The Questionable 1910 Surcharges of Nyassa

By : Claude Emerson
First published : Portu-Info (International Society for Portuguese Philately) Volume 23, No. 90, October 1988

I had a tendency to ignore two of Nyassa‘s stamps but I finally had to tackle them.

In 1910 two provisionals appeared. A check of the Lisboa files failed to show any authorization for these two surcharges: 5 reis PROVISORIO on the 2½ reis black and red-brown; and 50 reis PROVISORIO on the 100 reis black and blstre (Scott Nos. 49-50).

Some have assumed it was done by mail, without any record. Waterlow notified the Nyassa Company officials that the 2½ on 5 reis was ready for delivery but Nyassa said they never ordered it.

After some deliberation, the Nyassa officials said they would accept them but wanted the 100 reis surcharged 50 reis PROVISORIO, also. Waterlow did so, and the stamps were delivered and accepted. There was no comment from Lisboa. It was forbidden in their charter for the Nyassa Company to change the value of any stamp without permission. There was enough turmoil in Portugal without battling the Nyassa Company. Whether the surcharging was done to provide two postally needed values, or as a way to cut down surplus stock, isn‘t clear. It could have accomplished both.

With this in mind, it would be assumed that a fair amount of each value was surcharged. This wasn‘t the case. Both of these provisionals were reprinted around 1923-25. In checking several hundred of each of these stamps, I was surprised to find that the ratio of original to reprint is about 1 to 25. Therefore, I estimate erhaps ten sheets of each were surcharged (originals).

The first thing to do is separate the original issue from the reprints. On the originals of both, the distance between the two lines of the surcharge is 1.5 mm. On the reprints, the distance between the two lines is 2 mm for the 5/2½ reis and 1.25 mm for the 50/100 reis.(1) The distance on the first stamp is fairly obvious, but not so on the second However, it is easy to separate the two by color. On the originals, the center is bistre, whereas the reprint is orange~brown.

The error that shows the 50 reis missing from the surcharge on the 100 reis (Scott No. 50a) is interesting. Some collectors have decided that this was caused by the bending over of the top selvage so the 50 reis was printed on the back of the selvage which did not cover the PROVISORIO. However, this is an erroneous conclusion. I have an upper right corner copy with selvage on top and right sides. The perforations show no folding over. Either the 50 reis was omitted on one stamp, or it fell out of the surcharge setting.

Therefore, if ten sheets were surcharged (500 stamps) there could only be ten or less of this error, depending on how it occurred.

Both originals and reprints exist with perforations 14 and 14½. Both printings exist used.

(1) Editor's note - according to the Simoes Ferreira catalog, the reimpressoes de 1921 measure 2.0 and 1.2mm, the originals 1.4 and 1.6mm respectively.

The 2½r overprint and surcharge
The 2½r overprint
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The 100r overprint and surcharge

The 100r overprint
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