Costa Rica’s first airmail stamp arrived before regular airmail service

Costa Rica’s first airmail stamp was issued June 3, 1926, preceding regular air service in that country by nearly four years.

By Thomas P. Myers

Costa Rica’s first airmail stamp was issued in happy anticipation of a service that did not come to pass — at least not right away.

The stamp was engraved and printed by Waterlow & Sons of London in panes of 100, perforated gauge 12½.

The stamp was issued June 3, 1926, and continued in use until 1931. As 500,000 stamps were printed, there are plenty available, both mint and used.

Airmail service for Costa Rica was not entirely a fantasy in 1926.

There had been an unsuccessful trial flight from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Nicaragua as early as April 1921. In December 1923, there was a trial flight from Canal Zone to San Jose.

Emergency flights were made by United States military aviators in January 1924 after the railway from San Jose to Port Limon, Costa Rica, had been destroyed by floods. An airmail circular date-stamp was used for this service.

Activity picked up in 1925, beginning in early January when Official mail was carried on flights between San Jose and the Canal Zone.

In August, the Colombian airline SCADTA made survey flights throughout Central America. And in December, the U.S. Army Air Service made trial flights between the Canal Zone and San Jose.

All of this took place before the first Costa Rican airmail stamp was issued. Not until March 11, 1930, however, was there regular air service, via Pan American Airways.

There is a variety of pre-production material for Costa Rica’s first airmail stamp, including essays, die proofs and progressive proofs. Not surprisingly, with the stamp being printed by Waterlow & Sons, there are also specimens with the Waterlow & Sons specimen imprint appearing diagonally across several color varieties.

Costa Rica is a great country to collect. The specialized Costa Rica Postal Catalogue edited by Hector Mena is among the best for any Latin American country. There is also an excellent little volume on airmail postal history.

Most of the other specialized literature, along with the Mena catalog, is available on disk from Socorico, the Society of Costa Rica Collectors, at www.socorico.org.

Published 5/14/2014 7:00 AM