Ceylon's four-penny is worth millions
The first stamps in Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then known, were issued in 1857, 17 years after Great Britain released the first stamp. As a colony in the British Empire, the monarch of Ceylon at the time was Queen Victoria. Following the practice in Britain, stamps issued in Ceylon too bore the Queen's picture.

The first adhesive stamp was issued on April 1, 1857. Its value was 6 pence which was the letter rate to England. It was printed by Perkins Bacon & Co Ltd on blue paper with a star watermark and without any perforations. Between July 1857 and April 1859, 11 stamps in the denominations between ½ d - 2 shillings were released and all carried the portrait of Queen Victoria.

Out of our stamps, this set is the most expensive and the most difficult to obtain today. What is described as the Four Penny Dull-Rose is the rarest and most expensive of all Ceylon stamps. Twenty years ago, an unused stamp fetched as high as 50,000 Pounds Sterling.

When Ceylon adopted a decimal currency (100 cents to a Rupee) in 1872, a new definitive series was issued in the range 2-96 cents in a small format and Rs. 2.50 stamp in a large format. These stamps were directly linked to the penny rate and calculated at the rate of 1d to 4 cts, and 2 shillings to a Rupee.

The year 1903 saw a new series of 11 stamps (2 cts to Rs. 2.25) being issued with the portrait of King Edward VII. His successor, King George V's portrait was used in the stamps from 1912.

A departure in the design was seen on May 1, 1935 when the first Pictorial Stamp was issued. The 2 cent stamp depicted rubber tapping with an inset of King George V. Two others - 15 cts (River Scene) and 25 cts (Temple of the Tooth) - were released the same day and by 1 January 1936, 11 pictorial stamps had been released. The others were 3 cts (Adam's Peak), 6 cts (Colombo Harbour), 9 cts (Plucking Tea), 10 cts (Hill Paddy), 20 cts (Coconut Palms), 30 cts (Ancient Irrigation Tank), 50 cts (Wild Elephants) and Re 1 (Trincomalee). These pictorial stamps were some of the most beautiful and colourful stamps of the time.

The first Commemorative Stamps of Ceylon were a set of four issued on May 6, 1935 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of King George V. These stamps in the denominations of 6, 9, 20 & 50 cents carried a picture of the Windsor Castle in Britain with an inset of the King. They were in four lovely pastel shades. These stamps were valid only till December 31, 1935 when they were replaced by the Pictorial Stamps used earlier.

Another significant feature was that they were Ceylon's first Omnibus Issue. An Omnibus Issue comprises uniform designs issued simultaneously by several countries. In this case the British colonies released the identical design. (The first-ever Omnibus Issue was in 1898 when the quarter-centenary of Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India was celebrated).

After George VI became king in 1936, three stamps (6, 9 & 20cts) were issued on May 12, 1937 to commemorate his coronation. The deep red, green and blue stamps carried the portraits of the king and queen along with the crown and sceptre.

The next commemorative issue was on December 10, 1946 when two stamps (6 & 9 cts) depicting the British Parliament building were released to mark the end of World War II. Meanwhile, the pictorial stamps were re-released with the head of King George VI.

Back to Top  Back to Mirror Magazine  

| Front Page | | News | | Editorial | | Columns | | Sports | | Plus | | Financial Times |
| Mirror Magazine | | TV Times |
| Funday Times |

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.