A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Straits Settlements

1883 Scott 41 2c carmine rose "Victoria"
Quick History
Straits Settlements (on or near the Malacca Strait, hence the name) was a group of British territories established in 1826 by the British East India Company.

Penang (Pinang), Malacca, Singapore (Red outlines)
Straits Settlements 1844 under East Africa Company
The Straits Settlements  were a consequence of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of  1824, where the Malay archipelago was divided between the Dutch south zone and the British north zone.

British Malaya 1922
Straits Settlements (Red)
Federated Malay States (Yellow)
Unfederated Malay States (Blue)
Stamps of India were used in the Straits Settlements from 1854-1867 with octagonal postmark B/172 (Singapore), B/147 (Penang), and B109 (Malacca).

Initially, Penang was the administrative center, but quickly (1832) Singapore, with its advantageous location, became the leading settlement.

In 1867, Straits Settlements became a crown colony, and De la Rue produced new Victoria stamp designs. 

The population was 572,000 in 1901, with the Chinese and the Malays far outnumbering the Europeans.

The Governor of the Straits Settlements was also High Commissioner for the Federated Malay States, British North Borneo, Sarawak, and the sultanate of Brunei.

Labuan joined the Straits Settlements in 1907.

(There were smaller entities as well- Dinding (which never had much population or development), Christmas island, and Cocos (Keeling) islands. A map of all of the parts of Straits Settlements is available at the fine Dead Countries Stamps website.)

For further reading and viewing of the history and stamps of the British Malay Peninsula region, see my blog post- Malay and States.

The Japanese occupied the Malay Peninsula during WW II until 1945.

Straits Settlements was broken up in 1946. Penang and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union. Labuan was attached to  British North Borneo, while Singapore became a Crown Colony.

Present Day Singapore and Malaysia
The British led Malayan Union of 1946 was changed quickly to the Sultan led Federation of Malaya in 1948. Independence was achieved for Malaya in 1957. Then, with the addition of Singapore, Sarawak, and North Borneo (State of Sabah), Malaysia was born in 1963. Finally, Singapore exited in 1965.

1935 Scott 213 5c black & ultramarine "George V"
"Silver Jubilee Issue"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Straits Settlements 1867-1948, 310 major number descriptions. Of those, 93 are CV <$1-$1+, or 30%. As a former British Colony composed of Singapore and parts of Malaysia, there is demand and interest, and consequently cost for these stamps.

There are also pockets of expensive to very expensive stamps for the Straits Settlements...
* 1854-1867 stamps of India used in Straits Settlements (Singapore; Penang; Malacca) (79 stamps with Scott "A" prefix).
* 1867 surcharged Stamps of India issue (nine stamps)
* 1880 surcharged (10c) on  the 1872 Scott 18 30c claret (fourteen stamps)
* 1883-1887 surcharged issues (fourteen stamps)
* 1907 Issue (eleven stamps)- Stamps of Labuan 1902-03 surcharged (Some are inexpensive, but I don't have any).
* 1922 Issue for Industrial Fair- overprinted  "Malaya-Borneo Exhibition"(fifteen stamps- minor numbers)
* 1942-43 Japanese Occupation Issues (thirty stamps)

The above categories, attractive as they are, are really specialist territory, and, at the moment, I don't have any. I will, however, mention a few of the issues briefly.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Cents = 1 Dollar
1867 Scott 10 2c bister brown "Victoria"
Wmk 1: "Crown and C C"
The initial production  for Straits Settlements proper was on September 1, 1867, with a nine stamp overprinted crown and surcharged issue, using stamps of India. The least expensive is CV $40+, and I don't have any.

As mentioned, with the advent of "Crown Colony" status in 1867. Straits Settlements also received their own stamps, printed by Dr la Rue. The 1867-72 nine stamp design shows a center portrait of the queen, surrounded by script on a white background.

The watermark is "Crown and C C". One will need to pay attention to this, as the similar 1882-99 series repeats some of the same denominations and colors, but with a "Crown and C A" watermark.

Upper Left: Crown and C C (wmk 1)
Upper right: Crown and C A (wmk 2)
Lower left: Multiple Crown and C A (wmk 3)
Lower right: Multiple Crown and Script C A (wmk 4)
As a refresher, here are the British Colonial Watermarks 1-4.

1894 Scott 50 8c ultramarine "Victoria"
Wmk 2: "Crown and C A"
In 1880-81, there were some 21 stamps of the 1867-72 issue surcharged with either 5 cents or 10 cents. Most are quite expensive, and I don't have any. (Are you getting the feeling it may be costly to specialize in Straits Settlements? ;-)

The next major issue was produced between 1882-99, and utilized the four designs from the 1867-72 issue, as well as two new designs. The eighteen stamp production was printed on "Crown and C A" watermark paper. Since the denomination and colors for some of the stamps are the same as the earlier 1867-72 issue, one will need a watermarking tray.

CV is <$1-$4+ for eleven stamps.

1894 Scott 74 3c on 32c rose
Between 1883-94, there were some 25 stamps of preceding issues surcharged (1c,2c,3c,4c,8c,10c,30c). Clearly, there was specific and wide denomination stamp shortages during this period. The Straits Settlements, especially Singapore, was growing, and the available stamps were not keeping up with the mail volume.

1892 Scott 82 1c on 8c gray green
During the 1883-94 surcharge period, there are both inexpensive and expensive stamps. The 1c on 8c gray green, illustrated above, is only CV $1+.

On the opposite end, the 1884 Scott 69 4c (red surcharge) on 1884 Scott 68 4c on 5c ultramarine is CV $37,000+: only found on ten letters sent by the Postmaster General to his wife. ;-)

1892 Scott 83 1c gray green "Victoria"
Between 1892-99, six "keyplate" type stamps were issued. Three stamps are CV <$1.

1899 Scott 89 4c on 5c ultramarine
Stamps of 1883-94 Surcharged
In 1899, four stamps were surcharged 4c. This was the last occurrence of surcharged issues for the Straits Settlements.

1902 Scott 97 8c violet/blue "Edward VII"
With the ascension of Edward VII, a thirteen stamp issue was released in 1902, using the keyplate design on Wmk 2 paper.

1903-04 Scott 107 4c violet/red "Edward VII"
Wmk 2: "Crown and C A"
In 1903-04, an oval portrait design of Edward VII was issued on four stamps. Watermark is "Crown and C A".

1910 Scott 128 $5 green & red/green "Edward VII"
Wmk 3; Chalky Paper
The 1904-11 twenty-two stamp chalky paper issue used the previous Edward VII 1902 keyplate and the 1903-04 oval portrait designs. The watermark is "Multiple Crown and C A".

The values go up to denomination $100. !! Clearly, the higher denominations are found more frequently on revenue cancellations, and the CV is much less for a revenue cancel.

Chalky paper can be tricky. Soaking a stamp in water tends to remove the chalky character. Obviously, most "used" stamps have been subject to this process. Examining the perforation area of the stamp sometimes reveals chalky evidence.

But the entire twenty-two stamp issue was printed on Wmk 3 "Multiple Crown and C A" paper, which should differentiate this issue from the preceding ones.

1911 Scott 132 4c lake "Edward VII"
Wmk 3; Ordinary Paper
Lastly, for Edward VII, a six stamp issue on ordinary paper was printed between 1906-11. Fortunately, these stamps have different colors compared to the preceding issues. CV is <$1-$3.

I should mention that when Labuan joined the Straits Settlements in 1907, a group (ten stamps) of their 1902-03 stamps were overprinted and/or surcharged for use in the Straits Settlements. Some are only moderately expensive ($3-$10: five stamps). They were not given spaces on Big Blue and I don't have any. But they are on my Bucket List. ;-)

1918 Scott 154 4c scarlet "George V"
Wmk 3; Chalky Paper
A long (23 stamps) issue for George V was produced between 1912-18 using six designs. The entire issue is found on Wmk 3 "Multiple Crown and C A" paper": helpful. Some denominations/colors are found both on chalky and ordinary paper (10c violet/yellow, 45c, $2, $5).

Also, the A24 design on nine stamps (see next illustration) is Die I for this issue.

1932 Scott 187 5c dark brown "George V"
A24 Design; Wmk 4; Die II; Ordinary Paper
The 1921-32 twenty-six stamp issue uses the same designs as the 1912-18 issue, but on watermark 4 "Multiple Crown and Script C A" paper: again helpful. The lower denominations through the 10c ultramarine are on ordinary paper; while the higher denominations, beginning with the 10c violet/yellow, are on chalky paper.

The A24 design (ten stamps) is found as Die II.

Die I/Die II illustrative/descriptive differences can be found on "Dies of the British Colonial Stamps" in the introduction section (page 38A) of the 2014 Scott 1840-1940 catalogue, or link to my Gold Coast post.

1921 Scott 199 $1 black & red/blue "George V"
Wmk 4; Die II; Chalky Paper
The CV for the 1921-32 issue is <$1-$1+ for twelve stamps.

1936 Scott 226 25c rose red & violet "George V"
The 1936-37 "George V" issue is found exclusively on chalky paper, and has a CV of <$1-$1+ for fourteen stamps.

1937 Scott 241 5c brown "George VI"; Die I
1939 Scott 241a 5c brown; Die II
(Enlarge for examination)
The 1937-41 George VI issue of eighteen stamps with one design, but two dies.

This issue proved to be the last before the Japanese invasion. The issue can be found with Japanese handstamped overprints in 1942 (5 stamps) , and 1942 ( 15 stamps), Some of the handstamped overprints are inexpensive (CV $3-$4: four stamps), but I don't have any at the moment.

The interest (for me) is that the issue was printed with two dies.

Die I: printed from two plates. Horizontal lines of the background touch outside the central oval. Palm frond in front of King's eye has two points.

Die II: printed from one plate. Lines of background separated from central oval. Palm frond in front of King's eye has one point.

Usually, the denomination was printed with either Die I or Die II, but not both. However, the 4c brown orange, and the 5c brown ( illustration) were printed with both dies. Can you find an example of both in your collection?

1924 Scott J4 8c red
A functional appearing six stamp postage due issue was released between 1924-26. The French had more fun with their colony postage dues (Here, specifically St. Pierre and Miquelon), if one would like a comparison. ;-)

Deep Blue
1882-99 "Victoria" Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 17 pages for the 1867-1948 stamp issues, and all major Scott numbers have a space. Unless one is a specialist with deep pockets- because of expense-, sections of Deep Blue for the Straits Settlements are unlikely to be filled.

1938 Scott 250 $1 red & black/blue "George VI"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69 has just two pages and 92 spaces for the stamps of Straits Settlements  (Malacca, Penang, and Singapore). The '69 editors separated out "Malaya" and gave them their own section.

The 40s BB editions, as noted, had the Federated Malay States, Johore, Kedah, Kelantan,  Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Selangor, Sungei Ujong, and Trengganu still included under the "Straits Settlements" section.

Subtracting the 46 stamps for the 1942-48 period (which BB doesn't cover) leaves 264 major numbers in the catalogue. Overall, then, coverage in BB is 35%.

To BB's credit (and the fact I altered the 1882-91 issue stamps to 1867-91 dates ;-), there are no expensive stamps ($10 threshold).

There is the usual wmk 2 vs wmk 3; wmk 3 vs wmk 4 choices for stamp spaces to be made.

The '69 editors dropped the postage due category (eight spaces), which was in the 40s editions.


1882-91* (Actually 1867-91 here)
10 or 40, 12 or 48, 13a or 49, 51, 41,45,54,




90, 91a or 91, 92,


105 or 109, 129, 106 or 110, 130, 107 or 111, 131, 112,
132, 133, 108 or 114, 134, 116, 118, (119),(120),

Next Page

149,150 or 179,151 or 180,152,182,153,154,

155 or 186, 156 or 188,157,158 or 191,159 or 190,192,







A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) *1882-91- there is no reason to keep this narrow coverage, so I expanded the date range to 1867-1891, which allows other and less expensive stamps to be considered. You are, of course, free to keep BB's original time period if you wish, ;-)
D) *1903-11- choices are wmk 2 vs wmk 3.
E) *1912-22- choices are wmk 3 vs wmk 4

1945-48 Scott 266 25c rose red & violet 
Stamps of Type of 1937-41 Overprinted in Red or Black
B M  A = "British Military Administration"
Out of the Blue
192, 194X3, 223 on Envelope
Fascinating part of the world, and the philatelic history, especially with the addition of  covers, would be a great  specialty collection. Many of the stamps are priced in the inexpensive range, but others will tax the pocketbook. I feel drawn to it... wait! I still need to finish the WW classical era blog posts.... Oh, well...  ;-)

Note: Map scans appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?


  1. Great post as always Jim. The Straits were one of my late father's collecting areas, and I inherited the balance of his collection (he sold parts of it online when I was helping him operate a ZillionsofStamps store). Fascinating stamps, with a lot of interesting postmarks possible given their use not just in the Settlements (with Malacca seeming to be the rarest of the 3 settlements for cancels, since it had the smallest population) but also towns in what would become the Fed Malay States (I notice a couple Kuala Lumpur cancels for example on the stamps you show in the article) and then the use in places like Labuan, Christmas, Cocos and Dindings (which should be very rare postmarks).

    I have a very good friend from college days who lives in Singapore, and hope in a couple years to be able to go visit him and see the Malaya-Singapore region in person.

  2. Appreciate the post Gene, and the fact that your father collected the area. I noticed the Kuala Lumpur postmarks also, and was puzzled by it. Clearly, the Straits Settlements stamps were valid in some (all?) of the Federated Malay States.

  3. I think Straits stamps were used in the protected Malay states until the release of the Federate Malay States own stamps in 1900. Kuala Lumpur is in Selangor. Not sure if the local state stamps were not considered valid for international use and thus Straits stamps had to be used for overseas mail? Selangor did not have a stamp with a face value greater than 5c until the Tiger issue of 1895. Just guessing here though, not an expert on the postal history (I'm sure someone at Stampboards would be able to answer the question)

    1. Selangor had their own issues prior to the Federated Malay States stamps, but, since these States were under a protectorate arrangement, perhaps they also used Straits Settlements stamps? Yes, I'm also not knowledgeable here. ;-)

  4. "the Malay archipelago was divided between the Dutch south zone and the British north zone". It is quite interesting how these colonies were passed around like so many chips in a poker game with little regard to the folks who live there. In school we see maps and don't realize the very rich history of many of these states.

    I've been working on the KGV 1935 Jubilee issues lately and it is surprising to learn the path the colonies took to independence...the border disputes, the alliances and treaties, the 'trading' of territories with other nations. Great post, as always.

    1. Stamp collectors have front row seats to the machinations of the colonial powers. ;-)