The Stamp Whispers, the Letter Speaks, By Martin Hirschbühl



Please allow me to introduce you to a special and precious type of SOS I have always loved most: I call them chameleon stamps. No, it has nothing to do with holograms or other nowadays stuff! They dont change their color, but only their status or homeland. Like in fairytales, sometimes a simple German or British stamp turns out to be a colonial rarity having both philatelic and historical (or commercial) value.


Going through my SOS collection, only a few such gems can be found. The largest group is reproductions of British stamps with numerical postmarks, enabling us to classify them as being used in the Bahamas (A05), Belize (A06), Montserrat (A08), St. Vincent (A10) or Jamaica (A49). And, of course, dont forget the Guyana stamps of 1980 (not shown at right).

The use of British stamps in Ascension, featured on two similar SOS, seem to be very different with a circle-date-postmark instead of a numerical-killer. The latest British stamps used abroad to be found on a SOS is a pair of George VI 6d with a Tristan da Cunha provisional Bar cancellation of the early 1920s, during Sir Ernest Shackletons explorations.








The British mainland is represented here with Jerseys UPU 1974, showing a classical cover of 1852, mailed in Jersey around a centenary before the authors birthday. It was recently discovered that the color of Jerseys first letterbox was red, not green as shown on the stamp, another amusing Error-SOS...!

Guernsey features an occupation bisect of the British two pence centenary stamp, used as a provisional penny postage, probably influenced by so-called philatelic needs.

Both these items are now landmarks in the postal history of the Channel Islands.


Both of these items are now benchmarks in the postal history of the Channel Islands.

Prior to the issuance of their own stamps, many countries around the world were using foreign or mainland stamps. Early Imperial Austrian stamps with postmarks of Pesth (now Budapest) or Pressburg (now Bratislava) on a recent Slovakian SOS are just two examples of a period long ago. It reminds me of the Latin sentence Sic transit Gloria mundi (Bogey fans translate it as time goes by).



The principality of Monaco first used Sardinian stamps up to 1859. After Napoleon III sacked the Côte d Azur as a waraid-bonus, they were replaced by French stamps, remaining in circulation for at least 25 years, maybe longer, after the issue of their own stamps in 1885.

It seems that French-Monaco joint frankings still have been possible as reproduced on Monacos Philexfrance 99 SOS.



San Marino, the worlds oldest existing republic, presents a Sardinian 5c stamp with both circle and bar-stamp of Rimini and S. Marino. On the SOS they kindly embossed the head of Vittorio Emanuele, like on the original stamp. Grazie tanto!


San Marino, the worlds oldest ,.

My journey through Europe ends with an Imperial Osmanian stamp, used in 1871 in the later Turkish part of Cyprus. This Greek-Turkish conflict has been boiling for a long time.



Another hot spot of the ancient Osmanian Empire was Palestine (now Israel). The SOS sheetlet features not only Turkish, Palestine and Israel stamps or labels, but also an Imperial Austrian postcard surcharged for use in Turkey, with a Jerusalem postmark. What a brilliant item for every Judaica collector (and for SOS guys too, or course)!


Going back to the colonies, a nice B64 postmark on Mauritius 6d is shown here on Seychelles, and the first Cayman Islands oval dated handstamp on a Jamaican stamp, both appearing on a SOS one century later.


The German colonies only existed for a short period, but long enough to leave some philatelic tracks. The same old common 20 Pfennig Blue Eagle of the former Reichspost is now reproduced on Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, with different postmarks of each region.


Of unique interest is Palaus se-tenant block. First they were using German stamps, later Marshall-Insel overprints, finally Karolinen definitive stamps. This is a real appetizer, inviting us to dive deeper into this colorful postal history.


A wartime naval letter of 1943 is depicted on a Tuvalu SOS, and two similar First Civilian Mail letters from the Marshall Islands and Palau. Both of them proved that one could once send a letter halfway around the world for just 2 cents postage. Unbelievable!!


A classical Samoa letter of 1881 from Apia to San Francisco with additional US postage documents the foreign use of US stamps. Issued for the Samoan stamp centenary in 1977.



The wide range of French stamps used in their colonies is represented with only one service stamp of Polynesia (French stamps with Papeete postmark).



Finally, here are two examples that dont quite qualify to be real chameleons. Did you know that Norfolk Island was a former part of Van Diemens Land, or that the Solomon Islands once had New South Wales stamps in use? I really wish they wouldnt forget to print the postmarks, too, on their SOS.

At the end of the day, I wish for me and the benefit of all my SOS collecting colleagues that more countries would issue additional appealing stamps-on-stamps incorporating postal history into their designs. I hope you agree..?