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Jamaica was first colonised by Spain in 1509 and proclaimed Spanish Town as its capital. This was changed to Kingston in 1872 after British naval forces captured the country in 1655. The country gained its independence in 1962.

First stamps

Contemporary one penny, four pence, six pence and one shilling British stamps used from 1858 to August 1860 may be identified by the many different oval numeral obliterators.

In 1860, the colony’s first one penny, four pence, six pence and one shilling featured a portrait of Queen Victoria, frequently referred to as a ‘laureate head.’ 
A three pence value was added in 1863. Six different frames were designed and printed by De La Rue (DLR) on paper supplied by local agent called Thomas Hankey & Co until 1923. They featured a unique ‘pineapple’ watermark.


In March 1922, while purchasing stamps in the small settlement of Manchioneal, a local collector spotted something wrong with the one shilling denomination– the statue of Queen Victoria was upside down. He bought the remaining copies and after examining the Crown CA watermark realised a seemingly impossible inverted frame on a mono-colour stamp. A closer inspection revealed the stamps were in two shades of orange, indicating the use of separate printing plates.
Most of the 30 stamps from the half sheet allocated to Manchioneal post office are believed to have been postmarked on telegrams with the normal postal datestamp canceller. The other half sheet had been delivered to the main Kingston post office from which most had already been sold and thrown away with the envelope or wrapping paper. Only five postmarked copies have been recorded, just one with a Kingston datestamp. The remaining stamps, including a few mint blocks probably reached the market from a dealers’ acquisition from the Manchioneal collector. Their scarcity is shown by latest catalogue listings of £40,000 (mint) and £25,000 (used).


In 1861, authorisation was granted to diagonally bisect one penny stamps to meet the half penny postal rate for mailing local newspapers. Although bisects continued to be used until replaced with halfpenny stamps in 1872. They are scarce because many were discarded with newspaper wrapping. As with all bisects, they should be collected on cover or piece.


Identical colony’s first one penny, fourpence, sixpence and one shilling values were reprinted with Crown CC watermarks from 1870–75, redesigned frames were, however, prepared for the additional half-penny, two shilling and five shilling denominations.  Crown CA watermarks were introduced for new printings from 1883 and 1897.
Official overprints
In April 1890, one year after one penny and two pence stamps were issued with new duty plates, it was decided to provide official overprints on the half penny, one penny and two pence denominations for use on government correspondence. While awaiting the delivery from London, the current half-penny green was overprinted in Kingston by C Vendryes. Several settings of the overprint resulted in numerous type font errors.
In preparation for the overprinting in London, stamps were specially produced by DLR in single colours: one penny rose and two pence. They were not issued without overprints. Official stamps were withdrawn on 1 January 1898.

Did you know

  • Replacement stamps issued in 1903–4 after the Queen’s death had been expected to portray her successor King Edward VII. However, the half penny, one penny, two and a halfpenny, and five shilling denominations featured Jamaica’s Coat of Arms. The only King Edward VII portrait stamp, a single two pence value, was finally issued in February 1911 as a direct response to a petition to the Governor from local philatelists.
  • In response to the extraordinary and inappropriate belated reissue of these stamps, Jamaica’s Daily Gleaner newspaper published the following verses.
  • ‘And so we keep her memory green, despite collectors’ cry, 
  •  a Queen who left us years ago and yet will never die.
  •  Long live our Queen! God bless our Queen! We murmur as we see,
  •  Jamaica’s stamps transmitting still her youthful effigy’
  • Jamaica joined most colonies in 1916 with a levy on correspondence supporting the war effort. Four overprints produced by the Government Printer included ‘WAR STAMP’ on the halfpenny (coat of arms) and three pence (King George V portrait) denominations, followed with a two-line overprint on the half penny, one and a half penny and three pence stamps.