Photo: Jonathan Guy. Barbados stamps are ideal for collecting.

Bridgetown, Barbados–September 9th, 2020.

The Barbados Postal Service (BPS) has advised in a press release that as a result of the lack of airline flights the movement of outbound mail continues to be severely impacted, while limited incoming international mail, as well as mail posted locally continues to be delivered.

Currently, there is the provision for air mail services to Grenada, St. Vincent, Antigua, Jamaica and Canada, with delays to be expected until normal air transport capacity becomes available.

This is not the first time there has been an interruption in services. In 1893 the Barbados Post Office even ran out of stamps.

The St. Kitts and Nevis Observer recently got in touch with Jonathan Guy in England to find out more about the 1893 stamp outage.

Jonathan runs a Barbados stamps blog that includes a gallery of stamps and a great deal of information about the history of Barbados postage stamps.

“As I continue to collect anything and everything to do with philately in Barbados, I often stumble across items which are fascinating and, a puzzle to be solved,” Jonathan said.

“In 2018 I acquired an old envelope from 1893, when Barbados actually ran out of ½d stamps which, to this day, remains an unsolved mystery.”

“Halfpenny stamps were used for all inland mail and for sending price lists (Prices Current) and newspapers across the island, and they were being used at an alarming rate. Many people bought newspapers and lots of merchants sent out weekly updated price lists.”

“Unlike today, when you can get supplies of most things within a few days, back then they had to write to the Crown Agents in London for an urgent order, which took at least two weeks to get there by ship, another four weeks for the stamps to be produced and two more weeks to arrive by ship. They quickly realized that by the time the delivery arrived on the island they would have run out of stamps.”

“The solution to the problem was fairly simple; the Barbados House of Assembly instructed the Colonial Postmaster that “if a considerable number of Prices Current or other mail articles requiring halfpenny stamps were handed in at the Post Office, The Colonial Postmaster would receive the amount of postage in cash and frank the mail with the “PAID AT BARBADOES” postmark in black.”

“On 17th February 1893 they started this practice and it continued for twenty six days, until 15th March 1893, by which point stocks of new stamps had arrived.”

“Which brings us to our mystery envelope.”

Photo: Jonathan Guy. Did the customer pay the local rate  for this letter to be sea-mailed to Jamaica?

“This envelope (or cover) was sent from Da Costa & Co, Barbados on 27th February 1893 to Finke & Co, who were based at 56  Port Royal Street, Kingston, Jamaica. Da Costa were Ships Brokers and Commercial Merchants and Finke & Co are listed in contemporary directories as General Import and Export Merchants.”

“The cover is cancelled with a strike of the “PAID AT BARBADOES” Crown Canceller in black ink, as was instructed. It also carries the C5 ‘Date mark plus Open Bootheel’ duplex mark which carries the date and year, so we know that this was posted on 27th February 1893.”

“Inter Island mail like this should have had a stamp affixed to pay to the proper rate (1d for a letter this size and weight) and posted in the normal fashion. So why does this cover not have a stamp on? Why does it only have the “PAID AT BARBADOES” cancel?”

“As we know, “The Colonial Postmaster would receive the amount of postage in cash and frank the mail with the “PAID AT BARBADOES” postmark in black” but in practice, it would have been one of the Postal Clerks who received the cash.”

“It is possible that a Postal Clerk, misunderstanding the temporary regulations, decided to cancel overseas mail in the same fashion as internal mail. Equally, it could be that this cover (and others like this) were in a large pile delivered daily by Da Costa & Co to the General Post Office and it simply slipped through the system unnoticed as the Postal Clerk was cancelling a lot of covers in a single go.”

“But what if it was something different? What if this is evidence of fraud, with a Postal Worker deliberately using the Crowned Circle canceller, denoting the full postage rate had been paid and simply pocketing the difference in the rates? This could perhaps have been a single individual or even someone working in collusion with a member of staff at Da Costa & Co.”

“Only a very small number of inter island covers exist with the “PAID AT BARBADOES” strike on them and every one of them remains a mystery. Was it a genuine error by someone on the counter, or was it a corrupt clerk pocketing ½d a cover to supplement their meagre wages in 1893?”

So what got Jonathan interested in Barbados stamps?

“I started to collect Barbados stamps back in 2010 after visiting the island with my wife and family for what must have been the tenth time,” said Jonathan.

“I had always been a stamp collector but 2010 was significant as I had just lost my job. With time on my hands I wanted to see if I could focus my stamp collecting on one particular area and as we both love the Caribbean,  Barbados seemed the natural choice.”

“In 2011 I started my own Digital Marketing business, so in June of that year the website went live with a mission to provide the best online resource for anyone looking for information about collecting Barbados Stamps.”

“The website is designed to provide help for anyone trying to identify a particular stamp or cover and the image galleries, whilst not quite complete yet, still contain the most comprehensive resource available online.”

“Looking back to what I wrote at the time,” Jonathan added “Barbados is a great country to collect. Most Barbados stamps can be purchased for pocket money prices.”