By Janet Klug
Over time, the Falkland Islands, an archipelago of some 778 islands in the South Atlantic, have been claimed by many nations, beginning with France in 1764, followed soon after by the United Kingdom and Spain. Argentina and Chile also made efforts to claim the Falklands as their own.
Whaling was the initial attraction for nations and settlers, with cattle and sheep farms established later. A British naval force arrived in 1833 to formally assert the islands’ status as a British colony.
The Falklands, including South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, presently have the status of a self-governing British Overseas Territory. Other former Falkland Islands — South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands and Graham Land — became part of the British Antarctic Territory in 1962.
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With settlers came a need for mail service, post offices, and postage stamps. The first Falkland Islands stamps were issued in 1878-79, bearing an image of Queen Victoria.
Four different denominations of stamps were issued in this first set (Scott 1-4): 1 penny, 4d, 6d, and 1 shilling.
Generally speaking, higher denomination stamps are more likely to be of greater value than those of lower denominations, but this is not the case with the early Falklands issues.
Of the first four Falklands stamps, the high-denomination 1sh has the lowest value ($85 unused and $80 used in the 2017 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940). The high-value unused stamp of the group is the 4d, at $1,400; the high-value stamp in used condition is the 1d, at $500.
Over the next years, new Falklands stamps became more artistic. For example, Queen Victoria’s profile received a beautiful frame in 1898 (Scott 20-21). Victoria died in 1901, and her eldest son, Edward Albert, became King Edward VII. He, too, is portrayed on elegantly designed stamps with his profile beautifully framed (Scott 22-29, issued 1904-07).
Many of these early Falklands stamps have varieties that are worth investigating. The 3sh King Edward VII stamp can be found with an inverted watermark or a reversed watermark, as well as in a deep green color (Scott 28a) instead of its usual gray green.
In general, the early Falklands stamps are pricey and can be hard to find.
In 1933, to celebrate the centenary of the permanent occupation of the islands as a British colony, the Falkland Islands issued a stunning set of 12 bicolor pictorial stamps with engraved designs (Scott 65-76), which convey a good idea of the diversity of the islands.
The 3d stamp illustrates a map of the region (Scott 69), and the sheep and whaling industries are represented by a fine image of a Romney marsh ram on the ½d stamp (65), a whaling ship on the 1½d (67), and a breaching blue whale on the 6d (71).
A collector favorite among the stamps of the 1933 set, the 5sh stamp depicting a handsome king penguin (Scott 74), is illustrated nearby.
Thumbing through the pages of more modern Falklands stamps in your Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue reveals many beautiful images of fauna, flora, historical events, and important people.
Following the Scott Standard catalog listings of Falkland Islands issues is a section for the stamps issued between 1946-85 with the inscription “Falkland Islands Dependencies.” The dependencies were Graham Land, South Georgia, South Orkneys, and South Shetlands.
These dependencies initially (in 1944) used regular Falklands stamps overprinted with the individual island name followed by the words “Dependency of.” The example pictured is a ½d stamp from South Shetlands, which today is part of the British Antarctic Territory (Falkland Islands Scott 4L1).
A 1984 6-penny stamp with the inscription “Falkland Islands Dependencies” is also pictured, from a set showing South Sandwich Islands volcanoes (Scott 1L84).
If you are intrigued by these far-flung islands, you might enjoy seeing what new stamps are being issued for the Falklands. Since August 2014, Falklands Post Service Ltd. has been the company in charge of postal affairs for the islands, including a philatelic bureau that handles sales to collectors.
For more information about collecting Falkland Islands stamps and postal history, visit the Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group website; or contact Carl J. Faulkner, 615 Taconic Trail, Williamstown, MA 01267-2745; email.