Today in History... Mauritius becomes independent



2015-06-26 11:55:04

Today in History... Mauritius becomes independent

March 12 1968: The tiny island loses the British monarch from its stamps

Mauritius is a legend in the history of philately. The tiny island, just 787 square miles in total saw the first adhesive stamps in the British Empire outside of Britain itself in 1847.

These stamps, numbering just 500 for each of the 1d and 2d denominations, were mostly used by the Governor's wife to invite people to a ball she was holding. The orange and blue varieties roughly resembled Britain's Penny Black and Two Penny Blue.

Post Paid Penny Orange Click to enlarge

Mauritius Post Office Two Pence stamp Click to enlarge

The original stamps had the words 'Post Office' printed on them, though this was later changed to 'Post Paid', generating a myth that the original text had been a simple error. Only 27 examples of both 'Post Office' types together are known to exist today.

Philatelists such as Alfred F Lichtenstein, Alfred H Caspary and especially Hiroyuki Kanai have established reputations based entirely on their Mauritius collections, whilst founding greats of philately Count Ferrary and Thomas Tapling gave the Post Office pieces prized places in their collections.

Mauritius Post Office Mauritius Post Office Bordeaux Cover

Kanai sold his famous collection of Mauritius stamps in 1993 including aPost Office Penny Orange for $1,072,260 and a PostOffice Two Penny Blue for $1,148,850. The 'Bordeaux Cover' with one of each sold in 1993 for the equivalent of $3.8m.

In some ways, the Post Office varieties are a distraction to high-end stamp collectors and investors - it is highly unlikely that they will ever see one on sale whilst the earliest Post Paid stamps are on offer occasionally, though very rare and valuable in their own right.

Mauritius Orange Post Paid Block Mauritius Orange Post Paid Block

In 2006, for example, a cover with an 1848 Post Paid 2d Blue beat its $120,000-140,000 estimate to bring $150,000, whilst a block of four 1848 Post Paid 1d Orange stamps brought 300,000 the following year.

Inexpert collectors should take care, however. Whilst the stamps of Mauritius have largely shown colourful images of local scenes since 1968, there have been a few reprints to commemorate the early designs.

Images: Spink

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