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 (21½ mm. x 34½ 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 (21½ mm. x 34½ 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
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 ½ oz. 1d.; 1d. for every additional ½ oz.
Packets and Magazines - up to 4 oz.1d.; 1d.for every additional 4 oz. or
Parcels - up to 8 oz. 1d.; 1d. for every additional 8 oz. or fraction thereof.
Newspapers - 1d. each;
The assets and services of the company were bought by Messrs.
Burns PhiIp, who continued to run an inter-island service and a connecting
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.