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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Thursday, September 3, 2015


1869 Scott 1 3c brown/yellow
"Sir James Brooke"
Quick History
Ever have a desire to be a King (Rajah) of your own Country? Perhaps the next best thing is indulge in the stamps and history of the Kingdom of Sarawak and the Brooke dynasty.

Map of Sarawak
The lands were located in northwest Borneo, west of Labuan and North Borneo (now Sabah). 

As a reward for helping to put down insurrection and piracy, the Sultanate of Brunei (Raja Muda Hassim) awarded the Kingdom of Sarawak to Sir James Brooke, a British adventurer, in 1841. He became the first White Rajah of Sarawak. In addition, he presented the island of Labuan to the British government in 1846, and served as governor.

He was awarded "Knight Commander of the Order of Bath" in 1848 by the British.

Sir James Brooke (1847) by Francis Grant
His fame and notoriety grew with a naval battle victory in 1862 over the Moro Pirates, of whom more than a hundred were killed.

It is said that James Brooke served as a model for the hero in Joseph's Conrad's novel
"Lord Jim".

The United States (1850) and the United Kingdom (1863) both recognized the sovereignty of Sarawak.

The first stamp for Sarawak was issued March 1, 1869 with a portrait of Sir James Brooke, posthumously, as he died August 18, 1868.

Sarawak in now part of Malaysia
As Sir James Brooke never married, the second White Rajah in 1868 was Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke, his nephew and sister's son.

Sir Johnson Charles Brooke appeared on all Sarawak's stamp issues between 1871-1908.

Sarawak, Brunei, and North Borneo lands as of 1890
The Kingdom of Sarawak become a British Protectorate in 1888, as did Brunei. North Borneo was already a British protectorate since 1882.

Sir Johnson Charles Brooke was also appointed the "Grand Master and Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George" in 1888 by the British.

With his passing in 1917, his son, Charles Vyner Brooke became the third (and last) White Rajah.

Vyner appeared on Sarawak's stamps between 1918-1947.

Vyner was granted knighthood in 1927. He tended to side with the native and Dayak indigenous tradition (although headhunting was outlawed), and Christian missionaries were banned.

The capital of Sarawak since the establishment of the country was Kushing, and the population was 490,000 in 1940.

Japan invaded and occupied Sarawak (and the island of Borneo including the Dutch East Indies portion) from 1941 to 1945, until liberated by the Australians. Vyner and his family spent the war period in Sydney, Australia.

On July 1, 1946, Vyner ceded Sarawak to the British as a crown colony, thus ending White Rajah rule.

Sarawak became independent in 1963, and formed the Federation of Malaysia with Malaya, North Borneo, and Singapore on September 16, 1963.

1892 Scott 25 1c on 3c brown/yellow
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Sarawak 1869-1950, 215 major number descriptions. Of those, 73 are CV <$1-$1+, or 34%. The earlier issues tend to be somewhat more expensive, and the 1942 Japanese Occupation stamps (26) are quite expensive.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Cents = 1 Dollar
1871 Scott 2 3c brown/yellow
"Sir Charles Johnson Brooke"
The initial two lithographed stamps (1869,1871) are both brown/yellow in color, and show Sir James Brooke and Sir Charles Johnson Brooke respectively, the first two "White Rajahs" of Sarawak. Of interest, there is apparently only one authenticated cover of each known.

The Sir James Brooke stamp is shown at the blog post header.

Note the letters in the four corners, a bit similar to the Great Britain stamps of the same era.

The top two letters, "J,B," and "C,B," no doubt refer to the initials of James Brooke and Charles Brooke respectively.

The bottom two letters, "R,S,"- Rajah (of) Sarawak.

1875 Scott 3 2c gray lilac/lilac
"Sir Charles Johnson Brooke"
A five stamp set was issued in 1875 for Sir Charles Johnson Brooke. Four of the stamps have a modest CV $4-$9.

1888 Scott 13 6c lilac & brown 
"Sir Charles Johnson Brooke"
A new fourteen stamp typographed set was released between 1888-97. The stamp design may look familiar. The Malay States and Thailand have somewhat similar, but not identical, designs for the same era.

1889 Scott 22 2c on 8c green & carmine
Three stamps from the preceding issue were surcharged in black between 1889-91. 

1895 Scott 28 2c red brown
"Sir Charles Johnson Brooke"
An older looking Charles Brooke is found on four engraved stamps issued in 1895.

1899 Scott 33 2c on 12c red/rose 
Stamps of 1871-75 Surcharged in Black or Red
Four stamps were surcharged in 1899, as illustrated. Three stamps are CV $2-$8.

1901 Scott 36 1c blue & carmine
"Sir Charles J. Brooke"
A similar twelve stamp set to the 1888-97 issue, except in different colors, was released between 1899-1908. This issue, as well as the issues preceding, are unwatermarked.

But the 2c gray green, initially released in 1899 unwatermarked, was also issued watermarked (Wmk 71-"Rosette") in 1901. It appears to be the only stamp of Sarawak with the "Rosette" watermark, and has a higher CV ($19 vs $1). Watch for it!

This would prove to be the last general stamp issue for the second "White Rajah".

1923 Scott 56 4c purple brown
"Sir Charles Vyner Brooke"
The third "White Rajah", Charles Johnson's son, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, was enthroned in 1917. An unwatermarked twenty-one stamp typographed issue for him was released between 1918-1923.

Of interest the usual 1c slate blue & rose (CV $2+) was also printed by mistake in slate blue & slate in 1918. This stamp color combination was never released for use, but can be found in the philatelic marketplace for CV $22.

1928 Scott 79 1c slate blue & rose
"Sir Charles Vyner Brooke"
Between 1928-29, a fifteen stamp issue, similar to the 1918-23 issue, but on watermarked paper (Wmk 47 "Multiple Rosettes") was released.

Get out the watermarking tray. ;-)

Wmk 47 "Multiple Rosettes"; Wmk 231 "Oriental Crown"
Here is a pic of the "Multiple Rosettes" watermark, found with the 1928-29 issue, as well as a pic of the "Oriental Crown" watermark, found with the 1932 issue, shown below.

1932 Scott 105 25c orange brown & yellow
"Sir Charles Vyner Brooke"
An engraved fifteen stamp set, some in bi-color, was issued in 1932.  Rather lovely. As just mentioned, this set is on watermarked paper ("Oriental Crown").

1934 Scott 112 3c black
"Sir Charles Vyner Brooke"
Another set of twenty-six stamps, this time unwatermarked, was issued in 1934 (20) and 1941 (6). Note the stunning oriental columns on either side of Vyner Brooke.

This would be the last issue before the Japanese occupation.

In 1945, with the return of the allies, a 20 stamp set of this issue, but overprinted "B M A", for "British Military Administration" was re-issued.

The remaining 1934-41 issue Kingdom of Sarawak stamps were used up during the Crown Colony era by overprinting a "GR & Crown" on them.

1946 Scott 157 50c red & black
"Sir James, Sir Charles V., and Sir Charles J. Brooke"
A 1946 four stamp set celebrating 100 years of "White Rajah" rule between 1841-1941 proved to be the last stamps issued before the Kingdom of Sarawak became a Crown Colony on July 1, 1946.

1950 Scott 181 2c orange red "Western Tarsier"
A very nice twenty-one stamp "George VI" issue was produced between 1950-52 during the Crown Colony era. They feature local animals or plants or native activities.

Horsfield's Tarsier in Sarawak
The "Western Tarsier" (Horsfield's Tarsier) is a nocturnal creature native to Borneo.

1950 Scott 183 4c brown 
"Kayan Girl & Boy"
The Kayan ethnic group (part of Orang Ulu- "upriver people") were former headhunters who were known for their extensive tattoos and stretched earlobes. They converted to Islam. They lived in long houses on river banks, and cultivated dryland rice and sago.

1950 Scott 186 10c orange
"Scaly Anteater"
The "Scaly Anteater" (Pangolin) is nocturnal, and is found throughout tropical Asia and Africa. They are considered endangered to the point of extinction, because of trafficking in their skin, scales, and meat.

1950 Scott 191 50c purple & brown
"Iban Woman"
The Ibans are the largest part (30%) of Sarawak's  population, and are mostly concentrated in Sarawak. The British called them Sea Dayaks during the colonial era, and they were known for their headhunting.

Iban Longhouse
Most were converted to Christianity. Many Ibans still live in longhouses, although today with modern conveniences.

Deep Blue
1875 Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has nine pages for the 1869-1950 stamps of Sarawak. All of the major numbers issued for Sarawak have a space. The Steiner classical group bundle of pages does not include the 26 Japanese Occupation overprint stamps of 1942 (it is probably included in the general Sarawak pages group, but I didn't check). Since the Japanese Occupation stamps are quite expensive (CV $40+-$2000+), and is specialist territory, the page shouldn't be missed by most WW collectors. 

1950 Scott 184 6c aquamarine "Bead Work"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on one page, has 50 spaces. Total coverage is 23%. Subtracting the post 1940 issues in the 1840-1940 catalogue (93 stamps) brings the coverage up to 41%. Still, I found some 28 stamps CV $1+-$5 that could have been included. 

The BB 40s editions have the same coverage.

And there is a curious omission of no coverage of the 1875 issue, three stamps of which are CV $4-$5.

There are five stamps CV $10+ that are required by BB. 







36,37 or 48*,38,39a or 39*,40,

1918-22 (-29 here)*
50 or 79,51 or 52 or 80,53,54 or 81,55,57 or 83,58 or 84,
59,60 or 85,61,63,64 or 87,(68),




A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1895 Scott 28 2c red brown ($10+)
1918 Scott 59 8c yellow & black ($10+)
1918 Scott 63 12c violet ($10+)
1932 Scott 105 25c orange brown & yellow ($10+)
1932 Scott 106 30c red orange & olive brown ($10+)
B) *1918-22 (-29 here)- Choices are unwmk vs wmk 27 "Multiple Rosettes". I  expanded the date range to 1929 to admit the 1928-29 issue, and accepted slight color differences as choices.
C) *37 or 48- Be aware that the 1901 Scott 48 2c gray green has watermark 71 "Rosette", while the 1899 Scott 37 2c gray green is unwatermarked.
D) *39 or 39a- BB specifies 1899 Scott 39a 4c rose, while the current major number is Scott 39 4c aniline carmine.

1950 Scott 188 15c deep blue "Fire Making"
Out of the Blue
The stamps of Sarawak, until they joined the UPU in 1897, were not valid outside of the country, except for British North Borneo, Labuan and Singapore. From 1859, stamps of India were used for overseas correspondence, then Straits Settlements stamps after 1867. Apparently, a stock of these stamps were kept by the Sarawak post Office.

Note: Maps, Pic of James Brooke, Tarsier and Longhouse all appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?

1950 Scott 193 $2 rose carmine & blue
"Map of Sarawak"


  1. One of my favorite countries. My father had an almost complete collection of Sarawak and I remember spending many long winter nights in Upstate NY helping him type up (on an old 1930s manual typewriter!) and mount his collection. He sold most of it in the last decade of his life, but I still have some items that I've now integrated into my collection after he passed away.