Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Mystery of the Typewritten Stamps

You know Long Island? Not the one in New York, but the Long Island in the Gulf of Smyrna, off the coast of Greece?
Yeah, me neither. But it turns out that back in 1916, this little corner of the Mediterranean was occupied by the British Navy. For reasons that remain unclear, they promptly issued postage stamps written on typewriters. Here's a sample:

This one went on auction recently at the Colonial Stamp Company in Los Angeles (yes, an auction company specializing not in stamps, but in colonial stamps). It's described as "1d red typewritten on thin horizontally laid paper, initialed in red ink, while 881 were issued only 220 (11 sheets) were typed of the red top sheets, rare and undercatalogued as the issue is so seldom seen, imperf, four margins." The estimated bid price? $750. 
I was about to say something about how people were much more trusting in the past. I mean, a stamp anyone could duplicate on a typewriter? But then I thought about that price...once again, for something that anyone could duplicate on a typewriter. Maybe we're just as trusting now.
These stamps are definitely curiosities of history, but they're also something of a mystery. According to another stamp auction house, they were issued only from May 7 to May 26, 1916, but moreover "the status of these stamps is questionable, as the British force would have had free postage." 
In other words, it's quite possible that someone in the British Navy had a typewriter, some paper, and the desire to look busy. 


Anonymous said...

Very interesting, Dactyl. How did you learn about this? Are you a philatelist yourself?

Strikethru said...

Typecasters, start your platens. Time to start minting our own currency.

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