A closer look at collecting Canada: the stamps of the provinces

May 31, 2010, 2 PM

By Rick Miller

Before the Confederation of Canada was formed or joined, several provinces issued their own stamps.

The first stamps inscribed "Canada" were issued in 1851, but these were stamps of the Province of Canada, not the Confederation of Canada that we know today.All of the provinces' stamps are classic beauties. Some of them are very expensive, but many are still surprisingly affordable.

The Province of Canada was a British North American colony formed in 1841 by the union of the provinces of Upper Canada (southern Ontario) and Lower Canada (southern Quebec and Labrador). The Province of Canada ceased to exist at the establishment of the Confederation of Canada on July 1, 1867, at which time it was divided into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

A Province of Canada 3-penny Beaver stamp (Scott 1) issued in 1851 is shown in Figure 1. Although it is a provincial stamp rather than one issued for the whole country, most collectors consider this to be the first stamp of Canada.

In 1858, the Province of Canada changed its currency from pounds and pence to dollars and cents. A 10¢ Prince Albert stamp (Scott 16), from the 1859 first stamp issue denominated in cents, is shown in Figure 2.

The British North America Act of 1867 (also known as the Constitution Act of 1867) established the Dominion of Canada as a confederation of four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The first Dominion of Canada stamps were issued in 1868.

Before joining the confederation, New Brunswick issued provincial stamps beginning in 1861.

New Brunswick was settled by the French beginning in 1604. New Brunswick eventually passed to British control. The English-speaking population received a considerable boost from the 14,000 Empire Loyalists (known as Tories in America) who settled in the province after the American Revolution.

The New Brunswick 12½¢ Steam and Sailing Ship stamp (Scott 10) issued in 1860 is shown in Figure 3.

New Brunswick's most famous stamp is one that was never issued. The 5¢ Postmaster General Charles Connell stamp (Scott 5) shown in Figure 4 was printed but not issued, as New Brunswickers thought it inappropriate for the postmaster general to have his likeness on the stamp instead of the queen's. Most of the stamps were recalled and destroyed, but a few were saved, and they are uncommon and valuable today.

Nova Scotia began life as the French colony of Acadia in 1604. Britain gained control of the area in the 18th century and much of the French Acadian population was expelled, to be replaced with settlers from Scotland, hence the name Nova Scotia (Latin for New Scotland). After the American Revolution, they were joined by about 30,000 Empire Loyalists.

Nova Scotia issued its first stamps in 1851. A 1-penny Queen Victoria stamp (Scott 1) issued in 1853 is shown in Figure 5.

Capt. James Cook claimed Vancouver Island, off the Pacific Coast of Canada, for

Great Britain in 1788. It was formally established as a British colony in 1849. It was joined to the colony of British Columbia in 1866.

British Columbia had its beginnings in the early 1800s, as fur trading companies penetrated the territory. The area remained under the de facto administration of the Hudson Bay Co. until it was formally established as a colony in 1858. British Columbia joined the confederation on July 20, 1871, as Canada's sixth province.

Although they were not yet formally joined, British Columbia and Vancouver Island issued a 2½-penny Queen Victoria stamp (Scott 2) jointly in 1860. The stamp is shown in Figure 6.

Vancouver Island issued four stamps in 1865, and British Columbia issued 10 stamps between 1865 and 1869. A British Columbian 3-penny Seal of British Columbia stamp (Scott 7) is shown in Figure 7.

Prince Edward Island is the smallest of Canada's provinces and territories. It was originally part of the French colony of Acadia, but Great Britain acquired it in 1763. In 1798, the island was renamed after the son of King George III, Prince Edward, who would later be the father of Queen Victoria. The province joined the confederation on July 1, 1873.

Between 1861 and 1872, the province issued 16 stamps. A dual currency 3-penny/4½¢ Queen Victoria stamp (Scott 10) is shown in Figure 8.

The Canadian province with the longest history as a stamp issuing entity is Newfoundland.

Newfoundland was a self-governing colony from 1855 to 1907, when it became a dominion. It became Canada's 10th province on March 31, 1949. It issued its first stamps in 1857 and continued to issue stamps until it joined the confederation. It was also the only province to issue airmail and postage due stamps.

A Newfoundland 1931 15¢ Dog Sled and Airplane airmail stamp (Scott C6) is shown in Figure 9.