World Stamps

Costa Rica’s 1905 1-centimo overprint poses some collecting challenges

Jul 21, 2015, 7 AM

By Thomas P. Myers

By the end of 1905, Costa Rican postal authorities found that they were running short of 1-centimo stamps, even though 200,000 of the current 1c stamp (Scott 45) already had been printed by Waterlow & Sons. The 1c stamp pictures Costa Rican national hero Juan Santamaria.

Why the shortage? No reason is readily apparent. But, in any case, Resolution No. 44 of Aug. 9, 1905, authorized the overprinting of 125,000 of the current 20c stamps (Scott 49, picturing the National Theater), to be printed in black by Imprenta Nacional, for use as 1c stamps.

A proof of the “UN CENTIMO” overprint is pictured here.

The resulting overprinted 1c-on-20c stamps were issued Aug. 19, 1905.

There were four printings of the overprinted issues: 125,000 in August 1905; 30,000 in September 1905; 6,000 in October 1905; and 100,000 in January 1906.

The normal overprint is horizontal; two major varieties exist: overprint inverted (Scott 58a), and overprint diagonal (58b), from the fourth printing only.

Additional quantities of the original Waterlow 1c stamp (Scott 45) appeared in 1906: 500,000 on June 15 and 1 million on Oct. 31. Thus, with sufficient supplies of the regular 1c stamp on hand or expected, the overprinted stamp was demonetized on Oct. 15, 1907.

There are a number of errors associated with the overprints, including double surcharges and a missing surcharge on one stamp of a pair, of which the other stamp is surcharged.

Recently, an unlisted vertical pair with a partial impression of the overprint sold on the eBay commerce website.

Intended for the domestic printed-matter rate, the stamps are not difficult to find in used condition. Finding them on cover is a different matter; even though there were 261,000 printed, they are quite difficult to find on cover, particularly with the solo use for which they were intended.

Details on printing and demonetization would have been extremely difficult to find were it not for the specialized Costa Rica Postal Catalogue edited by Hector Mena. It is among the best catalogs for any Latin American country.

Costa Rica is a great country to collect. You can get started for free by downloading and printing album pages with spaces for every stamp issued by Costa Rica from the website of the Society for Costa Rica Collectors.

Specialized literature, including the Mena catalog, can be obtained on disk from Socorico through the same website.