Arago: Exhibits

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Virgin Islands' Virgin Mary

5sh dark blue St. Ursula single

The 5-shilling Virgin Mary stamp was issued in 1899.

Recess-printed by De La Rue and issued in January 1899, the new Virgin Islands stamps comprised the same eight values as the federal set. But they had a different and very distinctive design, showing the Virgin Mary holding a bouquet of lilies. At first they were generally welcomed by philatelists. Then an official announcement explained that they were for use concurrently with the stamps of the Leeward Islands, and this caused a major protest.

All the stamp journals of the day condemned the new issues, claiming they were not needed for postal purposes and existed simply to bolster the islands’ revenue at the expense of collectors.

Despite the grumblings, the ploy proved a success. Figures released for the 1899 fiscal year showed that Post Office receipts, budgeted at £255, had leapt up to £1,509. Although collectors had complained bitterly, they still bought the stamps!