Notes from the Past

Philippine Islands' First Stamps

In 1847 the Postmaster General of the Philippine Islands first made a proposal to the Spanish Government that a series of postage stamps be issued for use in Luzon.  This proposal was not accepted, possibly because Spain did not yet use postage stamps.  However, in January, 1853, an ordinance directed the Governor of the Philippines to carry out a number of postal reforms including issuing postage stamps.

On December 7, 1853, the Governor issued a decree making prepayment of postage compulsory, and fixing the rates on local letters at 5 cuartos for the first half-ounce, 10 cuartos for letters not exceeding 8 adarmes, 1 real for those of one ounce, and with an added 10 cuartos for every extra half-ounce, newspapers were charged two pesos.

A local engraver was instructed to prepare plates for the stamps.  The unknown engraver was unaware of or unable to use the techniques of plate making used at that time in Europe so he hand engraved each of the entries on the plates of 40 stamps (8 horizontal rows of 5).  This, of course, led to variations which permit plating of the sheets.  The stamps included an unflattering portrait of Queen Isabella II with tablets at top and bottom denoting the purpose and value.

Four values were printed: 5 cuartos orange-red, 10 cuartos carmine, 1 real blue, and 2 reales green.  The 26th stamp in the 1 real plate was engraved 'Corros' rather than 'Correos.'  The stamps were printed on delicate, easily damaged, white wove paper which is slightly yellowish.  The stamps were issued on February 1, 1854.  The plate for the 5 cuartos appears to have worn badly and a new plate was prepared in 1855.  Also in 1855, a lithographed version of a new 5 cuartos stamp was also issued.

Posted July 22, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.  BTW, fun facts to know and tell at the next cocktail party!  An 1828 Webster's dictionary defines ADAR'ME, n. A Spanish weight, the sixteenth of an ounce. The Spanish ounce is seven per cent. lighter than that of Paris.

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