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Straits Settlements Collection

The Straits Settlements Collection documents Singapore’s early philatelic history and heritage. Many interesting and rare archival materials such as essays (artworks), proofs, specimens, and stamps issued during the early Straits Settlements period are in the Collection.


Mail sent before stamps were introduced 


Stamps were used in Singapore from 1854. Before that, letters were known as pre-stamp covers. Entire letters with content were folded inwards for privacy, and then sealed with wax. 

Postal marks or postmarks on these letters reveal vital information on the routes taken by mail ships and the duration of the journey. Different coloured postmarks were also used to indicate whether postage was paid. The Post Office used red postmarks to signify paid postage, and black to indicate that postage was required. Postage would then be collected from the recipient.

Entire letter sent to London on 20 January 1836.  Letter was cancelled by arrival postmark and “India Letter Liverpool”.


First stamps used in Singapore, 1854 

This cover shows the first series of stamps used in Singapore. These stamps were Indian stamps issued by the East India Company (EIC) because Singapore was administered by the EIC based in British India. The cover also shows how mails were conveyed from Singapore to Europe. Postal chops show that it travelled via sea routes with stopover in India, followed by the Southampton overland route to England.



B172 Cancellation

This cover has the earliest known date of the B172 obliterator. Letters sent from Singapore, Penang and Malacca (which made up the Straits Settlements) used the same Indian stamps. To distinguish letters which were sent out from the three Settlements, numbers were assigned. "B172" for Singapore, "B109" for Malacca, and "B147" for Penang.



1860 Bisect Stamp Cover

From 1855 to 1860, there was a shortage of stamps of various denominations in Singapore. To alleviate the shortage, the Postmaster cut existing stamps diagonally to double the quantity. The 8-pie, 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-anna stamps were bisected. It was the first and last time stamps in Singapore were bisected. Hence these stamps on the cover are very rare and much sought after. They are of historical and philatelic significance.



Singapore as a Crown Colony

The British East India Company was abolished in 1858 . The Straits Settlements were transferred to the Colonial Office in London, on 1 April 1867 as a Crown Colony. 

To reflect the change in government, postage stamps that were in use before the transfer were overprinted with a crown. The denominations on existing stamps, which were in Indian currency, were overprinted with Straits currency.



Stamps showing the reigning monarchs  


King Edward VII (1901-1910) 

Essays are artworks produced by stamp designers. When Queen Victoria passed away, United Kingdom was faced with the challenge of producing new stamp designs after using the queen's head for 60 years. These photographic essays were produced but were not adopted. They are the only known copies.

The Straits Settlements adopted the De La Rue "Postage & Revenue" Universal Key Plate Design instead. The design features King Edward VII head for all values of stamps issued in 1902.



King George V (1910-1936)

New stamp design featuring King George V who ascended the throne in 1910.



King George VI (1936-1952)

New stamp design featuring King George VI when he replaced his father, King George V.


Queen Elizabeth II (1952-present) 

This was the first definitive issue featuring the new monarch when Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne. She is also the last monarch on Singapore stamps. 


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