Notes from the Past

Cyprus' First Stamps - Part II

When Mr. French arrived in Cyprus to accomplish his assignment to establish a postal service in Cyprus, he brought a supply of ordinary British stamps from the 1858 and 1879 issues for use in Cyprus.  The British stamps were made available for inland mail as well as mail destined abroad.  Post Offices were established in eight towns.  Each of the post offices was allotted a distinctive postmark consisting of a number in an oval of bars.  Larnaca was given 942; Nicosia 969; Kyrenia 975; Limasol 981; Baffo 981; Famagusta probably received 982; Polymedia D47; Army Headquarters' Camp D48.  The post office at Platres was assigned 098 although it never seems to have been put in use.  The Larnaca postmark was put in use as soon as the British stamps were put on sale in July, 1878, but the other marks were not used until later.

At this time, a large variety of Turkish postal and fiscal stamps were in use on the island.  Postal officials were bewildered by the many varieties in use.  Further, forgeries from Smyrna were in use.  At last, the Financial Commissioner sought help and sent an extensive collection of the stamps in use to the General Post Office in London.  This action led to prohibition of the use of Turkish stamps in Cyprus and ultimately to printing distinctive stamps for the island.

In August, 1878, Sir Garner Wolesley, the High Commissioner wrote the Foreign Secretary and asked for a supply of stamps designed especially for Cyprus.  After further exchanges of mail, the High Commissioner agreed in May, 1879, with the Board of Inland Revenue that, as a temporary measure, British stamps overprinted CYPRUS would be used.

The overprint was applied by De la Rue & Co.  The overprint is black.  The overprint on the ½d. is noticeable smaller than on the others.  The overprinted stamps reached Cyprus in September, 1879, but were not issued until February 5, 1880.  Six stamps were overprinted and the supply was expected to last two years.  Despite this plan, the ½d. was exhausted by February, 1881.  Some sheets of the 1d. were locally overprinted with HALF-PENNY or 30 PARAS to alleviate this shortage.  Several varieties of this local overprint exist.  All of these provisional overprints were superseded in July, 1881, by the issue of a definitive issue for Cyprus.

Posted August 17, 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.

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