All posts by Mel West

I only collect identifiable species on stamps and prefer them to be indigenous to the issuing country. Rather than just tick off from lists, I am inclined to seek out those issues that have a degree of variation and complexity, or are unusual or well designed. I also collect whole sets , irrespective of whether the set is entirely ornithological. I am rarely excited by new issues, but instead particularly interested in the older stamps of, for example, Australia, Guatemala and New Caledonia, but alongside the more recent and excellently illustrated issues of Belgium, the Philippines, Eire and a number of other countries. I also very much like collecting items of postal stationery and covers, especially older items, and whenever possible will seek out uncommon postmarks, cancellation marks and cachets.

The Impact of BREXIT on Online Buying

An article in a recent edition of ABPS News has alerted collectors to the impact of Brexit on VAT and buying material online from EU countries.

Buyers of philatelic items on eBay are now discovering that 20% VAT is being added to the cost of their purchases. They have advised that Value Added Tax (VAT) generally applies to purchases by UK consumers, and prices on eBay.co.uk are shown inclusive of VAT. However, from the beginning of 2021, eBay is now required to collect VAT on certain orders delivered to UK addresses. This includes orders sent from outside the UK up to the value of £135 but also orders where the item is located in the UK, although the seller is not UK based. For orders over £135 imported to the UK, the purchaser may need to pay VAT as part of clearing the parcel through customs.

Additionally Delcampe, probably the leading website for collectibles have now advised that a new European law will come into force in July of this year. This will require marketplaces such as Delcampe to collect VAT on goods sold to private individuals by professional sellers from outside the EU, for any shipment of maximum 150 Euros.

Delcampe have issued the following advice to their customers:

“This law, which was originally intended to come into force on 1st January 2021 has been postponed to 1st July 2021. However, the United Kingdom has adopted a similar law applying to marketplaces such as Delcampe which requires them to collect VAT for goods sold by non-British professional dealers to UK citizens, for any shipment below €150 (£135). The entry into force of this law is in place on 1st January 2021, leading to a distortion between the two systems, when this should have been avoided. This leads to some uncertainties which unfortunately do not allow us at this stage to tell you exactly what will be the steps you will have to take and what actions Delcampe can take as an online platform. We are currently waiting for answers from the European Union and our legal advisers. We will of course not miss to inform you as soon as we have clear information to give you.” ABPS reported that one European dealer had said that the new rules now made it impossible to sell items at less than €150 to the UK because unlike eBay, Delcampe will not automatically collect VAT, and that the alternative would be to register his business for VAT in the UK which was unrealistic. Effectively, it now seems likely that Delcampe will cease to be usable for UK collectors unless the purchase price is more than £135.

Fiji Definitive Overprints – New finds!

Further to my original piece on the Fiji overprints of some months ago, The Pacific Islands Study Circle (PISC) have now reported two new additions to the already large list of overprinted bird definitives. The original definitives were issued in 1995 but due to a severe shortage of postage stamps to cover their postal rates in early 2006, Fiji resorted to overprinting with new denominations the large stocks of these definitives with redundant values. As my article hopefully showed, the overprintings have resulted in a huge number of overprints with new values while at the same time producing a stunningly complex array of varieties and errors. Frankly, they have become a collector’s paradise!

6c/44c “xxx” overprint

In the latest edition of Pacifica magazine, PISC have announced that two new overprints have been found on the original 44c Purple Swamphen. In January this year they reported that a 6c with lower case triple “x” obliterating the 44c (“xxx”) had been found with an overprinted line measuring 11mm. This combination has not been seen before. More recently a 23c new value, also with triple lower case “x” obliterations appeared. It is thought that this was issued in either March or April. There are currently no further details on the crucial overprinting measurements for this 23c/44c arrangement. Only one other version of this overprint combination – appearing in late 2016 – is known.

23c/44c “xxx” Overprint

As can be imagined, COVID has had a substantial impact on tourism for the Pacific island nations and this has contributed to severe economic difficulties, leading to substantial cutbacks in their issuing of new stamps. It is possible – perhaps probable – that Fiji has responded by further plundering of its old stocks. Some of the original values were never used for the overprintings, perhaps because of insufficient numbers, but I now wonder if more examples might emerge.

Bye, Bye BIOT?

Those who have read the recent philatelic trade press (and The Guardian) may have seen articles questioning the future of stamps from the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

The ruling council of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) has now recommended that BIOT stamps should now cease to be recognised. This arises from a long-running dispute over the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands which make up the whole territory. BIOT was created in the mid-1960s when Britain took the islands from Mauritius prior to granting independence to that island in 1968. The Chagos islands are comprised of just 23 square miles of land.

One of the islands, Diego Garcia, was subsequently developed into a military base and then leased to the United States. In creating the base, the native population of Chagossians – about 2,000 – were expelled and replaced by around 3,000 military staff and associated contractors.

However, the original islanders continued to campaign for their right to return to the islands and in 2019, the International Court of Justice found that in maintaining its claim, Britain was in breach of international law and that sovereignty should pass to Mauritius. This verdict was upheld by the United Nations Maritime Court earlier this year and in response the UPU Council has now made its recommendation. Paradoxically, the US has said it has no objections to the islanders returning.

The UPU Congress meets in the Ivory Coast in August and will then vote on its Council’s recommendation. If upheld the, “distribution and forwarding of any and all postage stamps issued by the territory,” will cease. Effectively, the stamps would then be internationally invalid. Could this be bye, bye to BIOT?  

June 2021

2010 and all that

Last thoughts on the Lapwings and other Guyana bird surcharges

First an apology and a correction to the previous blog. I had been unsure whether there were any Stanley Gibbons numbers to the Lapwing issues, particularly as there is no current catalogue to refer to. However, a closer look at the well crammed and tiny print spreadsheet provided by Steve Zirinsky revealed a misreading that indicate SG numbers do indeed exist for these issues. I am still unsure about the sequencing, but can at least now show the Scott and SG equivalent catalogue numbers together, as per Table 1 in the attached document.

But let’s move on from these birds – we have surely done them to death now? There are a handful of other surcharged bird stamps that emerged from the Rainforests of Guyana during the period 2010 to 2013. This piece is intended to sweep them all up and present them.

Scott’s to the rescue!

More on the Guyana Northern Lapwing surcharges

In truth, this wee update really ought to be entitled, “Gilly to the Rescue,” because she actually found this material and is the fortunate owner of the Scott catalogue that has helped clarify a little further the mysterious Guyana Lapwing surcharges. But perhaps that would have sounded like the title of one of those gymslip tales by Angela Brazil and terribly fifties; not at all right, so Scott’s it has to be.

And there is no denying that Gilly has worked wonders in unearthing more information here, proving yet again what I always thought, that the philately of the America’s is better handled by Scott’s than Stanley Gibbons as additional commentary to the first Lapwing blog confirmed. Scott’s scores even for a philatelic, “Wallpaper” country like Guyana. So what can we now add to the original piece? Firstly, all the Guyanese 1995 Birds of the World singles can be given Scott numbers in addition to SG ones.