The colonial 1923 Jubilee Stamps

Queen Wilhelmina

In January 1923, the Dutch department of colonies found out that the Netherlands intended to issue stamps for the silver Jubilee (25 years) of Queen Wilhelmina. The Dutch Indies P.T.T. (Post, Telegraph, and Telephone) had already indicated that they wanted a Jubilee set. This made the department of colonies decide they would issue stamps for Surinam and Curaçao as well.

To make this a real Jubilee issue, the stamps would have to be available at the post offices in the colonies on August 31 of the same year, the Queen’s birthday. Shipping the stamps overseas, or at least the first printings, would have to take place before July 1 for the Indies, and before August 1 for Surinam and Curaçao. This did not leave much time for design, preparation of the engravings and other printing materials, choice of colors, and the printing itself. In fact, all of these would have to happen in just four months time.

The long-time Dutch value paper printer, Joh. Enschedé and Sons came to the rescue. It has already been decided that a portrait of the Queen was to be included, as well the dates of her reign “1889-1923”, plus the name of the countries. The chief engraver at Joh. Enschedé designed and engraved the various borders. The famous French engraver H. Cheffer engraved the portrait of the Queen based on a photograph made by H. Deutman.

The border designs were carefully chosen to distinguish between the three colonies. The stamps for Curaçao have the emblems of the staff of Mercury and an anchor, both representative of business that was the mainstay of the colony. Surinam has palm trees that are characteristic for the agriculture there, while the Dutch Indies show two lions of Buddha as they appear at the Boroboedoer in Central Java. My personal favorite is the design used for Surinam. The off-center portrait and the tropical palm trees give it that exotic quality that I, as a boy growing up in the Netherlands, associated with far-away countries.

1923 Jubilee stamps as issued in Curaçao, Suriname, and the Dutch Indies. The portrait engraving has been reused, but the borders and lettering were designed and engraved specifically for each of the three Dutch colonies.

All three sets contain low face value stamps (from 5 ct to 20 ct) that covered the postal rate for foreign printed matter, domestic letters, and foreign letters. These can be found used on commercial mail. The high face value stamps (50 ct, 1 gld, 2.5 gld, and 5 gld) were mostly created to make money from stamp collectors. Real used copies exist, but they are rare and expensive, and you should be aware of forged cancellations on these stamps.

I was lucky to find a set of three complete MNH sheets with 25 Surinam stamps, one sheet for each of the three plates that were used during printing. The plate number (1) can be seen underneath the middle stamp in the bottom row. The perforation at the very bottom (C2) indicates the print run. After all these years, full sheets like this are almost impossible to find, so you can imagine how I felt when I got them at a very good price. Stamp production had a lot of manual steps those days. You can see the perforation guides on each of the edges, as well as the finger print of the person that handled the sheet in the lower right corner.

All denominations for Surinam and Curaçao have been printed in sheets of 25 stamps. For the Dutch Indies the stamps up to 1 Gld were printed in sheets of 90 stamps, and the 2.5 Gld and 5 Gld stamps in sheets of 50 stamps.

The lower face values have reasonable issue sizes and are relatively easy to find. The higher face values are printed in very low numbers and are much more difficult to find, especially in good condition. The number of complete sets that could have been made are: Curaçao 4,002 / Surinam 3,408 / Dutch Indies 15,707.

I already owned the complete Curaçao set. Today, I received the one from the Dutch Indies. I found it in a web shop, in MNH quality with a recent expert certificate. I’m now saving money for the Surinam set. It’s relatively easy to find as long as you’re willing to pay for it.

I have found some articles and literature on these stamps, but if you have more, or if you want to share with me what material you have, please feel free to contact me through the form below.

The complete set of Jubilee stamps of Curaçao from my collection

The complete set of Dutch Indies Jubilee stamps from my collection

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