Bonus: First, You Buy a Stamp …

You know this already if you are a stamp collector, or if you have been reading my FMF Stamp Project blog posts; or you may sense this intuitively: One of the strongest impulses of a collector is to fill in a key blank spot on an album page — say, the one missing stamp that makes a desirable set complete. (See “The Exquisite Pleasure of Filling Out Sets,” April 2017 blog post.)

Version 2That’s how my latest buying binge started. I spotted a long-desired stamp — the 5 shilling from the first (and only) Queen Elizabeth set of Somaliland Protectorate, a small territory formerly under British supervision in the Horn of Africa. It’s a charming little stamp, a two-color engraving, emerald green and brown, issued in 1953. The young queen’s portrait sits next to a delicately etched Martial Eagle perched on a promontory in a rocky  landscape. I recently acquired the 10 shilling of the set, and lacked only this stamp to complete my series. But the stamp is not cheap — prices on the Internet range upward from $11 to $28 for a mint copy. So when I noticed it in a “sale” email, going for $9.50, it got my attention. Not only that: The seller added to his pitch the phrase “…or best offer.” Plus, shipping was free. I shaved 50 cents off the asking price and submitted my offer for $9, which was promptly accepted. (How low should I have gone?) Hooray! My set would be complete.

Then I thought: Well, gee, it’s free shipping. The seller is promoting more of his “British colonial classics.” The one I bought certainly was priced right — and I got it even cheaper in my low-ball offer. Why not take a look? And I was off to the stamping grounds …


Here is the envelope my stamps came in. The seller thoughtfully provided a colorful assembly of vintage U.S. issues.  It’s always fun to get a package like this!

Before I was done, my $9 bargain (with free shipping) had ballooned to $99.50. (I look through walls and see wife Chris rolling her eyes as I write that sen-tence. “But Chris, it’s a good investment,” I protest in my imagination. Then I imagine  another eye-roll. I will only say in my defense that this kind of spending is not an everyday indulgence!) On some of the stamps, I offered 50 cents less than the asking price. On others, a buck, even two bucks off. In every case, my offer was accepted. Cool! Overall, I probably saved about 10 bucks off the already


Here is an entrancing quartet of stamps from the Caribbean island of Montserrat, issued 100+ years ago, when it was a British colony. Notice the subtle color pairings — deep violet and brown orange; carmine and black on light blue paper; blue and violet on light blue paper. The 1/- value I have enlarged (below) to show the badge of the colony (a cross? a lyre? a muse?) is in fetching shades of black on green paper. The seller listed prices on each card. I paid a fraction of those amounts — $34 for all four lots.

reasonable asking prices. Plus, I saved more on avoided shipping costs. Seen another way, I spent about 100 bucks on 14 lots, many of them single stamps. Did I get a good deal? Probably not a bad one, if you think stamps are ever a “good deal.”




Version 2















One thing I know for sure: Roger Fenna from Black Mountain, N.C., sure knows how to move his stamps!

The following is a gallery of other items I picked up — all because I bought  that first stamp …


This stamp is identified as “39u” — which I guess means No. 39, used. No kidding! It’s a heavily cancelled stamp of the Edwardian era from the colonial territory of East Africa and Uganda, one of the many administrative iterations of that imperial region. The seller lists it at $40. I got it for $5.


“Oil Rivers” was an evocative if hardly alluring name, conjuring images of black oil gushing from a steamy tropical delta. Back in the 1880s, it referred to a region of Nigeria exploited by the British for its palm oil. Today Nigeria is indeed one of the world’s richest producers of black oil — a source of great wealth for the  elites, if not for the average Nigerian. When I  get around to reviewing my Nigeria collection, it will be fun to run through the various names that chronicle the efforts of British imperialists to make geographical sense of their vast, unruly colony, or protectorate, or whatever. (I paid $4 for the stamp.)


Postage due stamps (or surcharge stamps) have a long history, both in the United States and around the world. Most of them are pretty boring to look at, but some are surprisingly pricey. Imagine, paying $25 or more for these three black-and-white items from Grenada. (I paid $6 for them, $11 for the Malta set, below). Why do I buy them? Because those empty spaces in my albums taunt me, and the collector’s quest for completeness compells me to fill those spaces when I can.



This early stamp, from Turks Islands (today part of Turks and Caicos Islands) depicts a crudely elegant Queen Victoria in profile (No. 2, 1867). The catalog price is $140, and it is offered elsewhere online at $33.79, “or best offer.” I paid $15.50 for it. Checking a bit further, I noticed there also are expert forgeries for sale on eBay — like the image reprinted below. Gee, you could have fooled me …




I’ll just crowd in these last two items before I close. Above is one stamp in the long, numerous series of George V definitive sets issued during his reign (1911 to 1935), this one from Leeward Islands. “Leeward” stamps were used in a half-dozen Caribbean islands, including Antigua, Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands and Dominica. As you may suspect, it adds to a set I am building, piece by piece, over the years. Ditto for the stamp below from Antigua. A stunning example of two-color typography from 1903, this high-value stamp, like others in the series,  features the seal of the colony in black, surrounded by an elaborate red-violet border. Exquisite craftsmanship! (I paid $7.50 for it, a couple of bucks for the 1/- stamp above.)


Oh yes, one more offering: Here is a visual treat — filling out that Queen  Elizabeth set from Somaliland Protectorate. Watch me add the missing stamp. Ahh! Enjoy it vicariously!



Before …












… after.









Ain’t that set a beauty? Valuable, too. It’s selling online for $50 or more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s