by Darryl Fuller
The use of cut-outs of unused postal stationery to pay postage on a letter is well known around the world. In many cases this was officially sanctioned by the relevant post office. On other occasions it was not allowed and such covers were taxed, whilst in some cases their use was not sanctioned but was generally ignored by postal officials.
Perhaps the best known examples in the British Caribbean are those of the Cayman Islands. The use of postal stationery cut-outs was officially sanctioned and there are many examples known, mostly philatelic, with commercial examples quite scarce as far as I know. Indeed there are examples of Cayman Island postal stationery items with additional postal stationery cut-outs attached to pay additional postage. These, whilst being contrived, are still of interest and many appear to be correctly rated.
The use of postal stationery cut-outs in other areas of the British Caribbean appears to be less common. For the Leeward Islands I had only recorded one example of the use of Leeward Island postal stationery cut-outs used on cover, until 2003, when two other covers surfaced.
The first cover I recorded was purchased from a well known English dealer in 1988. It is illustrated in Figure 1. It comprises five cut-outs of the King Edward VII ½d postcard (H&G 5/ Oliver PC3) issued in 1902. They are attached to the reverse of a commercial cover addressed to the Dr A W Chase Medicine Co. Ltd in Canada. It is postmarked at St Johns, Antigua on AP 25 1933. Putting postage on the reverse of covers is unusual (for the British Caribbean) but in this case it would not easily fit on the front without obscuring the address. A careful examination of the cut-outs shows that each has part of a printed message on the back and they are glued to the cover with dark brown glue. The 2½d is the rate for a letter over 1 ounce and there is no reason to believe that this cover is anything other than commercial. This suggests that the use of cut-outs on cover was either sanctioned within the Leeward Islands or at the least was accepted by postal officials. Certainly in this case, it would appear that someone with a pile of unusable ½d postcards decided to use them for postage by cutting out the postage indicium, albeit thirty odd years after issue.
The above cover was the only one I had seen from any of the Leeward Islands until 2003, when eBay threw up two further examples within a few months of each other. Figure 2 illustrates the first of these new finds. It is an envelope addressed to Conners Bros. Ltd in Black Harbour, New Brunswick, and has the notation Premium Department at lower left. It was posted in April 1938 and is franked with an Antigua ½d KGV definitive and a 1937 Antigua 1½d Coronation commemorative, together with a cut-out of a Leeward Island 3d KGV registered envelope indicium cut from a 1926 registered envelope. The stamps paying the postage, and the cut-out paying the registration fee of 3d. Once again there is no reason to believe that this is anything other than a fully commercial cover. This adds further evidence to the supposition that cut-outs were allowed by the post offices of the Leeward Islands to be used as postage.
The third and final cover was also found on eBay although I did not purchase it. It is illustrated in Figure 3 and comprises a Leeward Island KGV 1d red postal stationery envelope (H&G B7/ Oliver PE12) uprated with a cut-out of the same envelope and two Montserrat KGV stamps, a 1d red and a 1½d brown. The total franking comprises 1½d postage plus 3d for registration and was posted on AP 2 1930 and sent to the USA. This envelope is not to a known philatelist (as far as I know) and may be commercial usage, but of the three looks possibly contrived.
The three covers suggest that Leeward Island postal stationery cut-outs were allowed as postage in at least two of the individual Presidencies, in the period 1930-38. It is important to note that for all three of these covers, in the period of use - 1930-38 - the individual Presidencies of the Leeward Islands only used the Federal issue postal stationery of the Leeward Islands. If this period corresponds with the period when such usage was allowed, then it may explain why I have not seen any such covers using postal stationery cut-outs from the individual Presidencies series postal stationery. The 1930s was also a time when there were few stationery collectors and this may explain the lack of covers to or from known philatelists.
I would be interested to hear from other collectors who may have other Leeward Island stationery cut-outs used on cover that may extend the period of use. I would be particularly interested in covers from the other Presidencies of the Leeward Islands. In addition, if anyone has any information on whether the usage was officially sanctioned I would be most grateful? Or are these covers aberrations that simply slipped through the postal system?
Figure 1 1902 KEVII post card cut-outs used on 1933 cover to Canada
Figure 2 1926 KGV registered envelope cut-out used on 1938 cover to New Brunswick
Figure 3 1929 KGV envelope cut-out used on 1930 cover
to the USA