are referred to by specialists as the “GB Provisionals” as contemporary 1d, 2d & 5d stamps of Great Britain were overprinted and surcharged in Indian currency for use in BEA.
This first issue quickly ran out (only 1440 stamps each of the ½a and 1a values, and only 780 4a values being supplied) so Indian stamps were utilised instead, collectors eagerly seek out the 9 known different Indian stamps postmarked at Mombasa between July and October 1890.
The first non-provisional stamps issued by the Imperial British East Africa Company were printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co in 1890, the earliest known postmark being of 13 October, printed in sheets of 60 all the outer margins were imperforate so 30 examples from each sheet will have at least one straight edge. The two most valuable stamps from this issue were the 8a grey (1500 printed) & 1r grey (2100 printed).
There are many rare errors, provisional stamps including manuscript surcharges, stamps overprinted by hand and machine plus much else to hold the collectors attention with perhaps the highpoint of stamp design in 1897 with the arrival of the ‘Large Queen’ high value series depicting Queen Victoria framed.
This is a truly fascinating philatelic area. The postal history and postmarks are popular with stamp collectors and the stamps are the perfect and logical way to begin a collection of the wider K.U.T. subject.
Our favourite book is “British East Africa, the Stamps, Postal Stationery & Cancellations” by John Minns.