Stamp-on-stamp firsts

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Stamp-on-stamp firsts Photo: Illustration

There can’t be many countries which haven’t issued stamps that have postage stamps as their subject. Reproducing old stamps, usually commemorating a centenary or some other significant anniversary, in the designs of new issues has long been a popular practice. Known as stamp-on-stamp the practice is still very popular today, but here we look at a few of the first stamp-on-stamp issues…

The honour of issuing the first stamp-on-stamp goes to the Indian feudatory state of Sirmoor. It introduced distinctive stamps in June 1876, consisting of 1 pice in pale green. The stamp was reprinted in blue two years later – these sufficed for all purposes until 1891 when a fresh supply was ordered from a printer in Calcutta. These reprints were produced merely to satisfy demands from philatelists, and it may be for that reason that the printer took as his model an illustration of the stamp in a dealer’s catalogue, complete with lines simulating the perforations. These perforations thus appeared as printed serrations in the reprints. The following year, when the original stamps ran out, the postmaster of Sirmoor pressed the reprints into service and for that reason they are listed separately in the catalogues. Technically speaking the stamps listed as SG 3-4 are stamps-on-stamps (with perforations beyond the printed denticulation).

In 1931-2 stamps of Finland and Romania celebrated the 75th anniversaries of their first stamps but were not so much ‘stamp-on-stamp’, as modifications of the originals. In September 1934 Brazil marked the National Philatelic Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro with stamps reproducing the ‘Inclinados’ of 1844-6, so-called because the numerals were set at an angle.

Stamps-on-stamps really took off in 1940 when several countries reproduced the Penny Black on stamps to mark its centenary. On May 6 that year Mexico marked the actual anniversary with a handsome set of 10 stamps, (five ordinary and five airmail), reproducing the Penny Black. The individual stamps are quite attractive but to see them at their best you need to view the entire set in their eye-catching two-colour combinations.

Cuba was content with a single stamp (also released in a miniature sheet). Although the issue was delayed until November 1940 it was worth waiting for. The large 10 centavo stamp had a map of Cuba in the centre but in the four corners were reproductions of the Penny Black and the first stamps of Cuba as a Spanish colony (1855), and as an independent country (1899), with a portrait of Sir Rowland Hill in the upper right-hand corner.