Arago: Exhibits

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Cayman Islands - Running Out of Stamps

In the six-month period between August 30, 1907 and February 12, 1908, the Cayman Islands, a dependency of Jamaica, had to issue provisional surcharges no fewer than four times.

And who was to blame for the mess? Stamp collectors, apparently. The shortage of stamps was blamed on dealers buying such large quantities of the Caymans’ definitives that there were insufficient quantities left for normal use.

The first of the so-called Georgetown Provisionals was authorised when postal authorities realised that the stock of ½-penny definitives would only last another two months. In response, forty sheets of the 1-penny denomination were sent to Jamaica to be overprinted with the words ‘One Halfpenny’ by the Government Printing Office.

Even with this new supply of surcharged stamps, however, the authorities soon realised that the stock of the ½-penny valued stamps would run out by the end of the year. In fact, because so many had been overprinted, supplies of the 1-penny were exhausted first, by November 22.

As an emergency measure, the local postmistress, Gwendolyne Parsons, was instructed to surcharge fifteen sheets of the 5-shillings denomination stamp. This denomination was chosen because it was most often used for revenue purposes, and there were adequate stocks. A local carpenter was tasked with making a crude handstamp by attaching the figure ‘1’ and a capital letter ‘D’ to a wooden handle. With this handstamp, 1,800 stamps were surcharged overnight, and placed on sale on November 23. Unsurprisingly, a number of significant errors exist, including inverted, double and misaligned surcharges.

Continues on the next slide...

1/2p overprint on 1p carmine rose King Edward VII single

The "One Halfpenny." overprint on the 1-penny Edward VII stamp.

1p overprint on 5sh King Edward VII single

The 1d overprint on the 5-shilling Edward VII stamp.