Stamp Collecting, August 1959
The 1897 Local issue of the New Hebrides
by James Crompton

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In 1887 a British company was registered with the title of THE AUSTRALASIAN NEW HEBRIDES COMPANY LIMITED, for the purpose of promoting trade and commerce in the New Hebrides group. This company later ran its own steamer service linking the islands of the group, and in 1894 it was appointed official Postal Agent for the New South Wales Government and granted the amount of £50 per annum for carrying out postal duties. The company ran a service about every three weeks from Sydney to Vila, timed to connect with the inter-island service at Vila.

To prepay postage for this service, and also for the Vila-Sydney run, the company devised two local stamps, or inter-island receipts. They were designed by the well-known Australian philatelist, A. F. Basset Hull, and lithographed in sheets of 120 (12 x 10) on unwatermarked paper, with clear, shiny gum, by John Sands & Co., Sydney, rouletted 8½. The top margins of the sheets bore the inscription .. Australasian New Hebrides Company Limited. Inter-Island Postage. Price 2d. per label, 2s. per row of 12, 20s. per sheet of 120" in the case of the 2d. value. The 1d. sheets were similarly inscribed, the cash totals being halved. Serial numbers in block were printed in the upper left-hand corner of the sheets. The issue appeared on March 17th, 1897.
The stamps were employed for only a limited period as the company went into liquidation late in 1897 and, except for a few isolated instances, their usage ceased by the end of the year.

A few copies of the 2d. value were printed on toned paper. The colours of the stamps vary from pale rosy-mauve to almost red-lilac for the border of the 1d. value and pale brown to red/yellow-brown for the border of the 2d. value. The vignette colours of black for the 1d. value and blue for the 2d. value show slight shading, but not to anything like the extent of the border colours.
When laying down impressions on a lithographed stone by means of transfers, a large number of flaws are liable to be produced. Also, in the printing of lithographed stamps, there is a danger of the ink lifting during printing, which probably accounts for the following varieties :-

1d. value (21 mm. x 34 mm.) :
Flaw between name and value tablets.
Dot in right-hand value tablet.
Line in cross in the right-hand corner of the stamp.
Sky shading in the vignette.
Flaw at top of O in POSTAGE.

2d. value (21 mm. x 34 mm.) :
Sky shading in the vignette.
Broken O In PORT.
Broken O in POSTAGE.
Break in the bottom line on the edge of the design.
Flaw in white background of scroll below E of POSTAGE.
A joined in INTERISLAND.
Scratch in vignette (left side).
R joined in PORT.
Dot in the top left-handcross.

The sky shading in the vignette of both values suggests that the same vignette was used for both values.
The lines in the motifs are different in size on the two values. This, coupled with the difference in size of the two stamps, lends weight to the theory that two different stones were produced, one for each value, and that they were made separately.
The actual size of the stamps (perf. to perf.) varies, no doubt, according to the rouletting machine used, as I have seen blocks and strips where the rouletting is very much out of line.

The 1d. value shows differences from 39 mm. to 40½ mm. in length and 26 mm. to 27 mm. in height. The sizes of the 2d. value also conform to these variations.

Two cancellations were in use: firstly a circular date-stamp 26½ mm. diameter inscribed .. Port Vila Post" round the circumference at the top and "A.N.H.Co Ltd" below with NEW HEBRlDES in two lines in the centre and with the date in one line between the two words. This cancellation has only been seen in black. The second cancellation was a circular one of 26 mm. diameter inscribed "Travelling Post Office" and "A.N.H.Co Ltd" round the circumference and NEW HEBRlDES in two lines in the centre. This was used on the company's vessel engaged in the inter-island service. This cancellation is nearly always seen in black, but a few copies in violet are also known.

Postage Rates for the service were :-
Letters - up to oz. 1d.; 1d. for every additional oz.
Packets and Magazines - up to 4 oz.1d.; 1d.for every additional 4 oz. or fraction thereof.
Parcels - up to 8 oz. 1d.; 1d. for every additional 8 oz. or fraction thereof.
Newspapers - 1d. each;
Registration 2d.

The assets and services of the company were bought by Messrs. Burns PhiIp, who continued to run an inter-island service and a connecting Vila-Sydney run.
On March 1st, 1913, the company offered the remainders of issue to be sold by tender; the numbers involved were :
1d. vaIue - 140,000 copies; 2d. value - 94,000 copies.
This action resulted in mint copies of both values being still quite easily obtainable today but, as the company rigorously refused to cancel the stamps to order, used copies are much harder to find.

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