Friday, March 28, 2008

Singapore Postmarks of 1970s

I owned a copy of the "National Stamp Exhibition 1970", a national event with messages from the then Minister for Communication, and found pages of Singapore Postmarks in the booklet. It is actually not easy to find these postmarks on the Internet so I decided to take snapshots and post them here.

It is only through these postmarks that I realised that there were postal operations on some of the Singapore islands, e.g. Pulau Brani, Ubin, Tekong, Semakau, & St Johns. Wow... But there is one mark which I don't understand, what exactly is "PAQUEBOT"?? which appears under the "Mail Branch" portion (1st picture).

Afternote: Found the answer, it's the cancellation used while letters were posted on board ships. Seems to be a UPU creation from the Vienna Conference in 1891.

GPO Postmarks
G.P.O Counter: Q, C14, C17, and C18
Philatelic Bureau: Philatelic Bureau, and Philatelic Bureau 1
Mails Branch: M4, M5, Parquebot 2, and Surcharge

Sub Post Office Postmarks- Alexandra A 3, Bukit Panjang 23, Bukit Timah 21, Changi C 17, Dempsey Road A 10, Farrer Road A 10, Geylang A 14, Jalan Kayu 28, Joo Chiat A 15, Kampong Glam A 7, Kandang Kerbau A 8, Katong C 15, Keppel Harbour, Killiney Road A 6, Lim Ah Pin Road A 19, and MacPherson Road A 13.

Sub Post Office Postmarks- Maxwell Road, Nee Soon, Newton B 11, North Canal Road, Owen Road A 8, Pasir Panjang, Paya Lebar B 19, Pulau Bukom, Queen Street D 7, Queenstown A 3, Seletar B 28, Sembawang, Sepoy Lines B 2, Serangoon Rd A 12, Siglap 16, and Serangoon Garden 19.

Sub Post Office Postmarks- Simpang Bedok A 16, Airport A, Still Road A 15, Taman Jurong A 22, Taman Warna A 10, Tanglin B 10, Thomson Road 20, Tiong Bharu A 3, and Towner Road.

Postal Agencies - Ama Keng 24, Bulim Village 24, Dockyard P.A., Huat Choi (?) Village 22, Kg. Sungei Tengah 19, Nanyang University PA 22, Pepys Road 5, P. Elizabeth Est. 23, Pulau Brani 2, Pulau Ubin 17, Pulau Tekong, and Pulau Semakau.

Postal Agencies - Queensway 3, Tengah P.A., Race Course Vill 10, Sembawang H Est(?) 20, St. Johns Island, Teck Hocl 19, Toa Payoh, Yuas 22, Ulu Bedok 14, Upper Paya Lebar Road 19, Woodlands 25, Yan Kit 17, and Yio Chu Kang.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Brief Postal History of Singapore

Wikipedia has a very good summary of the postal history for Straits settlement while SingPost website has some good description of the postal department for Singapore. There are also a few other websites / books with snippets of information.

To save time for those want to have a quick look, I've summarised the sources from both Wiki (largely first part), SingPost (second half), and others. So in short, these descriptions are works of others, I merely summarised and shortened for ease of reading. A bit dry, but well it is important to know the history!

Singapore was originally part of the Straits Settlement, including Penang and Malacca. So the letters and postcards were handled by the passing ships. In these early days, a single mail office collected and delivered the small volume of letters. It was located in the previous Parliament House (for Singapore case) and run by just three persons. According to Wiki, the earliest post-marks was from around 1806. Stamps was not invented until 1840. So it's just letters with post-marks.

The postal service for this region was formalised when the British passed the Indian Post Office Act. However, this region didn't warrant to have its own stamps. So stamps from India were still used from 1854. You can check if the stamps were from Straits Settlement by looking at the cancellation. Malacca used cancellation with 'B109', Penang 'B147' and Singapore 'B172'. As trade flourished, both postal and marine traffic grew. The Singapore "Post Office", as it was known, became a separate department from the Marine Office in October 1858.

When the Straits Settlement officially became part of the British empire around 1867, the first batch of stamps were produced. Interesting history right? That's why stamps of these years are very valuable because of the historical importance. Starting from 1 Sep 1867, nine types in the existing stocks of Indian stamps were overprinted with a crown and a new value in cents. Actual 'Straits Settlement' stamps, i.e. those with the name on it, were used only from December of 1867.

With a new British King (King Edward VII) in 1901/1902, there is a need for new stamp designs. So new stamps were used from 1903. From 1907, there were some overprints of the stamps from Labuan with the words ' Straits Settlement', and larger denominations of $25 and $100 appeared from 1910 onwards. George V replaced his father on stamps beginning in 1912, reusing frames and only replacing vignettes.

Fullerton Building was the site of the Singapore's General Post Office (GPO) and was built between 1925 and 1928. An earlier GPO was demolished to make way for this building.

The last issue of the Settlements was for George VI beginning in 1937. From March 1942, the Japanese issued stamps for their occupation, made by overprinting existing stamps with Japanese inscriptions. In order to help the Japanese establish a common identity for this part of the world, the Japanese held a stamp design competition, and issued stamp designs (see picture below) in 1943.

When the Japanese left in 1945, the British military administration issued provisionals by overprinting Straits Settlements stamps with "BMA / MALAYA". These were available everywhere in Malaya, and used until regular postage stamp printing was organized.

From 1949, the Singapore Postal Department was aligned with the Postal Department of the Federation of Malaya. A colonial postal system was imposed which standardised rules, regulations, procedures and postage rates in both territories.

Singapore attained self-governance in November 1959 but the stamp issue featuring the Singapore flag (first time) was released only in 1960. Subsequently in September 1963, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (today's Sabah) joined Malaya and formed the Federation of Malaysia. Singapore 'split' from Malaysia in 1965 and become an independent country. There wasn't much stamp issues in between the September 1963-1965 period.

Following independence on 9 August 1965, Singapore took over its own postal functions in stages and became part of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) on 8 January 1966. The Singapore Postal Services Department became a fully autonomous body on 1 January 1967. On 27 August 1968, Singapore set up the Stamp Advisory Committee (SAC) headed by Mr Phua Bah Lee. The SAC has the responsibility of advising the government on all matters concerning philately, as well as recommend stamp themes / designs. There are other philatelic organisations set up since then, including the Singapore Philatelic Society in 1966, and the much older Singapore Stamp Club in 1941.

On 4 December 1971, the Mail and Registration Branch from General Post Office moved to rented premises at a Port of Singapore Authority warehouse at Nelson Road. In 1982, the Postal Services Department merged with the then Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS). In 1992, the TAS was split into three entities: the reconstituted TAS (now part of the Infocomms Development Authority), SingTel and SingPost.

In November 1983, the Mails and Parcels Centre moved from Nelson Road to bigger premises at Chai Chee Complex. At the Chai Chee Complex, Singapore introduced the optical character reader. With this technology, less manual processing is needed, i.e. save manpower. Seems like it was quite difficult to find candidates for the postman job back then. In September 1998, the mail-sorting operations at Chai Chee moved to the Singapore Post Centre located along Eunos Road 8, which was specially built for mail processing and houses advanced mail-sorting technology.

About 10 years have passed, and Singapore hosted the World Stamp Championship in 2004. Actually, Singapore also hosted the World Stamp Exhibition in 1995 at the same location of Suntec City.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stamps Collecting Basics - Part 2

Well, now that we have identified where to get the stamps, and what basic equipments that are useful for stamps collecting, we could move on to some other basics.

We get our sources of information and updates from magazines, postal agencies, websites...etc. At times, the terms used could be a bit confusing for those who just started collecting stamps. So let me list down some of the common vocabulary that we are likely to encounter in the stamp collecting world.

Types of stamps:

Definitive - Stamp issues that are meant for use over an extended period of time, for example 3-5 years. These regular stamps will be re-printed when the stock runs out. So sometimes two different 'runs' of the same definitive series may have minute differences. Here's the early definitives from Singapore.

Commemorative - Stamp issue to mark a certain event, e.g. 150 years of postage, or 10 anniversary of some national organisations. Limited runs normally. Here's some Singapore samples, celebrating 10 years of POSB and ASEAN.

Special - Very similar to commemorative stamps, but doesn't exactly mark any one-time off events and yet has limited prints. Examples include a set of stamps on tropical fruits, for example.

Revenue stamps - Stamps used as a form of proof that some government / official fees have been paid. Sometimes other postage stamps could also be used in place of the revenue stamps.

Cinderella stamps - Stamps lookalike, but which are not meant for postage use. Examples include fund-raising stamps for charity. Here's some Cinderella stamps from SATA.

Postage Label - Machine printed labels from those self-service vending machines. The designs changed every now and then. The 'gum' is also quite hard to wash off, and so personally I don't really like these stamps. Here's some samples.

First Day Cover - a.k.a FDCs. Specially envelopes designed with each issue of new stamps that enhances the design of these new stamps. Sometimes the cancellation of the stamps are also different. Due to the humid environment in Singapore, again I don't really like to collect these FDCs because the envelope may yellow easily.

Minature Sheet - This is a specially printed stamp sheet containing a complete set of stamps. The designs of the sheets often enhances the overall appearance of the stamps. Here's a sample for 150 years of stamps celebration.

Se-tenant - Two or more different stamps which could combine to form a single design. Here's a sample, and I'm missing one of them.

Overprint - Re-printing of the original stamps to add / modify the details on the stamps, for example changing of stamp values.

Cancellation: It's that 'chop' or the 'mark' that typically strikes across the stamp to show that it has been used i.e. 'cancel'. Here's a sample where the cancellation is a festive greetings, and asking the senders to post early for the festive greeting cards.

Here's a list of terminology used to describe stamps -

Never hinged - Stamps which have never been hinged. Hinging is a practice that has since become unpopular. However, if you find stamps earlier than the 1950s, you may still come across hinged stamps.

Lightly hinged - Stamps with a slight hinged mark.

Heavily hinged - Stamps with parts of the original hinge. Not ideal.

Original gum - Stamps with the original gum intact, typically unused stamps.

Mint - Unused stamps in very good condition. Of course this is subjective, since older stamps in 'mint' condition would still look 'old'.

Used - Stamps which have been used as a postage stamp, i.e. gummed onto the envelope, cancelled, and possibly soaked off the envelope. Some people prefer used stamps while others like mint. Individual preferences I guess. For used stamps, it is better to have them with the original envelope. This is because collectors like to see the other markings on the envelopes, e.g. canellations, or other 'marks' which reveal some story about the particular letter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stamps Collecting Basics - Part 1

Stamps collecting is easy. The difficult part is to devote enough time and resources to the activity. It is often very satisfying to sort out the collection of stamps, with attention paid to the details of each stamp. If you have some knowledge about these stamps (either from magazines or elsewhere), examining these little pieces of papers will be even more fun. People collect stamps based on themes, e.g. country specific, or birds, fishes, events ...etc. It's up to you what theme you prefer. Most people start with country specific theme, and often their own country stamps is a good start, primarily because it is easier to get these stamps.

Let's first start with some basic things for would-be stamp collectors.

Sources of stamp: I've listed down some examples of how you could get these little pieces of papers, often cheaply for the common varieties.

Offices: Most offices received and sent out a lot of letters (yes, even in the modern day with Internet). While many envelopes now come with pre-paid impressions and not stamps. you could still find a decent amount of stamped envelopes. Have a chat with the office cleaner who empty the rubbish bins each day, or the clerks / personal assistants who handles mails. They could be a big source of used stamps.

Friends / Relatives: Friends and relatives also received letters, especially during festive seasons like Christmas. Ask them for the envelopes. During festive seasons, there will more envelopes with 'commemorative stamps' and 'cancellations' especially for that season. This adds variety to your collection, and adds to the joy of sorting out the stamps. Here's a pic of a Xmas special from Finland.

Shops: There are still stamp shops around. Do a simple search on your street directory for these shops. For beginners I will advise you to be more cautious when buying expensive stamps from these shops, since you may not be sure if such investments on these stamps will fit into your collection theme / objectives. Here's a pic of some stamps packages (in theme) that you can buy from shops.

Museum: There are stamps / philatelic museums around. Look for one, and the museum shop will also sell stamps. I got quite a number of stamps and albums from the Singapore Philatelic Museum.

Post Offices: Post offices are a good source of mint stamps, i.e. those unused stamps. You could also buy stamps year book from the Post Office. If you fancy First Day Covers, you could also approach the counter staff for inquiry on subscribing to the service.

Stamp Fairs & Flea markets: There are many stamps fairs and flea markets around with good bargain of stamps. I know (for Singapore) Adelphi basement, and also Chinatown area have a number of stamps fairs / flea markets with stalls selling decently priced stamps.

Equipments needed: While you do not need any equipment (strictly speaking) to collect stamps, it is actually ideal to have at least a pair of stamp tongs, and proper albums for stamps. These are not expensive items for the hobby. You can get them at the Philatelic Museum.

Stamp tongs: Since stamps are fragile little pieces of papers, using our fingers to handle them could be difficult. You may accidentally crease or bend them. Our fingers also have little films of oils or other substance that may cause long term harm to the stamps. After the stamps are soaked (for used stamps), use the stamp tongs to handle them. Here's a pic of two pairs of stamp tongs.

Album: Stamp albums are useful. Do not keep stemps in those photo albums because the paper materials are different. Stamp albums are specially made for you to keep stamps, for years and decades. A good sized album costs less than $20, and could be used to keep many stamps!

Magnifying glass: Any magnifying glass will do, and it is used to look at fine details on stamps. Younger folks may not need it, but trust me, it helps to save your eye sight when looking at really minute details on small stamps.

Perforation gauge: Those jagged ends on the sides of stamps are created when we split pieces of stamps from the stamp sheets. These are half of the perforation holes. The number of perforations are interesting to some collectors, and some stamps fetch high values because their perforations are different from other batches of stamps. Using a gauge, you could measure the number of perforations per 2 cm. Well this is not an essential when you first start out collecting.

Watermark detector: Many stamps have water-marks. Water-marks are interesting, especially for when you discover that similar stamps have different water-marks (sometimes). There are many different water-marks detector out there, some requires a water-mark fluid and trays, while others are simple devices using back-lit light to show the water-marks. Buy one when you are more serious about stamps collecting.

Mounts: Mounts are little pieces of plastic that you could slot stamps into. Very useful for keeping stamps when you are not using a stamp album.

Hinge: Hinges are no longer in fashion (I think). These are little pieces of papers that is used to 'hinge' stamps, a practice in the past. Nowadays you could just slot the stamps into the album without need for mounts. Hinges may damage the gum of the stamps, or leave remnants that are unsightly.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Blog on Stamps

Stamps collecting is a hobby that I share with many others. When I do a google search about stamps in Singapore, all I get is some official sites on Singapore Philatelic Museum (SPM), SingPost, or some sites that buy and sell stamps.

True that the SPM site has some useful articles on stamps, and the hobby of stamps collecting, but there isn't a site that allows for casual discussion of stamps and related topics.

So I created this blog. Will put up some articles about stamps collecting, some basic history of philately (perhaps), and note down interesting things that happen in the stamp collecting world.

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