British Honduras



British Honduras is present-day Belize located in the North East of Central America bordered by Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the South and West and the Caribbean Sea to the East covering around 8700 square miles. The area was first colonized by Spain in the seventeenth century but became a British Crown Colony in 1862, subordinate to Jamaica. It became an independent British colony in 1884. The colony was renamed as Belize in 1973 and became the last continental possession of the United Kingdom to become independent in 1981.  From 1964 to 1981, the colony was self-governing.

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of British Honduras were QV key types issued in 1866. Prior to that, philatelic items of the area consist of certain prestamp philatelic markings and Great Britain stamps used in British Honduras. The first set consisted of three stamps (Scott #1 to #3) in different colors and denominations that ranged from 1p to 1sh. The set is sought after and catalogs in the $800 range for Mint and less than half that for used. Certain combinations in vertical and horizontal gutter pairs are known to exist and they catalog upwards of $30,000 - the distinct combinations exist as the 6p and 1sh denominations were printed only in a sheet with 1p early on. Surcharge varieties of the first set were the primary stamps used in British Honduras till around 1891. Several rare surcharge markings from this period exist and they fetch a premium well into the 1000s. Another QV key type set debut in 1891 (Scott #38 to #46) and that along with some charge varieties and key types ofKEVII and KGV formed the bulk of British Honduran stamp issues during the period through 1937. The only other issues from the area were common design types. Many of the issues from the period are sought after and very collectible.

The first original issue of British Honduras was a long set of twelve stamps (Scott #115 to #126) issued in 1938. The set is valuable and catalogs for around $80 MNH and around $45 Used. The designs show a KGVI head portrait as an inset along with a scene of local relevance: Mayan Figures, Chicle Tapping, Cohune Palm, Local Products, Grapefruit Industry, Mahogany Logs on River, Sergeant’s Cay, Dory, Chicle Industry, Belize Court House, Mahogany Cutting, and Seal of Colony.

Several Common Design Types were the mainstay of British Honduras stamp issues during the period till 1953. The only release outside this theme was a set of six stamps (Scott #131 to #136) issued on January 10, 1949 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Cay. The designs show St. George’s Cay and H.M.S. Merlin. The set is common and can be had for a few dollars. It is however very collectible. A local scenes set of twelve stamps (Scott #144 to #155) appeared in 1953 and that set continued to be sold till 1957. The designs show a QEII head portrait as inset along with local scenes: Arms, Tapir, Legislative Council Chamber and mace, Pine industry, Spiny lobster, Stanley Field Airport, Mayan Frieze, Blue Butterfly, Maya, Armadillo, Hawkesworth Bridge, and Pine Ridge Orchid.

Common Design Types continued to dominate the scene until 1962 when British Honduras started issuing stamps in brilliant colors to promote visual appeal. First was a stunningly beautiful set of twelve stamps featuring Birds issued in April 1962 in the theme “Birds in Natural Colors”. The set is very sought after and catalogs for around $75 MNH and around one-third that for Used. The designs show QEII head portrait as a top-right inset along with the main bird design: Great Curassow, Red-legged honeycreeper, American Jacana, Great Kiskadee, Scarlet-rumped tanager, Scarlet Macaw, Massena Trogon, Redfooted Booby, Keel-billed Toucan, Magnificent Frigate Bird, Rufoustailed Jacamar, Montezuma Oropendola. Another very collectible set is the Fish type, a set of twelve stamps released on October 15, 1968. It uses a very similar design with the British Crown instead of QEII as inset: Jewfish, White-lipped Peccary, Sea Bass (Grouper), Collared Anteater, Bonefish, Paca, Dolphinfish, Kinkajou, Yellow-and-green-banded muttonfish, Tayra, Great Barracudas, and Mountain Lion.


Numismatic Profile:

Several countermarked coins were in use in the area starting around the late 18th century. The ‘GR’ monogram was used in several coins in the early 19th century and crown over ‘GR’ was in use as well. The first such issue was a six shilling 1 penny silver coin dated between 1810 and 1818 with host dates between 1808 and 1811 (Mexico City 8 Reales). The issue is very valuable and fetch upwards of $800 in VF - better varieties are not known to exist.  Several other varieties exist and they generally fetch around the same price.

Decimal Coinage debut in 1885 with the issue of QV headcents in Bronze. They have mintage mintage in the 100,000 range. UNC varieties go for upwards of $75 and Proofs can be had for upwards of $250. Denominations from 1c to 50c exist and the higher denominations are in silver.  Premiums go up to around $1,500 for a 50 cent QV silver proof dated 1894. Token coinage consists of Brass Indian Head Rialsof 1871 and Copper numerals Pence by Henry Gansz of 1885. Mintages are unknown and UNC varieties go for upwards of $500.

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