Phantoms and Phantasies
Overprints have always attracted a fair share of private productions. It is obviously very easy for anybody to manufacture their own overprints on any stamp. Sometimes for publicity, sometimes to manufacture spurious stamps for selling to collectors. It is not illegal to do this, but it does render the stamps invalid for postage. The issues cover a full range of motives from political to commercial and even whimsical, and a wide range of production qualities from the professional to the domestic. Some were produced with intent to deceive (see "bogus stamps", whereas those listed below were "just for fun". Some of the issues have a long-standing history in the philatelic press; others are less well publicised.
There is also a long tradition of creating fictitious countries and stamps just for the joy of indulging in a little whimsy (as opposed to those created for fraudulent reasons). Some of these are worth noting in the "GB Overprints" context.
Note: this numbering system was drawn up by the Society for the website, and may not be used without permission.
An extensive range of fantasies produced by Gerald King comprised designs adapted from those of genuine stamps but altered to incorporate the name "Lundy", or the initials "LI", and in some cases, a varying number of puffins. These must not be confused with the legitimate local carriage labels from the island, but were produced just for fun and the enjoyment of the artistic possibilities of inventive stamp design. Four of the stamps are of interest in the area of "GB Overprints" since they comprise a facsimile of a GB Queen Victoria issue apparently overprinted "LUNDY". The idea is clearly inspired by the Cyprus overprints. The "stamps" are on unwatermarked gummed paper line perf 11½, with a light blue handstamp (8mm x 17mm) on the rear comprising a crown over large letters "V.R." and "L":
1 1d brown "stars", lettered "LI" (Lundy Island) in the bottom corners, black overprint;
2 2d blue ditto
3 1d "letters in all corners" (but without "plate number"), magenta overprint, lettered "LI" at the top and "IL" at the foot.
4 2d blue ditto
Another Gerald King "Lundy" fantasy issue is the "Railway Parcel" stamp for the "Lundy, Exeter, Wexford & Dublin Railway". As well as the Lundy railway "stamp" the pictorial covers for this entertaining issue ("postmarked" 27 Feb 1901) bear a Queen Victoria jubilee stamp, overprinted LEWD in the 4 corners. The Gerald King "catalogue" does not list which values he overprinted, but the ½d orange, 1d lilac and 2d green & red have been seen. An illustration of the ½d orange stamp is in Gibbons Stamp Monthly October 2003, p.79.
(image courtesy of SG)
5 ½d orange overprinted "LEWD"
6 1d lilac overprinted "LEWD"
7 2d green & red overprinted "LEWD".
Early in the 1980s the late Ken Gibson (who at that time ran the Lundy Philatelic Bureau on behalf of the Landmark Trust) gave out as souvenirs certain values of the current Machin definitives overprinted (approximately) as shown:
Loves Lundy Locals
02814 3628 (ie his phone number)
(a selection of the reported values)
5-8 Values seen: 1d, 2d, 3d pink, 4d, all on phosphorised paper; other values may exist
As a result of these unauthorised overprints (and many others on Lundy stamps) his contract was terminated.
The well-known series of fantasy stamps based on characters from Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" includes many "overprints" on Queen Victoria UK definitives (eg 1d lilac, 2/6), overprinted (for example) "Snark Settlements".
1 1d lilac
2 2/6 violet
These items are not quite the same as the "whimsies" described above, as those preparing them were (it would seem) attempting to make a point about the desirability of the island having its own stamps. It should be borne in mind that the resident clergymen also acted as postmaster.
As part of the campaign for its own postage stamps, some contemporary King George V British stamps received an individually typed "overprint" in 1929. G Crabb's book "The History and Postal History of Tristan da Cunha" (Ewell, 1980) illustrates the overprint on covers from 1929 and deduces (p.192) that the typed overprints were probably made by the departing resident clergyman Rev Pooley since extant covers bear his signature, in one case at least signed on the stamp below the overprint.
1 as above on cover bearing a 1½d stamp
2 as above on cover bearing a 2d stamp
TRISTAN DA CUNHA
3 as above covering a strip of three ½d stamps
4 as above on a single 1924 1½d Wembley stamp (with 2 US overprinted stamps)
All are hand-dated "24.2.29" and bear Paquebot cancellations. Crabb states that six such covers are known but does not say which stamps are on each.
In 1935 several copies of the ½d and 1d George V Silver Jubilee stamps were overprinted at the behest of the Reverend Wilde who (apparently) was on leave in England from Tristan for the Jubilee celebrations. The stamps were probably never used on the Island as the Rev Wilde was known to have still been giving them to friends as souvenirs in 1942/3 when he was a Royal Navy Chaplain elsewhere. However, Brian Cartwright (in "The American Philatelist") does report that the ½d number "16" is on a piece with a Tristan Cachet "type V" with the added endorsement "Good Friends / Good Books / Good Music / H Wilde / Chaplain / 19/11/41.".
What is particularly unusual about these stamps is that the overprint incorporated (at the foot of the stamp) an individual serial number, which makes it particularly easy to track the comings and goings of individual copies. The serial numbers shown below have been recorded (the other numbers presumably having been lost), according to a list in The Overprinter 2/2007:
(images courtesy of Warwick & Warwick, ex Rossi auction)
4 ½d green, numbers 5, 6, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 (16 numbers)
5 1d red, numbers 4, 6, 16, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 (12 numbers)
For a purely private unauthorised production these stamps attract surprisingly high prices when for sale or auction.
Great Britain: stamp company
½d Machin booklet panes of 5 with an advert for East Anglian Stamp Auctions 100th auction on the blank label (quantities unknown), and a sheet of ½d Machins similarly overprinted to serve as gift tokens in the stamp shop in Colchester.
Great Britain: stamp congress souvenirs
Scarborough: Philatelic Congress of GB, various stamps overprinted "PCGB SCARBOROUGH 1998". These were only available to delegates attending the congress. Similar items were produced for other Congresses, such as the 1995 Congress at Hayling Island "overprinted" for the occasion when Francis Kiddle signed the "Roll of Distinguished Philatelists". Many of these were produced by Victor Short, and several can be found illustrated in "100 years of the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain, 1909-2009" by Colin Searle.
Great Britain: King Edward 8 "70th anniversary"
The King Edward 8 stamps can be found with an overprint celebrating the 70th anniversary of the abdication in 2006, for use on a souvenir sheet.
page last updated on: 13 January 2010, 6 March 2013
gbos: GB Overprints Society