Political or postal propaganda
Stamps have always been popular with official political propagandists, and have equally been popular with unofficial bodies or individuals with a political point to make. These range from the philatelically important locals produced after wars, defacing the symbols of the previous government, to wholly spurious issues from alleged "governments in exile". Overprints have been produced for much the same reasons, some with serious intent others primarily for fun.
Anti nuclear war
A series of stamp-posters modelled on the contemporary Machin stamps, but with the Queen's head modified by the addition of anti-nuclear propaganda in the form of a gas mark, were exhibited by artist James Cauty in 2003. These are not overprints but at first glance appear to be. The series was suppressed by the UK post office for infringement of copyright on the Machin head. There were other images on other posters, part of the series "Black smoke, stamps of mass destruction", but it was the 1st/2nd/3rd class designs that proved irresistable to those wishing to turn them into "stamps" (the first 3 below: the others are accompanying posters; there are other designs including tributes to 1d black - search Google Images for "Cauty stamps").
There are also on the market normal Machin stamps with a crude handstamped gasmask, typically prepared by art galleries to publicise a Cauty exhibition of some sort. For example (from Aquarium Gallery):
It is very important not to confuse these with the above. The handstamp can still be bought so that people can make their own....
In 1976 the current ½p turquoise Machin stamp was overprinted by the Cornish self-government campaign. The overprint is in 4 lines:
"Kernow" is the Cornish for "Cornwall".
This stamp can be found "used" on souvenir covers with a simulated rectangular postmark "PENZANCE / 3 APR 1976 / KERNOW". Mint copies are also known, which could be purchased from the tourist shop at the address shown on the "used" covers - "1 Arcade Steps, Penzance"; this address was subsequently occupied by a Teddy-Bear shop. The stamp is also known with a large capital diagonal "SPECIMEN" overprint.
Irish Sinn Fein / IRA overprints
Forerunners for Independent Ireland
As a forerunner to the appearance of official overprints in 1922, handstamped overprints can be found on the George 5 1d red.
(image courtesy of TS)
1 1d red George 5 overprinted "IRISH FREE STATE PROV. GOVT." in 3 lines, either upright or inverted, reportedly used in Dublin, Kingstown and Blackrock in January 1922.
1969-1972 issues for Ulster / Northern Ireland
(image courtesy of Padraig O'Shea, Ravenstamps)
2 4d red Northern Ireland regional stamp handstamped "FREE 69 DERRY", apparently passing through the post in August 1969; these were linked to a comtemporary campaign.
A more intensive campaign of Sinn Fein / IRA propaganda stamps took place in 1971-72, reportedly by the provisional wing of IRA and sold through Sinn Fein offices. Used copies are known, usually (but not always) with a post office defacement and postage due charge.
3 3p "Ulster paintings" overprinted with an X obliterating the Queen's head, and a 4-line overprint "SAOIRSE ÉIREANN FIGHT FOR UNITED IRELAND 1916-71", released 19 June 1971. ("Irish Freedom....") reportedly to commemorate 50 years of Westminster/Stormont government.
(Nos. 4, 5, 6)
4 2½d Northern Ireland regional stamp overprinted "SUPPORT SINN FÉIN" in 3 lines, released 25 September 1971.
5 3d Northern Ireland regional stamp overprinted "DÁIL ULADH 1971" ("Ulster Assembly..."), a body reportedly supported by Sinn Fein / IRA. Copies exist with double overprint; released on 25 September 1971.
6 3d Northern Ireland regional stamp overprinted "I gCuimhne DHOIRE 30.1.72" in 3 lines ("In memory of Derry ..."), reportedly to commemorate "Bloody Sunday; released on 15 March 1972.
(illustration courtesy of Neil Clark, Westhaven Stamp Company)
5 v1 3d, overprint misplaced sideways (several such misprints can be found)
Irish Unionist overprints
The Unionist side of "the troubles" also used propaganda overprints.
A variety of stamps are known with an "ULSTER SAYS NO" overprint in different fonts, originally released 1985-1986. Unfortunately it is also reported that quite a few of these are printed "on demand" by a dealer in Belfast.
1 2p green Machin
2 3p blue Machin
3 4p blue Machin
4 13p brown Northern Ireland regional stamp
5 18p green Northern Ireland regional stamp
No Guns No Government
Some low value GB Machins (with elliptical perfs) were overprinted with the Orange Order (Unionist) slogan "No Guns No Government" (4-lines), campaigning for IRA disarmament. These first appeared on the market in June 2001.
(4 of the reported values)
6 1p purple Machin
7 2p green Machin
8 4p blue Machin
9 5p brown Machin
10 8p green Machin
(Illustration courtesy of Gerald Marriner)
A Queen Victoria 1d lilac overprinted "LOCAL POST" in an arc superimposed over the top part of the oval, and "JERSEY" horizontally across the stamp below the Queen's head; the postmark appears to be 3 November 1893. At least one example is known on cover (which although postmarked also bears a 2d postage due cachet), and was presumably a protest against a perceived lack of local post facilities in the island. No other information has been discovered about this item.
The Welsh Philatelic Society Newsletter, 1987 reports the following items in "Cinderella Corner 12" by Ron Cowell, under the heading "Early Forerunners and overprints", ie predecessors of the Welsh regionals. As well as a printed label, the following overprints are mentioned:
George V 1912 script watermark set
overprinted with a red dragon, in pairs se-tenant with an unoverprinted stamp.
1 ½d green
2 1d red
3 1½d brown
This set is attributed to the "Trigolion y ddraig goch" ("People of the red dragon") and are dated to somewhere in the late 1920s.
Wilding 4d and Welsh regional 4d
In 1966, the Welsh Language Society overprinted "a small number" of the above stamps in black italic capitals with the text "STATUS I'R GYMRAEG" in a black rectangle:
(illustration from, and with kind permission of, the Welsh Philatelic Society, Newsletter 1987)
which means "Status for Welsh". The quality of the overprinting is adequate, suggesting it used a professionally made handstamp carefully applied. The article mentions a further overprint with just "CYMRU" ("Wales").
4 4d blue Wilding overprinted "STATWS I'R GYMRAEG"
5 4d blue Welsh regional overprinted "STATWS I'R GYMRAEG"
6 4d (not reported which) overprinted "CYMRU"
In 1968-1969 further overprints appeared, this time in a very rough handstamp of very poor quality, suggesting that a child's printing set had been used. The 2-line overprint reads "CYMRU AM BYTH"
(illustration from, and with kind permission of, the Welsh Philatelic Society, Newsletter 1987)
which means "Wales for ever". It appeared on contemporary Welsh regionals:
7 3d violet, black overprint
8 ditto red overprint
9 4d brown black overprint
10 4d red black overprint
11 4d blue red overprint
12 5d blue red overprint
13 9d green red overprint
This issue too was attributed to the Welsh Language Society, though it is a far more amateur production than the 1966 overprint.
I am grateful to the Welsh Philatelic Society for the above information.
At the time of the investiture of Prince Charles as "Prince of Wales", on 1 July 1969, the contemporary 5s definitive showing the Welsh caslte at Caernarvon (where the investiture took place) was privately overprinted "ARWISGIAD TYWYSOG CYMRU" ("Investiture of the Prince of Wales") in red block capitals, and applied to first day covers. These were regarded as invalid by the post office (as any unofficial overprint invalidates a stamp), and were mostly charged postage due.
14 5s red
Word War II propaganda
(defective image, from unidentified auction list)
The ½d dark green is known overprinted "INDIA", "JAPAN" (and probably other countries too). The origin is unknown, so it cannot be sure whether they were genuine propaganda (cf the Nazi overprints below), or a purely philatelic bogus creation. The choice of country is obscure, and they are most likely just somebody having a bit of fun with a printing kit.
Nazi anti-allies and anti-semitic propaganda
Note: ALL the overprints below are on forged British stamps.
Partly in retaliation for a successful allied initiative in dropping forged stamps into Germany, the Nazi government prepared a series of forgeries of the contemporary British low values, with modified details incorporating anti-semitic and anti-soviet symbols. As a supplementary exercise they also prepared several series of propaganda overprints on these forgeries. The basic forged stamps are plentiful on the market, but the overprints below are scarcer, especially the first 3 series. A definitive study of these stamps was published by Wolfgang Prätzsch. The stamps were issued in sheets with a wide margin between each image, on wavy line watermark paper originally intended for an issue of German food ration tickets that had been rendered useless by the dropping of large quantities of forgeries by the allied airforce.
The modified symbols: star of David on the crown and in the thistle (top right), hammer & sickle in the rose (top left) and in the value circle instead of "d".
The overprints shown below each appear on all 5 of the low-value forgeries (½d, 1d, 1½d, 2d, 2½d, 3d), and were printed se-tenant in various combinations within each sheet.
Series 1, drawing attention to bombing incidents by the allies:
at the top of the stamp between 2 bombs (above the bombs for the Schaffhausen overprint), and the incident overprinted at the toot. The overprints on the ½d and 3d values are in red.
1-6 CATHEDRAL OF ROUEN (2 lines)
7-12 CASTELLE CANDOLFO (2 lines)
13-18 MONTE CASSINO (1 line)
19-24 (flag) SCHAFFHAUSEN SWITZERLAND (2 lines)
25-30 SAN MARINO (1 line)
31-36 CATHEDRAL OF COLOGNE (2 lines)
Series 2, anti-allies propaganda slogans, emphasising soviet and Jewish influence on allied policy.
The overprints on the 3d values are in red.
No. 58 (from unidentified auction catalogue)
37-42 "WORLD-BOLSHEVISM" in two lines diagonally upwards, with a solid five-pointed star (inverted) at top left and a hammer and sickle bottom right
43-48 "WORLD-CAPITALISM" in one line diagonally upwards, with a six-pointed Star of David at top left and bottom right
49-54 As 43-48 but "WORLD-JUDAISM" (one line)
55-60 A cross between "14.8." and "1941", above the text "THE BLUFF-CHARTA" (sic) against a simulated field
61-66 "EMPIRE'S LIQUIDATION" in two lines between two crosses, above a large five-pointed start containing "28.11. / 1.12" and "1943" above the words (in 2 lines) "AT TEHERAN"
67-72 As 37-42 but "WORLD-SLAVERY" in one line.
Series 3, "AAAO", over the following demotivating texts, to be dropped on allied troops in Normandy
"AAAO" is the abbreviation of a slogan devised by Colonel Harry "Paddy" Flint: “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere, Bar None”, . Some of the overprints end in a large punctuation mark on a separate line, as shown. The overprints are in red on the ½d and 2½d. See this webpage by Jerry Jensen.
73-78 "BUT WHO WILL RETURN ?" (4 lines)
79-84 "ON ORDER OF STALIN !" (6 lines)
85-90 "ENGLAND BLEEDS ON THE ORDER OF MOSCOW" (5 lines)
91-96 "COME ON GERMANY EXPECTS YOU !" (5 lines)
97-102 "ENGLAND HAS LOST THE WAR" (4 lines)
103-108 "A MILITARY ADVENTURE !" (4 lines)
Series 4, "Liquidation of Empire"
This series was intended to show what would happen to the British Empire, and the allied-rented naval bases, when Germany and Japan won the war. The overprint consists of a black rectangle containing "LIQUIDATION OF EMPIRE" at the top plus the name of a territory/base at the foot. This series is the one most often offered on the market, far more often than the reported print run of 400 each would suggest likely. The overprints are in red on the ½d and 3d. Stamps in this series can be found cancelled and stuck on an inscribed souvenir card.
A typical "Liquidation of Empire" stamp.
109-114 "BAHAMA - Is"
121-126 "BERMUDA - Is"
139-144 "Sta LUCIA"
Series 5, Liquidation of Empire continued
This series is not offered as often as Series 4, though reportedly the same number of copies of each was printed. Stamps in this series can be found cancelled and stuck on an inscribed souvenir card.
189-194 "St VINCENT"
page last updated: 28 August 2006, 6 March 2013, 24 January 2017
gbos: GB Overprints Society