By Janet Klug
The nation now known as Malaysia can be difficult to collect because political changes have affected its stamps.
British traders first used stamps of India in areas of Malaysia called the Straits Settlements. Straits Settlements stamps were issued in April 1867 for use in Penang in the northwest, Malacca on the west central coast and Singapore at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Straits Settlements stamps continued in use until Japanese occupation in 1942. A Straits Settlements 32¢ Queen Victoria stamp (Scott 17) is shown in Figure 1.The stamp history is complex but fascinating.
Meanwhile, other states on the Malay Peninsula began to issue stamps. Johore overprinted Straits Settlements stamps beginning in 1876 and issued regular postage stamps featuring the likeness of Sultan Abubakar in 1891. A Malaya-Johore 2¢ Sultan Abubakar stamp (Scott 18) is shown in Figure 2.
Kedah, formerly a part of Siam (now Thailand), issued stamps beginning in 1912. Kelantan, also formerly part of Siam, issued its own stamps beginning in 1911.
Sungei Ujong overprinted stamps from Straits Settlements starting in 1878 and continued using overprints until 1891, when it issued regular Tiger stamps.
These stamps, and those done for Negri Sembilan and other states, are keyplate stamps. The basic design of a tiger, the duty plate, was printed first, and then the denomination and name of the issuing state was printed using a different plate, thus reducing the cost of production for smaller states that required fewer stamps. In 1898, Sungei Ujong federated with another state in the Malayan peninsula, Negri Sembilan.
Negri Sembilan’s first stamps were overprinted Straits Settlements stamps in 1891, followed soon thereafter by its own keyplate Tiger stamps inscribed "N. Sembilan."
Pahang also overprinted Straits Settlement stamps, commencing in 1889. Its keyplate Tiger stamps followed in 1891.
Perak began overprinting Straits Settlements stamps in 1878 and issued a lot of overprints until it started using the keyplate Tiger stamps in 1892. The same is true for Selangor, but this state’s use of Tiger stamps started in 1891.
Trengganu’s first stamps feature portraits of Sultan Zenalabidin and were issued in 1910. A Trengganu $5 Sultan Zenalabidin stamp (Scott 18) is shown in Figure 3.
You would think all of this was rather straightforward; however, the states of Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak and Selangor federated in 1896, and the federation issued stamps inscribed "Federated Malay States" beginning in 1900. These four states used their own stamps as well as the Federated Malay States stamps until the Japanese occupation in 1942. A Federated Malay States $1 Elephants and Howdah stamp (Malaya Scott 14) is shown in Figure 4.
Straits Settlements stamps and stamps of some other states were overprinted during the Japanese occupation of World War II. A Selangor $2 Sultan Hisam-ud-Din Alam Shah stamp with a Japanese occupation overprint (Scott N17) is shown in Figure 5.
A fair number of these stamps are difficult to find and can be pricey. The overprints were rather crudely executed and that makes them easier to forge. If you plan to acquire these stamps, have them expertized prior to finalizing the purchase.
Some stamps were printed especially for the Japanese occupation of
the Malay Peninsula. These stamps depict local scenes such as rubber tapping and rice planting. All of the inscriptions are in Japanese. A Malaya 70¢ Malay Mosque at Kuala Lumpur occupation stamp (Scott N41) is shown in Figure 6.
In October 1943, Japan handed over to Siam the four northern states of Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Trengganu. In December 1943, Siam issued a set of six War Memorial occupation stamps (Scott 2N1-6)for use in these states. The 3¢ stamp (2N3) from the set is shown in Figure 7.
Five overprinted occupation stamps for use in Kelantan (Scott 2N1-5) were also issued November 1943. None of these are easy to find.
Following Japan’s surrender, ending WWII, the newly formed British Military Administration assumed the oversight of governmental affairs for Malaya on Aug. 14, 1945.
Straits Settlement stamps overprinted "BMA Malaya" were issued in October, and remained in use until 1948, even though the administration was dissolved in April 1946.
An overprinted Straits Settlement King George VI stamp (Scott 256) is shown in Figure 8.
These BMA stamps were the last of the Straits Settlements postal issues, and for the next nine years each state issued its own stamps.
In 1957, 11 of the states formed the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, the Federation of Malaya merged with Sabah (North Borneo), Sarawak and Singapore. This new political entity was called the Federation of Malaysia. Singapore later opted out of the federation.
Stamps inscribed "Malaysia" are used throughout the federation today, but the states continue to issue stamps from time to time.