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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is at the other end of the spectrum as far as size, population and commercial usage of stamps are concerned. The 1938 series is a very complicated one to attempt to reconstruct. Potter and Shelton list 11 printings of the 3ct, to take a typical example, and I would be prepared to bet that there were rather more than that. I should think that this set represents a good opportunity for some detailed ultraviolet study – has anyone tried this? I’m afraid that this is one colony where the Murray Payne printings reference collection is rather weak; no-one seems to have written anything much about the printings since Potter and Shelton, who are (of necessity) getting a good airing in this article. There are a lot of noteworthy shades, which makes using the Commonwealth listing a bit tricky. For example, putting every 6ct stamp into one of Commonwealth’s three ‘pots’ is problematic. Although the 1938 blue, 1947 grey-blue and 1949 bright blue are simple enough to distinguish when you can see a single example of each, there are at least five more printings (probably more) to consider and of course most of them fall in between the categories above. All the collector can do is allocate these as he or she thinks fit.

Used examples can often be grubby, which confuses matters further. Paper, of course, is a huge help – the initial printings being on thick paper and the late ones on thinner paper with very obvious watermark. Even the 3ct and 4ct first colours had two printings each, which are easy to separate. The first printing of each was on thick opaque paper, with watermark indented; the second on thin paper with transparent watermark.

I do not think that we can go much beyond the Commonwealth-listed shades for this set. I am finding that the late 1ct shade, violet-blue as opposed to deep blue, is notably undervalued at the Commonwealth figure for mint. I am also looking to improve the descriptions of the second colour 3ct shades to emphasise the differences between the centres (deep green on the early printings, emerald on the later ones). The description of the 12ct colours has never pleased me and I find the separation into 1938 purple-violet, 1942 deep violet and 1944 deep purple-violet inadequate. I would really like to hear from someone who has studied this set in depth with some ideas for better descriptions! Many shades are easy to separate, such as the 5ct deep claret or magenta, the 8ct deep orange and red-orange, and the 60ct myrtle-green and dark myrtle. Potter and Shelton hated the ‘insignificant’ design of the $1.20 and $4.80, saying that it spoiled ‘this otherwise excellent set’. I am inclined to agree. The $1.20 shades are quite subtle, but the $4.80 division into carmine-rose and bright carmine-rose is obvious. From what I can see, it seems that the listing in Commonwealth of these two shades is misleading. The bright shade should be listed first, with the darker shade making its appearance in 1945 – again, comments are solicited.

This is one of those sets which can either be glossed over, or made as complex as you wish. I have never seen a listing of all the plate number combinations possible, and wish I had. Single mint or used stamps are not terribly expensive, although unmounted blocks and (especially) plate blocks can be pricey – but should well repay their keep. Add interest to a used range by including a selection of different postmarks. There are many post offices, which managed to use a large number of different postmark types, including ‘skeletons’. I was fortunate enough to discover a manuscript cancel from Belle Garden, on Tobago – the first time, to my knowledge, that there has been evidence of a manuscript cancel being used during the early days of a post office’s opening, rather than a skeleton. I suppose we all strike lucky from time to time. Our friend David Horry has written about the skeleton postmarks to be found, as well as the Ted Proud study and various publications by the Caribbean specialist societies. This is a field well worth tilling.

Again, there is not a great deal to be found with the commemoratives, and the only positional varieties are on the Victory stamps. The 3ct can be found in brown from Plate B1, and deeper brown from Plate A1. Both values may be found with a ‘B’ on the selvedge by R1/6. The 3ct at R3/3 has a spot above the left pinnacle of the main tower; the 6ct has two scratches which run down the third column of the sheet just into the sixth row.

The Postage Dues are a splendid field. The sterling issue of 1923 – 1d, 2d, 3d and 4d on smooth paper - was still current in 1938, joined by 5d, 6d, 8d and 1/- values on rough paper in 1944-5. These are not easy mint, let alone in unmounted or (especially) fine used condition. Each column of the 1/- sheets has a different upright stroke, the stamps in column 5 having the stroke much more upright. The decimal issue appeared initially on ordinary paper (1947) and on chalky paper from 1953-61. Again, fine used can be very difficult. As so often with Postage Dues, I recommend this colony’s output.