This excess, however, is not without attractiveness and historical interest. Take, for instance, the frequent appearance of the liberty cap, el gorro frigio, sometimes hoisted on a pike atop a mountain and sometimes floating mid-air.
The roughly conical cap with a floppy top originated in ancient Phrygia. It was adopted during 18th century American revolution as a symbol for freedom from colonial oppression, although the ancient cap had nothing to do with freedom. Nevertheless, Nicaragua follow suit.
On stamps, the cap hovers over the five volcanic mountains that represent the five Central American countries -- Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Usually the cap is very small, as on Scott #o128, and easily mistaken for a crucifix or overlooked altogether.
Beyond the USA and Nicaragua, many countries in Central and South America have adorned stamps and coins with Phrygian caps, including Mexico and Argentina.
Scott #305 has a close resemblance to the Nicaragua coat of arms – a triangle showing a free floating, glorified cap, as well as the water of two oceans, perhaps a hope-inspired rainbow, and the five mountains. A second cap can be seen below the triangle in an image similar to Scott #54.
A particularly interesting and treacherous area of Nicaraguan philately is the local stamps of Cabo Gracias a Dios and Bluefields. These are mostly regular Nicaragua stamps overprinted for use in the eastern part of the country where currency was denominated in silver; they’re treacherous because the double and sometimes triple overprints are expensive and easily faked (Scott’s catalog says so).
Cabo Gracias a Dios is thought to have been named by Christopher Columbus in 1502 in thanksgiving for deliverance from rough seas, perhaps a hurricane. The above scan shows four hand-stamped Cabo overprints, the most impressive being the yellow one peso with a clear Cabo cancellation. Sadly, Scott doesn’t list it as a legitimate stamp. So, I tend to regard it as a fancy flimflam. But then, there are hundreds of unlisted and unauthorized hand-stamped surcharges.
Bluefields, located south of Cabo on the Atlantic coast, derives its name from Abraham Blauvelt, a Dutch pirate in the early 17th century. The stamps commonly have two overprints, a capital “B” for Bluefields and “Dpto Zelaya” for the Province of Zelaya, the latter overprint being the smaller. Inking and clarity vary greatly.
Largely isolated from the rest of the country, Bluefields was only recently connected by a highway to the western part of Nicaragua. Railways in eastern Nicaragua were a political dream (although a philatelic reality). Ferrocarril de Nicaragua never delivered mail (or anything else) to Bluefields or Cabo.
Hence the double irony of Scott #s 1L109-1L123: locomotives are featured on the one series of stamps issued specifically for purchase with the silver coins of eastern Nicaragua, a place without trains. Moreover, in 1912, the year after this series was issued, Ferrocarril de Nicaragua changed its name to Ferrocarril del Pacifico de Nicaragua. A gesture of honesty, I suppose. The last effort to extend rail service to the Atlantic succumbed in 1909, never to be revived.
The philatelic locomotive is generic, not a likeness of Nicaraguan rolling stock. Produced by Waterlow and Sons of London, this series must have been printed in excessive numbers for, within a matter of months, they were overprinted for use in the silver-bereft western part of Nicaragua. Regardless, the series has become popular with collectors.
Recently, appreciation of Nicaragua’s stamps has grown, in large part, because of the pioneering work of the Nicaragua Study Group, NICARAO, and their website http://www.bio-nica.info/NICARAO/00-NICARAO.htm. Beginning specialists and even worldwide collectors will find their work helpful. For a discussion of Seebeck’s impact on Nicaraguan philately, see https://www.linns.com/news/postal-updates-page/seebeck-made-many-cheap-stamps-for-collectors.html.
Census: 568 in BB spaces, 28 tip-ins, 603 on supplement pages.