Starting a new collection: Curaçao

Over 600 pages of information about the postal history of Curaçao. A must-have for serious collectors.

Some time ago I came across an article promoting Curaçao as a collecting area. I’m a Dutch citizen and of course interested the history of my country. The Caraibic ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) have been part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for a long time, and are also known as the Dutch West Indies (DWI). Reading the article prompted me to start a new collection.

Every collector knows the pleasure of building a collection from scratch. Sometimes we just want to start over and go through the exciting phase where you can still find lots of things that you need.

As someone who has done it before I always start by reading as much literature as I can find on the topic. That way I know what is common, and what is more difficult to find. I like to know what to look for in advance.

This time I started with the Dutch specialty catalogue (NVPH) that has a whole section on Curaçao and the Dutch Antilles. I also bought the old (1976), but still relevant “A postal history of Curaçao” from Julsen and Benders. This book contains over 600 pages with lots of good information and details, I recommend it to anyone interested in the postal history of Curaçao (it’s in English). In addition, I am going through 70 years of magazines and stamp club newsletters in an attempt to find even more information.

Curaçao has it all: classical stamps, boat mail, airmail, overprints, variations, war-time issues, rare cancellations from small towns, colorful modern thematic issues, etc. From the looks of it, there’s even room to contribute new discoveries.

The first stamp of Curaçao issued in 1873 features the king of the Netherlands William III.

So, where does one find stamps and covers from Curaçao? Stamp issue numbers and mail volume have historically been very low for this island and its small population. Even though there aren’t many serious collectors, it’s difficult to find anything but common definitive sets and modern wall paper issues on eBay. The early material is rare, and good quality stamps are typically only found with specialized dealers and at old-style, in-person, stamp auctions in the Netherlands. As with many other collection areas, good material is expensive and should be expertized. The Dutch eBay site will typically list cheaper sets, with the occasional gem that’s overseen by less-informed collectors. Also, spending a couple of hours going through the cheap covers at a stamp show, can bring surprises every now and then. Patience and knowledge are key, and that makes it a lot of fun.

Only 4,002 copies of this 5 Guilder stamp from 1923 were ever sold.

 

In the last year I have put together a rudimentary collection of all the stamps issued between 1873 and 1990. There are still some holes in the first years. Not all of these are expensive stamps, they’re just impossible to find. I also started my first cover collection, a whole new way of collecting in which I have many things to learn still. I never really understood people that collect covers (especially if they have no stamps on them), but I must admit that it has been strangely satisfying and that I spend a lot of time looking at them.

If you’re in the market for a new collecting area, I can wholeheartedly recommend Curaçao. There’s something for everyone.

 

 

Definitive stamps issued in 1915 with sheet edges in perfect condition. Sent from the post office to a stamp dealer over a 100 years ago, found by me in the original envelope.

 

A cover sent from Curaçao to Balboa Canal Zone on June 23, 1929. I found this in a cheap covers box at a stamp show. I later learned this was on the very first airmail run from the island ever.

This cover flew with a company called “Caribbean Aviation Concern” between the islands of Aruba and Curaçao. The standard boat mail rate was 6 cents, the extra 10 cents were for the plane.

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