Beware the Watermark!

A not quite April fool’s joke from British Honduras

The 1962 definitives of British Honduras are an attractive set that most collectors of bird stamps will acquire at some point in time. Comprising twelve values from the 1cent Great Curassow to the wonderfully named $5 Montezuma Oropendola, they are an attractive full colour assemblage of exotic species.

1962 British Honduras Definitives – $5 Montezuma Oropendola (SG212)

They also tend to be relatively easy to find and a full set can be modestly priced. Chasing used examples can sometime be a wee bit more challenging, but otherwise it is grab the twelve, place in your album, job done, tick. Over time, I must have come across many if not all of the values in packets or approval books or at fairs and smugly thought, nah, already have them. And some duplicates. And some duplicates of duplicates. So now move on.

But then recently, I realised – actually, was already vaguely aware – that there was rather more to them. I knew for example from the Scharning listing that there were “some” with a different watermark, but to be honest did not give them much further thought. Silly me. And then I acquired from a friend in a small batch an example of the 5c Scarlet-rumped Tanager. And he made it clear that it was the “upright watermark” version (SG206), not the other ones. Oh?

British Watermark – Multiple St. Edward’s crown
And block CA (Stanley Gibbons Type w12)

I checked by just holding the stamp to a light source and sure enough found that it had the multiple St Edwards crown block CA (Stanley Gibbons type w12), and sure enough it was upright. But I then checked the rest of my collection and found that whilst they all looked the same, some had upright watermarks but others were at right angles, placed sideways on to the stamp. Ugh!

I now realised that I had perhaps the whole of one set but part of another. In 1967 some of the set – just seven values this time – were re-issued with exactly the same designs and ostensibly identical to the originals, but with the watermark placed sideways. The 1962 twelve are catalogued SG202-213. The 1967 set omits the 3c, 25c and all the dollar values and are numbered SG239-245. Oh, and the later set is considerably cheaper and I now belatedly realise why it had been so easy to acquire the ones I had.

To spice things a little further, some of the first issues can be found with the watermark completely inverted (1c, 5c, 10c, 15c, 25c and $2), but these ones can be somewhat on the pricey side. And a handful of values have major errors, but they are in the loan from your bank price range, so I will say no more about them.

The earlier set of twelve was issued on 2nd April 1962, so not quite an April fool’s joke. The only foolish one here was probably myself.

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