Silam postmark (1888-97) - The Stamps Journal

Silam postmark (1888-97)

Silam postmark
Although the Silam postmark is one of the most revered postmark among North Borneo collectors, very little is known about Silam in general apart from being a small town in the Eastern part of North Borneo. Situated west to Lahad Datu, early British settlement and administration in Silam was recorded around 1881.

The BNB company Agricultural Research Station was established around 1884 here and generated agricultural-based economies, with some tobacco estates started later on – mainly Dutch-owned. Because Silam was deemed as a bad anchorage, the British administration was subsequently transferred to Lahad Datu, resulting into its decline.

Silam Postmark
Although British settlement started around 1881, the postal service was not established until later on. The earliest recorded usage of the Silam postmark is 23 June 1888 based on a cover to England. Blue ink was used from 1888 – 1892, and replaced to red ink from 1892 – 1896. When the government transferred the postal service to Lahad Datu in 1897, the postmark was used from 27 May 1897 to 6 December 1897 (blue ink).

This particular postmark is unique among the other North Borneo postmarks due to the depiction of a lion at the centre, signifying the company’s crest. It is one of the rarest postmarks there is in British North Borneo philatelic records. I have not seen the red ink Silam postmark nor have I seen a similar blue intaglio inscribed ELOPURA (Proud’s D1) which is well hidden in the Royal collection.

Example of Covers
silam 1
1897 Silam blue seal on Sandakan Registered mail to France
A fascinating cover picture taken from Proud's postal history of North Borneo handbook. Shown is a registered cover from Lahad Datu to Château de Fabrègues, France. Franked with 18 cents, 10 cents being the standard postal rate and another 8 cents for registration charge. The stamps are cancelled using the Silam blue seal.
silam 2
1888 cover from Silam to England
Another cover picture from Proud's handbook. This 1888 cover from Silam via Sandakan was sent to the UK and franked with 12 cents stamps. Two Silam postmarks used to cancel the stamps, certainly a cover to behold!
silam 3
1897 registered cover from Silam to Barcelona
1897 envelope registered to Barcelona, bearing 1895 10c. on $1 and 1897 pictorial stamps. All three are clearly tied by blue-ink circular Silam postmark (Type K1). Also Sandakan registration h.s. (Type R3), Lyon to Marseille t.p.o. Ex-Patrick Cassels collection.
silam 4a 1897 cover from Lahad Datu bearing the Silam hand stamp to Belgium

This cover bears the rare Silam postmark dated 6 Nov 1897 addressed to Belgium from Lahad Datu. The stamp used is the 10 cents surcharge on $1 (SG 88) consistent with the UPU rate at that time (10 cents). It was auctioned by a German auction house in February 2010 and sold for €1,250. .

silam 5
1897 envelope from Silam to USA

1897 envelope to USA bearing 1895 10c. on $1 clearly tied by circular intaglio of blue Silam post office mark. Ex-Patrick Cassels collection.

silam 6
1888 cover with Silam cancel and St. Settlements stamp to England

1888 envelope to London and redirected locally, bearing 1886 2c. (2) and 8c. tied by circular "silam post office/Lion/b n borneo" intaglio h.s. in blue, upon redirection GB 1d. lilac applied and cancelled by London "s.w./19" duplex, red Sandakan transit c.d.s. on reverse; the envelope a little soiled and with surface abrasion at foot. Extremely rare. Sold for S$ 17,000 by Spink Singapore in 2011 as part of the Stolz collection II

This article about Silam postmark is an updated version of a previously written article in North Borneo Stamps blog.

5 thoughts on “Silam postmark (1888-97)

  • Pingback: North Borneo Cover with Silam Postmark sold for US$1,225!

  • May 13, 2016 at 7:18 am

    You can see my red Silam in the latest ABPS magazine online. And I wrote about Silam in the recent book edited by Dr P K Lim which has just been published in Sabah.
    Fah Onn

    • May 13, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Dr. Fah Onn,
      Apologies for my ignorance, what does ABPS stands for? I have been trying to get a copy of Dr. Lim’s book but I guess I’ll do it when I get home in KK sometime in December this year.

      • May 13, 2016 at 8:26 pm

        Just google ABPS

        • May 13, 2016 at 9:34 pm

          Yes found it! Impressive stamp and technology! Never knew one existed before. Must try it out for some of the obscure cancels.
          Thanks for the information.


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