Sandakan 11 AUG 1905 – a CTO or a fake?

Collectors may notice a particular date on a Sandakan postmark – Sandakan 11 AUG 1905 – to be particularly common on the 1904-1905 North Borneo stamp issue (4 cents surcharge). It is that common and is usually clearly struck on the stamp that some people may suspect that it might be fake.

Sandakan 11 Aug 1905

I certainly was quite suspicious some years ago when I wrote an article in my blog relating to the postmark. Part of the reason was that the Sandakan postmark (Proud’s D11) is relatively rare. Another reason was that they have a predilection to appear on the 1904-05 issue with the 4 cents surcharge, although they do appear less commonly on other stamp issues.

North Borneo 1904-05 Issues

The 4 cents surcharge on the stamps of this issue was performed locally in North Borneo. It is believed that the surcharge was added purely for profit purposes as there was no postal need or justification for them within this timeframe. There was no government notification relating to these stamps nor any record of the number overprinted. I assume that because they are quite common, the numbers of such favoured-surcharged stamps are quite high.

North Borneo 1904 issue

North Borneo Company was notorious for making huge profits out of selling postage stamps of North Borneo. The practice of selling excess material to the stamp trade, by way of encouraged varieties, seems to take place almost from the outset. Imperforate printings, imperfect sheets, frame proofs, cancelled-to-ordered (CTO) material and overproduced mint items were all regarded by the Company as commercially exploitable.

Sandakan 11 AUG 1905

Although initially suspected as being a fake, we now know that the specific date on the postmark is in fact a CTO.

The reason for this was probably to get rid of stocks of stamps from the previous issue. The Sandakan 11 AUG 1905 postmark is usually applied clearly on stamps from this issue and sold to stamp trade and collectors alike. Of course, compared to the oval of bars usually used as a standard CTO for stamps from North Borneo, this Sandakan CTO is certainly more visually appealing.

Sandakan 11 AUG 1905

The Sandakan 11 AUG 1905 cancel is also seen used on postally sent covers. The usage of such CTO is similar to many registered philatelic covers cancelled with oval of bars sent to Mr. Fred Parker of 35, Linthorpe Road, London.

The beautifully decorated cover below bears a complete set of the 1904-05 stamp issues and tied neatly with clear Sandakan 11 AUG 1905 CTOs. The address is blacken out but it is not difficult to see that the cover is sent (again) to Mr. Fred Parker of 35, Linthorpe Road, London. The date on the registration cachet also shows a date of 11 AUG 1905.

It is not known whether the cover was actually sent on the said date or not. What is known is that Mr. Parker is the de-facto official distributor and trader of many philatelic covers and stamps from North Borneo and seemed to enjoy a good business relationship with the Company.

Sandakan 11 AUG 1905

Further reading: Sandakan 11 AUG 1905 – Is it a fake?

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