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The Mauritius "Post Office" of 1847

Mauritius 1 Penny
"Post Office"
You have probably heard the expression, ‘Haste makes waste.’ In most cases, there is a great deal of truth in this proverb, but there is an instance where ‘haste created a fortune’ in philatelic material.

In 1847, postage stamps had been in use for only a very short period of time. The concept was so new that it had not even been introduced to the postal authorities of the island of Mauritius. Mauritius, a British-owned island located in the Indian Ocean, was governed by a person recently appointed to office. As postage stamps were recently invented for postal use, the new governor's wife wished to use them on her invitations to the inaugural ball.

Commissioning a local jeweler, engraver to engrave the island's first plates, the jeweler was placed under great pressure to produce the plates for immediate usage. Working late into the night without experience and being rushed by the governor' wife, the engraver made a serious mistake not noted until the proofing of the first few sheets. The jeweler erroneously engraved the words ‘Post Office’ instead of the words ‘Post Paid’ upon the stamp.

When the error was discovered, the governor's wife would not be delayed even one day. She took enough of the stamps to mail her invitations, and the rest of the errors were destroyed. How many were used cannot really be estimated, because no one really knows exactly how many invitations were sent out. There were two values issued in this first printing of the error - a 1 penny orange, and a 2 pence blue. There are approximately thirty stamps known to be in existence. All have been accidentally discovered. Both mint and used copies have made it into the stamp world. In 1929, the catalogue value of the Scott #1, Imperforate 1 penny orange, was $20,000 for a unused issue; and the Scott #2, Imperforate 2 pence blue, was $17,000 for unused. The #1 was $12,500 for a used copy, and the #2 was $15,000.

In the 2001 Scott catalogue, the stamps have grown so greatly in value that one is tempted to search every nook and cranny to find one. The Scott #1 unused is now $1,100,000 and the Scott #2 unused are all in museums. The used copies of both stamps are valued at $500,000! This is a considerable amount for a hasty mistake made over one hundred fifty four years ago.

Stamps for the Investor by T.N. Trikilis
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When a young French boy went through correspondence files in 1902, he could not realize that he was going to happen upon one of philately’s greatest rarities. He was searching through a batch of dusty letters when he saw a cover franked with 1 penny and 2 pence stamps from the volcanic island of Mauritius. As he examined the cover, he recalled reading about the unusual stamps in a magazine. The two values were the first stamps issued in the British colonies. The one penny was printed in orange, while the two pence was in dark blue.

They were engraved and printed by Joseph Barnard a local engraver and printer, in Mauritius. He unknowingly printed ‘Post Office’ on the stamps instead of the correct ‘Post Paid’ inscription. The stamps, portraying the British monarch, Queen Victoria, were issued in time for use by Lady Gomm on invitations to a ball held in September 1847. Lady Gomm was the wife of Mauritius Lieutenant Governor W. Maynard Gomm.

Only 500 of each value were issued, and the young French boy was holding a cover franked with two of the stamps – singles of each value. The cover was addressed to ‘Messieurs Ducan & Lurguie’ in Bordeaux and Paris in October 1847.

The boy knowing that his find was worth a lot of money, took his discovery to a stamp dealer in Paris, a Mr. Lemaire. The Dealer realizing the value of this cover, purchased it from the boy for about 40,000 francs. The cover was later acquired by French collector Brunet de l’Argentiere.

In 1922 Arthur Hind purchased this rarity. It was sold to Maurice Burrus during the H.R. Harmer auction of the Hind collection in London in 1934. Raymond H. Weill Company purchased the cover for $78,400 during the 1963 Robson Lowe auction in London. It changed hands once again when it was purchased by Hiroyuki Kanai in 1970 to add to his remarkable Mauritius collection.

Charles Howard, a collector, was wandering through an Indian marketplace in 1897 when he discovered another cover, this one bearing two copies of the 1 penny Post Office Mauritius. The cover had been sent from Mauritius to Bombay in 1850.

It was purchased by George H. Worthington in 1906 and sold to Alfred F. Lichtenstein in 1917. Lichtenstein’s daughter, Louise Boyd Dale, obtained this rarity at the time of her father’s death. A price of $380,000 was paid for the cover by the Raymond H. Weill Company during the H.R. Harmer auction on October 21, 1968.

An unused 2 pence was purchased by the prince of Wales (who later became King George V) in 1904; it is now in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace. Another unused 2 pence was sold at a Hamburg auction in 1972 for approximately $60,000. The total number of copies of both stamps believed to exist is estimated at 30.

Linn's Philatelic Gems by Donna O'Keefe Houseman, 1984
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Mauritius 2 Pence
"Post Office"

The island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, with its quarter of a million of Hindu population, was the first of all the British colonies to adopt the adhesive postage-stamp, which appeared under emergency conditions and somewhat uniquely in 1847, the year in which the United States likewise adopted them.
The Pageant of Civilization, by F.B. Warren
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The Mauritius one penny and two pence ‘Post Office’ errors were engraved and printed in Port Louis. There is but one type of each value. The Initials ‘J.B’ on the bust are those of the engraver, J. Barnard. All unused copies of the 2p are in museums. There is one unused copy of the 1p in private hands. Scott’s 2001 lists the one penny orange ‘Post Office’ unused at $1,100,000. and used at $500,000. the two pence unused ‘Post Office’ dark blue are all in museums, the used listed at $500,000.

Scott's 2001 catalogue, volume 4, page 560
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