Today in Postal History



Brunei to England
July 22, 1895

When was the last time you saw a registered first day cover from 1895?
Let me say right off that the legitimacy of this cover may be questionable.
One would want a Royal certificate before paying what it would cost.

The Brunei issue of 1895 was in question for many years.
However, in 1933 research revealed the original agreement
between Sultan Hashim and J. C. Robertson dated August 24, 1894,
which made clear that the stamps served a postal purpose.

Robertson and his partners exploited philatelic sales;
however, the Sultan did use the stamps for his postal service.
The addressee and a Mr. Parker (Robertson partners) were recipients of a number of similar covers.
The Sarawak Journal provided a census of such covers.*
Since Brunei did not belong to any international postal union,
the stamps were only valid within the state or on mail to Labuan or
Sarawak which had provided postal service in Brooketon after 1888.
Sarawak did not join the UPU until July 1, 1897.*

As a result this cover also had to be franked with a stamp
from Labuan which handled outgoing mail for Brunei.

Brunei is a small state adjacent to Sarawak on the northwest coast of Borneo.
Labuan is an island off the coast first used as a
British naval base for antt-piracy patrols in 1840.

Thus the cover is franked with the seven low values of the
1895 Star and Crescent issue; c. brown, 1c. brown lake, 2c. black,
3c. deep blue, 5c. deep blue-green, 8c. plum and 10c. orange red (SG 1-7).
Gibbons values these by simply stating "rare used on cover."

The stamps were struck with four BRUNEI CDS.

The sender requested registration so the cover received
an interesting quarter circle arc REGISTERED | No. mark
with a manuscript serial number.
There also is a bold R in an oval.

Next, an 1894 18c. Labuan black and olive bister stamp (SG 71) made from a North Borneo
18c Mount Kinabalu plate on which LABUAN had been engraved was added.
Gibbons values this stamp on cover at "from x 15" with the used catalog value at 45.50 in 1999.
(The philatelic nature of this cover and the fact that a number of near-identical
covers are known would significantly reduce the price on this cover.)*
Note that the Labuan stamp is on top of the BRUNEI CDS.
It, too, was cancelled although the mark is not readable.

The cover's destination was London.
There is a faint REGISTERED | LONDON mark dated August 25 of the bold R in oval.
The mark is also ties the Labuan stamp.

There is also another oval S. E. D. O. (South East District Office?) mark dated August 26.
This is probably the office from which the letter was delivered.

Editor's Note:  If you have the time you might find it interesting to google
James Brooke and learn of his role in this area in the mid-19th century.

*Thanks to Paul Barsdell for the interesting additions regarding the history of this cover.

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