Brunei's First Letter

This is what the first letter posted from Brunei using Brunei's stamps looked like. This was posted in July 1895 to London. In those days, Brunei was not a member of the Universal Postal Union, so the letter could only be posted to Labuan. Labuan was part of the British Straits Settlement and could post letters anywhere in the world. So if you look at the stamps, there is one Labuan stamp on the envelope. That allowed for the letter to go to London.

This envelope is known as the 'Pead' envelope because it was addressed to Mr. Pead. There were many such envelopes as the person who was given the concession to run Brunei Postal Service by Sultan Hashim, was more interested in getting revenues from sales of stamps outside Brunei. Charles Robertson, obtained the concession by promising to Sultan Hashim that he will provide the postal services for free as long as he can collect all the revenues from sale of stamps outside Brunei. In those days stamps were big businesses. He wanted to cash in on the popularity of obscure stamps and Brunei in 1890s were certainly obscure and if you have been keeping up with Brunei history, on the verge of being swallowed by the expansionist Rajah Brooke.

So a number of these envelopes were sent to London where they were to be sold to collectors. It was because of this, that this first Brunei stamps were designated as bogus by some stamp experts and up to now some catalogues such as Scott's does not show the first Brunei stamps. It was Robson Lowe's Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps - The Empire of Asia 1775-1950 that the stamps were acknowledged as official. It was in 1935 when the agreement signed between Sultan Hashim and Charles Robertson was seen dated 20th August 1894.

Whatever it is, these envelopes and these stamps are now very expensive. This particular envelope which closed on ebay two days ago sold for US$330.00 (about B$500).


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