Philatelically speaking, the British Virgin Islands are well known for a major error of the Victorian era nicknamed “The Missing Virgin” (Scott 8c). This article, however, reviews the less glamorous and less publicized design inconsistencies made on stamps featuring maps.
In 1952, the British Virgin Islands issued the last definitive series of King George VI after his death. Five denominations in this series feature maps of the islands. The $4.80 high denomination (Scott 113) includes a map with the name of one of the larger islands misspelled “Virgin Corda” instead of “Virgin Gorda” (the Fat Virgin).
The 8¢ denomination (Scott 107) shows a detailed map of Virgin Gorda, with the spelling correct.
The blunder on the $4.80 stamp did not appear to bother the islanders, and no amended reissue of the top value was considered.
Nonetheless, something must have transpired, because the 1964 10¢ stamp (Scott 151) of the third Queen Elizabeth II definitive series features a map with the correct spelling of Virgin Gorda.
The design of this 10¢ stamp has another problem: There is something odd about the shape and the positioning of the island north-northwest of Tortola known as Jost Van Dyke, named after its 17th-century Dutch owner.
This is especially noticeable when compared to the maps shown on the 1951 set marking the Restoration of the Legislative Council (Scott 98-101) and the aforementioned 1952 King George VI $4.80 (113).
To make matters worse, the map adorning the New Constitution set of 1967 (Scott 179-182) makes Jost Van Dyke bigger and differently positioned and shaped from the same island on previous stamps.
On a 1993 15¢ stamp (Scott 763), the position of Jost Van Dyke is much more accurate, providing a better idea of the inconsistencies on earlier stamps.The stamp is in a set honoring the 25th anniversary of ministerial government.
Many countries have issued map stamps with errors, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guernsey, Honduras, India, Italy, Jersey, Jordan, Kiribati, Malaya, Maldives, the Netherlands Antilles, Newfoundland, Norfolk Island, Paraguay, United States, and Venezuela, to name a few.
Also, some maps shown on stamps have caused diplomatic embarrassment and problems with neighboring countries.
All of this leads to one clear conclusion: Maps on stamps are a popular theme with stamp collectors, but are not for navigational purposes.
Giorgio Migliavacca is the editor of the Specialized Stamp Catalogue of the British Virgin Islands published in 2002 by the local government.