Collecting postal history is a popular branch of stamp collecting. Usually it refers to the envelope with the stamp still attached, (this is usually termed a cover or an item of postal history). The focus is less on the stamp and more on the history surrounding the item. Areas of interest include; postal rates, town and village cancellations, postal markings, postal surveillance or censorship etc.
Trinidad was on the outer periphery of the Spanish Empire and as such was only rarely visited by official ships. This meant that there was no regular service on which to base a postal service. Hence postal history of Trinidad really starts with British rule. The first post office was established in Port of Spain in 1800 and the earliest letter found with Trinidad markings dates from 1806.
The first stamp issued in Trinidad was the famous Lady McLeod in April 1847. Besides being an attractive stamp it is famous for being the first stamp issued by a British Colony. It was however not issued by the government but was a private issue. It was the brain child of David Bryce who operated a steamer (the Lady McLeod) between Port of Spain and San Fernando. He would carry mail at a rate of 5c per letter but was plagued by the problem of running out of change when customers would pay with large coins. Hence he decided to introduce stamps which could be bought individually 5c or at $4 per 100. The stamps were cancelled by pen in the form of cross.
Inland mail services was implemented by the governor Lord Harris and commenced on 14th of August 1851. Imperforated stamps (these had to be cut) printed by Perkins and Bacon in England were introduced at this time. These had no values written on them but were sold for 1 penny each (see picture above). When shortages of these stamps occurred provisional issues printed in the colony were introduced. In 1859 4d, 6d and 1/- stamps were introduced for payment of overseas letters. Later stamps with pin hole perforations were introduced followed by regular perforated ones when the technology to produce them was perfected. (In the early perforating machines problems occurred which led to poor perforations or what is known as Rough Perf. Stamps (circa 1861)).
At times shortages of certain values of stamps occurred and other stamps were either bisected or surcharged with new values. Stamps from Trinidad were issued up to 1909 after which stamps from Trinidad and Tobago were introduced.
In 1841 the British GPO established a branch office in Scarborough. The first stamps used in Tobago were British stamps (1858 to 1860). The first Tobago stamps introduced for postal use in 1879, (see picture), were in fact fiscal stamps (used on deeds and official documents). Later in 1880 separate stamps inscribed with “POSTAGE” were introduced.
As with Trinidad when shortages of certain values occurred stamps were overprinted with new values to meet the shortfall. In 1889 Tobago was united with Trinidad to become the Colony of Trinidad &Tobago but despite this stamps continued to be issued up to 1896. After this stamps of Trinidad were used followed by stamps of Trinidad and Tobago in 1913.
Trinidad & Tobago
The first joint stamps were issued in 1913 (see picture on left). During World War I sheets of the 1/2d and 1d values were overprinted and sold to raise money for the Red Cross (1d only) and the War effort respectively, creating the well known Red Cross and War Tax overprints. There are a host of errors, shades and varities and hence this popular area to collect.
Later in 1935 the currency denominated on stamps was changed from Pounds/ Shillings/ Pence to the Dollars/ Cents still used today. Up until independence Trinidad and Tobago participated in most of the so-called “Omnibus Issues” such as the Silver Jubilee of King George V and the Coronation of King George VI. It also issued attractive definitive series of engraved stamps featuring local scenes.
Since independence Trinidad & Tobago has followed a sensible issue policy unlike some of its Caribbean neighbours who try to balance their budgets by issuing issuing stamps aimed at collectors. Also, Trinidad and Tobago has not followed the trend of issuing stamps aimed at the topical market, i.e. Disney et. al.. Most of the topics illustrate local arts, culture and public figures, and they are aesthetically pleasing. These facts make collecting Trinidad & Tobago stamps interesting and relatively inexpensive.