2013 News


Members’ evenings


27th November and 11th December 2013


Due to programme adjustments, both the last two meetings of 2013 were assigned to displays related to letters of the alphabet. So 11 members met at Bix on 27th November to enjoy subjects somehow connected the letters D, E and F; and nine of us did the same for the letter C on foggy 11th December. Subjects that came up included:


Canals, postcards

Canterbury, old letter to

Carrara, Italian marble quarry and Carrara, Nevada, disused marble quarry

Carmine and Chestnut coloured GB QV surface printed

Cayman Islands stamps

Celebration cards – New Year and Easter

Ceylon – general to GV plus some fine early QV

Coffee shops, mainly in London – descriptions, pictures, maps

Colorado – mine railway

Colours – scarce varieties of stamps and postmarks

Commissioner of HM Stamp Office, letter to

Coronation of King George VI

Copper mines

Crashes – covers, many damaged or burnt, rescued from air crashes and sunk ships

offiCial stamps – GB, mainly Inland Revenue


Danish West Indies

Deficits on postage

De la Rue – Sarawak issues

Denmark – early stamps

Dictators and related Argentine matters

Dots on envelopes made by franking machines

Dundee, postcard showing views of – incl. LNER W1 loco nowhere near Dundee!

Durham, Bishop of, letter to



East India – Company and stamps

Engraving (GB)

Epirus – stamps of this troubled Balkan region

Exhibitions, including Crystal Palace 1911


Flat-top III - hand stamp

Flaws and Frame breaks

Flying – Argentine air mail


Fraudsters, esp. one mid-19th century 20/- for £1000 confidence trickster

Foreign Office – 18th century handling of all foreign mail in and out of England.



Dr Simon Heap


“Northern Nigeria”


13 November 2013


Twelve of us gathered at Bix on 13th November 2013 to see this display by our member Dr Simon Heap. He knows Nigeria well, has visited the north many times and began by explaining the geography of its plains, highlands and semi-arid North.


Northern Nigeria comprises two thirds of the area modern Nigeria, although it was the southern part, along the Atlantic coast, that was first discovered and settled by Europeans. Access to the interior was first made on the Niger and its tributary rivers. But development in the north was greatly accelerated by the construction of railways. Two lines from the coast joined at Kaduna; the line reached Kano by 1911 and then extended further beyond. This enabled exports, particularly of groundnuts, to reach the ports; and travelling post office wagons carried letters and parcels.


The Northern Nigeria Protectorate was proclaimed in 1900 when the Royal Niger Company’s charter was revoked; and it ended when it became part of the united crown colony of Nigeria at the beginning of 1914. During that time five sets of postage stamps were issued, all of the QV/EdVII/GeoV key type design also used in more than a dozen other British colonies including the other three in West Africa – Gold Coast, Sierra Leone and Gambia. These series, all displayed by Simon, were

· Queen Victoria: 1900 issue Wmk Crown CA; values 1/2d to 10/-.

· King Edward VII: 1902 issue also Wmk Crown CA; the 1905 issue with Wmk Mult Crown CA (*): and the 1910 series, all issued after the King’s death (except the 1/2d value) in new colours to suit UPU requirements.

King George V: a similar series but extending up to £1 face value.

The Northern Nigerian (George V) pattern was then chosen to continue for united Nigeria, in the set issued from June 1914.

(*) A £25 stamp was also issued in 1904 (Simon’s were excellent forgeries plus an enlarged facsimile). This ordinary POSTAGE & REVENUE key type stamp was evidently intended mainly for payment of the fiscal fee for liquor licences. Few were used, much was surplus and some were officially incinerated.


Simon’s stamps were displayed

· as mint and used sets of each issue,

· sorted by dates of posting,

· sorted by towns at which cancelled,

as very attractive panes or complete sheets of mint stamps.


Because of the relatively sparse population of literate people in the colony, turnover was not huge. Data for income and expenditure for three years from 1905 each showed deficits of about £6000.


Other issues mentioned in this comprehensive display included

· the trials and tribulations of early postmasters,

· burglaries by careful removal of windows or by simply stealing from the mouths of overfull letter boxes;

· a post office fire started by burning sealing wax;

· the (Lagos?) 19th century Killer Obliterator!



Members’ Evening


2nd October 2013


10 members met to enjoy an evening devoted to Overprints. Several members had collected together a variety of GB stamps. The displays started with fine used examples of the 3d on 3d and 6d on 6d surcharges of 1880-3. After a couple of mid-Victorian CYPRUS overprints ad stamps issued in Turkish currency, the bulk of Victorian overprints were on examples from the 1882 Jubilee series. These were of two types

Government departmental stamps, overprinted I.R., ARMY and ADMIRALTY all + OFFICIAL, also GOVT PARCELS and BOARD  OF EDUCATION  but unsurprisingly no R.H. (Royal Household) stamps.

Colonial use of GB stamps with overprints such as Zululand, British Bechuanaland and Bechuanaland Protectorate (including one each from the last two doubly overprinted MAFEKING BESIEGED.

We also saw a Victorian GB stamp posted from Columbia with a rare postmark.


Into the 20th century, Edward VII OFFICIAL stamps died out; but there were MOROCCO AGENCIES overprints from that reign until 1937; and also TANGIER from 1927 right up until 1957 with many high values and commemoratives. In the 1940s began a series of sets overprinted for use by British military forces or for countries under British administration. Thus we saw high value GB overprinted and surcharged, for example, for British post offices in Arabia (surcharged in paras or piastres only), for E.A.F and M.E.F. military forces and in series both for B.M.A and subsequent B.A. administrations for TRIPOLITANIA, ERITREA and SOMALIA as well as for the new postal agencies in KUWAIT and BAHRAIN. The last two continued overprinting on GB high value and commemorative stamps until 1957, when QATAR joined in for one issue.


Other members covered

· Argentina: early surcharges and related descriptions;

· New Zealand OFFICIAL stamps: a wide variety, all overprinted vertically;

· Rhodesia (British South Africa Company): tales of the 1890s native uprisings and how this blocked mail to and from the capital, Salisbury, but not that southward from Bulawayo; the colony of Rhodesia existed from 1895 but the British South Africa Company stamps were not overprinted RHODESIA until 1909.

· Sierra Leone surcharges

Various Independence commemorative overprints

and a variety of other scarce and interesting stamps, cover or documents.



Visit by Amersham & District Philatelic Society


25 September 2013


12 members welcomed Nigel Perrins and Alan Williams from Amersham.


Nigel’s display concerned British Charity Christmas Post. This was a system run predominantly by scouts but also by a variety of other district community groups. It arose out of the British Telecommunications Bill of late 1980 that permitted independent groups to collect and deliver envelopes containing Christmas cards between 25 November and 1 January. It duly started at Christmas 1981 and grew rapidly into the 1990s but has declined somewhat in this century.


One of the pioneering groups was that set up in 1981 by scouts in an extensive area around Sheffield and Chesterfield. Having alerted people as to where to bring their letters, which had to be addressed to within the district, they managed to deliver all 12,000 letters that year rising to 940,000 in 1990.


Besides many other prominent scout groups (notably in Edinburgh) and sea scouts (in Ellesmere Port) there were systems operated jointly with other types of community or solely by them, e.g. the Boys Brigade, church groups, even the Tunbridge Wells Welsh Society. Nigel showed us a wide variety of stamps, cancellations, cachets, etc.


Alan Williams showed us much of his comprehensive Jamaica collection. Columbus discovered the island on his second voyage in 1494. This ‘land of wood and water’ was held by Spain until 1665 when it was seized by the British. The latter appointed Sir Henry Morgan (the buccaneer knighted by King Charles II) as Deputy Governor. A postal service was started in 1671, Jamaica being the first British colony to set up its own service. Other than within the island, the service was somewhat intermittent as packet services were set up or discontinued; but Alan showed a substantial number of early covers including some from the ‘Dickson letters’. Mrs Dickson lived in London but owned large plantations and maintained regular correspondence with her managers on the island. All letters were duplicated, i.e. sent on different ships, because so many were lost in sea battles with hostile nations or pirates.


British postage stamps were authorized for use outward from Jamaica in 1858 and within the island in 1859. The first Queen Victoria Jamaica stamps were then issued, the 1860-3 series – a few of the 3d and 1/- bearing a ‘squashed’ pineapple watermark.


Then followed a comprehensive display of all the subsequent stamps in mint condition – from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth up to Independence. The display also included many sheets of variations, including of the WAR STAMP overprints. Finally, among the stamps, were some German propaganda LIQUIDATION OF EMPIRE labels.


The Jamaica display concluded with some early postcards and interesting or amusing covers sent during both world wars and more recently.




Members’ Evening


11th September 2013


15 members gathered at Bix Village Hall to kick off the 2013-14 season with displays loosely related to our recent acquisitions. Subjects included

· Early Syrian stamps including the 1920 Turkish style issue and some scarce fiscals.

· George V marginal mints and George VI commemoratives.

· A wide variety of postcards including the 1847 ‘advertising lady’, Kimberley mining, French ‘invasion’ of Dover, German sympathy for the Boers, and the great Atlantic liner La France, launched in 1961.

· Argentine stamps and corresponding postcards depicting the same scenes.

· Official (Admiralty) letters from the time of Charles I, including one signed by the Earl of Warwick.

· Egyptian definitives and commemoratives from the 1920s.

· Western , Arabic, Ethiopic and various Asian numerals systems, giving stamp values, all derived from the ancient Hindu-Arabic system; also some Chinese/Japanese ‘script’ numbers.

· Early GB line-engraved stamps including examples of the Archer trial perforations.

· GB dye and paper stamp and postmark trial materials.

· Corsini correspondence.

· Merchants’ letters from as early as 1490.



Visit by John Scott


26 June 2013


11 members and guests welcomed John and Claire Scott back to Bix. This time John presented The Development of Decorative Writing Paper.

The concept of decorative paper conjures up letters surrounded by borders, flowers or other motifs. There are indeed examples of these bought by such people who could afford the engraved and printed decorations, the paper itself (handmade and taxed) and the cost of early non-local postage. However many had printed wording, identifying the writer’s status, address, crest, any message which he wished to convey universally, or even the day of the week on which he was sending the letter. But the outstanding decoration was what John described as topographical – expertly engraved pictures of scenery, building frontages or bridges - conveying much more than could be written on the paper itself. Indeed, in the days before envelopes or photography were invented, these were an outstanding precursor of the picture postcards that became common by the 19th century. Together with the messages conveyed among the decoration these make intriguing social history of a period usually covered only by expensively engraved pictures but not in most documents or philatelic material.

The first part of John’s display covered the 18th century and up to the 1840s. Events depicted – some one might say advertised – included election hustings, early trains and the strong persuasion of temperance and anti-slavery institutions. Of particular interest was an 1842 view of an Aerial Steam Carriage crossing a city river above a bridge full of cheering people. Extraordinarily ambitious at a time when rail locomotives were still comparatively new, this wing-flapping machine was patented but not surprisingly was far to heavy to take off.

The second part of the display covered the second half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th – when the use of illustrated letters gradually declined in favour of postcards or small decorative papers, today intended as informal friendly notelets. Meanwhile a variety of events were depicted, many with fascinating messages attached. The subjects included

The Great Exhibition of 1851

The American Civil War

Pictures of scenes before and during the Crimean War

The 1902 and 1911 Coronations of Edward VII and George V.

Welcome and surprisingly pictorial vignettes of life one or two centuries ago enlivened by the messages appended – some still very legible, most carefully transcribed by John for easy reading.



Competition Evening


12 June 2013


13 members welcomed John Hayward from Camberley who came to judge our competition displays - in various categories and mainly in 9-sheet format. David Armit also put on an amusing quiz – concerning 18 interesting stamps and blown-up bits of them - for us to identify when we were not studying the eleven displays. These covered:


The coronation of King George VI

British post offices in Haiti

Ships and the sea

Ecuador – covers posted between 1862 and 1872 – before and after stamps were introduced

Levant – stamps of foreign post offices in the Ottoman Empire

Argentina – commemoration of bicentenary of independence

Sarawak – 1932 issues and their preparation

Chinese surcharge labels

Postcards of Minoan Palaces in Crete

Postcards of the Middle Thames

Pictures on postcards that have been altered by different publishers over the years.


John made discerning comments on each display. As last year, he indicated that the Ecuador entry scored the most points.



Visit by Alan Cowie and Jan Simons




22 May 2013


12 members welcomed our two visitors to Bix for an evening on Japanese stamps and related postal services. First Alan gave a comprehensive overview of Nippon postage stamps. Themes he developed included Japanese collectors’ enthusiasm for interesting cancellations, the abundance of forgeries and a rich variety of pictorials.


Cancellations were mostly in Japanese characters – of which perhaps 5000 are in dictionaries, 2000 in common use. Certain postmarks, some scarce, spelt out town names in Roman characters. Dates of posting were similar to our own except that the third numeral was not the abbreviated year but the number of years since the accession of the current emperor.


Forgeries began early. The first (‘dragon’) issue involved 40 different engravers – all now catalogued – leaving scope for many other unauthorized engravers to forge other close copies. By the beginning of the 20th century, with more foreign tourists and worldwide philately, cards of forged stamps were sold at ports – to the extent that probably 90% of early Japanese stamps held by ordinary collectors today are forgeries. Later in the last century opportunities for forged postmarks or overprints emerged. [Possibly the huge variety of different definitive stamps issued after Japanese postal services were reorganized in 2007 offers new criminal opportunity!]


Pictorial stamps have flourished

· as large special issues, starting with the National Parks set of 1938,

more modestly on many long definitive sets.

Among the many other features of Alan’s display were regular New Year stamps (for letters delivered on 1st January), free stamps for oldsters, the German-produced never-issued series of Azad India planned to be introduced by Japan if they had won WW2, and the 1923 emergency definitive set – by several printers, without gum or perforations – when printing equipment was destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake.


Jan Simons display comprised

· some Japanese postal history, illustrated by covers from the earliest days after the frontiers were first opened to foreigners in 1854,

many more covers concerned with mail sent to British post offices in Japan in the days before UPU services filled these requirements.

The latter concerned the different routes taken by ship (packet boat) and rail across Europe and Asia, as well as alternative means (taking two days longer) in the other direction via the United States. Variations across Europe came when the Franco-Prussian war compelled the adoption of Brindisi rather than Marseilles for embarkation of mails to Alexandria, whilst the journey thence to the Red Sea changed from rail to ship when the Suez Canal opened.


Jan’s presentation finished with a newspaper description of shipping through the port of Yokohama in the early 20th century, thus completing a fascinating evening of oriental art, culture, fiendish ingenuity, politics and  maritime logistics.



Visit By Christine Earle


“They Also Served”

“Dorothy Wilding QEII Portraits”


24 April 2013


15 members and two guests welcomed Christine Earle to Bix. Her first display was entitled ‘They also served’, an excursion into real social philately centred on the role of women in Britain during World War II. The display concerned

The special roles of women in wartime – from support roles in the armed forces (WRAF, WRNS, ATS – including Princess Elizabeth), nursing, Vera-Lynn type entertainment and other comforts for the troops, through all sorts of factory ‘war work’, to the WVS, Auxiliary Fire Service, wardens and ‘civil defence’, Bletchley Park decoding, to manning postal services and many other civil activities – all whilst maintaining homes with less male support than in earlier days.

Other non-gender-related aspects of the ‘Home Front’ illustrated by stamps, envelopes, letters and ephemera such as ‘Dig for Victory’ posters, ration books (the last being withdrawn in 1953/54), ‘It all depends on me’ cigarette cards, ‘Save waste paper, metal, bones and rags’, and ‘Empire Propaganda’ stamps from the Ministry of Information.

Interesting insights into savings for the war effort, especially National Savings stamps which could accumulate and be exchanged into War or Defence Bonds or 10-year Savings certificates; also the Spitfire Fund and other gifts which were effusively or more curtly acknowledged by letters. Women, in particular, had more money – from their war effort jobs – than they were used to and, there being little to buy in the shops, gave readily to charity or investment.

A variety of mementos of the end of hostilities - from VE day street parties and Victory postmark slogans, through poignant telegrams announcing release from prison camps of missing soldiers, to letters to female workers telling them that their jobs were to be returned to men released from the forces.

This display generated great nostalgia among our older members, and fascination for those who had heard about some of it from their mothers – all assembled by a lady who was not even born when all this occurred.


Christine’s second presentation was of the early Elizabeth II British Empire stamps, issued from 1952 to 1957, showing the Queen’s head in various forms all based on photographs by Dorothy Wilding – a superb display of fine British mint stamps.



Members’ Evening on 10 April 2013


14 Members and one visitor gathered for the annual postcard evening, also enjoyed by dealers Tony and Rosa Lawrence who brought stocks of postcards and stamps.


There was a wide variety of card displays including

· Kings and queens of England from Richard III to George IV with pithy comments on each as shown on enlargements from Barbuda stamps.

· Views of London, Indonesian islands and other exotic scenes.

· Views of old Cretan archaeological investigations.

· I929 anniversary of Columbus’s exploits.

· Gifts to the Russian Czar from Tudor and Stuart monarchs.

· Cards showing enlarged stamps from the British Library.

· The (probably) first British card with a surface printed stamp, an advertisement and sent abroad (1860); and examples of divided address/message writing side cards.

· Ocean liners fro 1900 to 1945 including many British classics and also the United States and the America passing each other in New York harbour.

· Railways and stations including Newcastle-on-Tyne, a Liverpool Overhead station, New York Grand Central and Pennsylvania stations, Paris Gares du Nord and St Lazaire, the Night Ferry, Indian mountain railways and the two Jersey lines.

· Old and more recent views of the Queenstown area of New Zealand, tales of early ‘sheep run’ land acquisition, and the story of alluvial gold mining in the Shotover River, at one time the largest such operation in the world.



Members’ Evening 13 February 2013


The theme for the evening was Ships and the Sea, which offered a plethora of worldwide opportunities. Displays encompassed:

· Stamps and covers showing ships from at least 80 countries

· Comprehensive coverage of ship and harbour stamps from Argentina with associated explanation and illustrations

· Ship stamps from Poland plus sets from Gibraltar, Singapore, Norway, Sri Lanka and the Isle of Man

· German catapult mail, carried by planes catapulted from SS Bremen and other liners a day or so before they reached their destination port.

· Russian battleships

· Square rigged sailing ships, naval sail training ships and pleasure sailing yachts

· Discovery ships, from Columbus to the Antarctic

· Early steamers, coasters, freighters and transatlantic liners

· George VI Fiji 1½d produced in two dies (I with nobody managing the canoe and II with  man inserted) and three perforations (Perf 14 in June 1942 after the machine had been destroyed by German bombing)

· 19th century stamps of British Guiana (with facsimiles of the £ million ones), nearly all of which depicted ships.


Snow lay thick on high ground but it was raining when we left Bix Village Hall



Members Meeting 9 January 2013


Eleven members met to enjoy seven interpretations of ‘Winter in all its glory’. This was interpreted mainly as frosty conditions with snow on the ground, on trees and on roofs, often in the sun and only when it was light enough to appreciate the scenery. This was shown on Christmas cards and postcards including one showing the Frozen River Thames. However such scenes are comparatively scarce on actual stamps. Consequently contributors needed some ingenuity or plain distortion of the theme.

Some seized on conditions where the cold conditions associated with winter exist but on a more than seasonal basis, such as in Greenland, the country of origin of a series of immaculate first day covers, mountains with snow or ice fields and plenty of steep contrasting rock; stamps can display high peaks of the World’s major mountain ranges.

A series of postcards and covers depicted several decades of exhortations to ‘Post Early for Christmas’. Another took some Christmas outdoor scenes as cause to show a selection of attractive mint GB Elizabethan commemoratives.

Since eastern Argentina never experiences the winter conditions envisaged above, aspects of Glory were extended to include the ‘Glorious Revolution’ in that country. Stamps illustrate aspects of this and also the bicentenaries of the Revolution and of Independence in 2010/11. We also saw a phenomenally long map of a river and its adjoining settlements and activities made up of large numbers of removable perforated stamps.

Covers of letters through British Post Offices in South America and the Caribbean are always intriguing, particularly with the detailed historical and political notes attached. A particularly obscure connection of the subject to Winter told us that Rio de Janeiro means the January River.

Other even more far-fetched relationships to winter months enabled us to see a letter posted in the winter of 1918/19 (when a vicious strain of Spanish flu was starting to kill more people than World War I) and the London Gazette reporting the result of the Battle of Waterloo.

A pleasant evening showed how hard-core members can manage to come up with interesting responses to a difficult subject. Next month we have ‘Ships and the Sea’ - which is a very different kettle of fish!