St. Pierre Miquelon… for stamp collectors it offers a heritage of bootleggers, Nazi sympathizers and fascinating postage stamps.
Virtually all of the whiskey that bootleggers smuggled into America’s east coast ports from “Rumrunner’s Row” spent time in warehouses on a small group of islands located off Newfoundland. A little known outpost of the French Empire found itself, by virtue of geography, quenching America’s thirst for spirits during prohibition.
St. Pierre & Miquelon issued its first stamps in 1885 with an overprint that, because of its type face, looks more appropriate for a German stamp. These overprints continued for six years until the colony’s first stamps, the French colonial “Navigation and Commerce” issue was released.
In 1892, an interesting set of stamps was released. The “Commerce” issue of the French Colonies, issued in the 1880s, was both surcharged and overprinted. French Colonies stamps were used between 1859-1906 and once again between 1943-45 for colonies which did not have stamps of their own.
The 25 cent denomination of the “Commerce” issue is particularly noteworthy… it was reissued in 1886 with a different color, black ink on a rose colored paper. It was previously, when first issued, a yellow stamp.
I have a small stock of this St. Pierre Miquelon stamp in my store if you would like to add a copy to your collection.
The islands were onboard the French Colony omnibus bandwagon issuing the 1931 Colonial Exposition, 1937 Paris International Exposition and Colonial Arts Exhibition sets and in 1939 the New York World’s fair set. This World’s Fair set is one of the many stamps caught up in the philatelic intrigue of the Second World War.
The fall of France set the stage for the Vichy government taking control. But the proximity of the islands to shipping lanes, Canada and the United States helped kindle a Free French overthrow of the Vichy which began with a submarine landing troops on Christmas Eve, 1941.
Free French stamps were issued in small quantities. In an effort to quickly raise much needed cash the services of a raffish Montreal reporter to sell special overprints to speculators were retained. Many of these stamps were woefully under priced. Stamps worth fifty to sixty thousand dollars on the philatelic market were sold for seven thousand.
The overprint rage was in full bloom. The creations included an air post semi postal stamp with proceeds earmarked for children’s health and as best we can determine, none actually made it to the island’s post offices.
Most stamp dealers never made it to Saint Pierre Miquelon. A number of them journeyed from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they waited for permits to embark for St. Pierre so they could buy a stock of high demand treasures from the post office. But military officials didn’t want outsiders and none of the dealers made it to the islands.
The stamps chosen for the numerous overprints dated back to 1925. But this was a short-lived run. A philatelic scandal erupted. The Montreal reporter who helped engineer the project wound up in a Canadian jail. The provisionals were replaced by the schooner issue printed in London.
But many stamps were not overprinted and could be found on sale in the St. Pierre post office after the war. In 1948 some of the 1938-40 series was still on sale.
The airmail stamps placed on sale in 1942 were slightly ahead of their time… the first airmail service didn’t actually launch until 1948.
In the fifties a number of high value airmails were issued. The production of St. Pierre’s stamps for the past fifty years has by and large been of exceptional quality, prized by most stamp collectors.