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British Guiana

British Guiana was the name of the British colony on the northern coast of South America, now the independent nation of Guyana.

The area was originally settled by the Dutch as the colonies of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, then captured by the British in 1796 and officially ceded in 1814, and consolidated into a single colony in 1831. It became independent May 26, 1966. (For further details see History of Guyana.)

Stamps and postal history of British Guiana

Privately-run packet services for mail existed in 1796, and continued for a number of years. Postage stamps of Great Britain were used at Georgetown (Demerara) and Berbice. The London government established an inland postal system on July 1, 1850, but postage stamps had not yet been produced, so the postmaster in Georgetown went to the local newspaper Royal Gazette and had them print imperforate stamps in the form of an outline circle, with "BRITISH GUIANA" inside the rim, and a denomination, from 2c to 12c, in the middle. The printing was in black, on different colors of paper depending on denomination. These became known as the "Cottonreels", because of the type of printing press used, and are quite rare.

The first issue from London finally came in 1852, a very simple typeset design depicting a sailing ship and the colony's motto (misspelled) DAMUS PATIMUS QUE VICISSIM ("we give and expect in return"), also quite rare. Better stamps from London showed up in 1853, engraved and correctly inscribed using PETIMUS instead.

The numbers were apparently insufficient, and in 1856 the postmaster had new 1c and 4c issues printed locally, crudely typeset and imitating the design of the London stamps, motto and all. These are among the rarest of all stamps, and the British Guiana 1c magenta is the rarest, with only one copy known to exist.

Another shipment of stamps showed up in 1860, but difficulties were not over yet, with locally printed stamps being necessary in 1862 and 1882. After that stamps were reliably available.

In 1898 a pictoral commemorative was issued for Queen Victoria's Jubilee, depicting Mount Roraima and Kaieteur Falls, and another in 1931 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the colony's formation. Additional regular pictorial series, depicting local scenes and industries, came out in 1934, 1938, and 1954, as well as the usual omnibus issues of the Commonwealth. A set of three in 1961 commemorated self-government, and there was a set in 1964 for the Olympics in Tokyo. Later stamps were produced by Guyana.