Malaysia Stamp & Philately Reference Guide


British North Borneo

+ Issue Date     : 1889
+ Classification : Revenue & Tax
+ Emission       : Definitive / General Issue
+ Designer       : Thomas Macdonald
+ Printer        : Blades, East & Blades Ltd, Sandakan
+ Printing       : Lithography
+ Watermark      : Unwatermarked
+ Perforations   : 13¾
+ Separations    : Normal Perforations
+ Gum Type       : Gum
+ Shape          : Rectangular
+ Orientation    : Vertical
General North Borneo Taxes System

The main taxes in North Borneo are poll-tax, criminal and civil fines, land rents and other licences. The poll-tax simply means that every adult native male has to pay one dollar ($1) to the company unless he already pays $3 in other taxes. In an 1884 report of S.E Dalrymple, assistant resident to Keppel province, $900 poll tax have been collected in Putatan district alone.

The General Post Office (GPO) is situated in Jesselton. The postmaster-general is also Superintendant of Telegraphs. The Treasury department is vital. North Borneo has its own State Bank and its own notes and coinage, having adopted the Straits Settlements Currency of the dollar fixed at two shillings and four pence. The finance commissioner is responsible for the stamp issue, which in the past brought to the company significant revenue.

Another important post with regards to revenue collection is the distric offcer (D.O.). A DO is not only responsible for the administration and well-being of his district, but also responsible to maintain the law and order. He is also in charge for the public health, and as a police officer, he is accountable to hunt rebels of the company. As a collector of revenue he collects any fine that may be paid, while as a postmaster, he may sign the invoice of the mail which contains his reports upon the incidence. Additionally he is also the collector of Land Revenue, and holds the power to resolve disputes as to boundaries and ownership. Usually a D.O. has one Chinese and one native clerk, the Chinese responsible for the court work while the native for revenue collections.

$25 Revenue Stamp

When the $5 and $10 ‘Postage and Revenue’ stamps were issued in 1889, the British North Borneo (BNB) Company decided to also introduce a $25 denomination stamp solely for revenue purposes. It was not used for any postage purposes and bore the word “Revenue” only. Although there were many colour trials with various colours, eventually the steel blue shade was selected and printed. There are two version of the stamp with regards to perforation, one with 13¾ perforations, and the other is imperforated. Similar to the $5 and $10, or in fact most of the earlier North Borneo stamps, the design incorporates the Company’s coat of arms. In 1894, similar revenue stamp was introduced replacing the word “British” with the words “the state of”. These stamps are also either perforated 13 ¾ or imperforated.

The stamps were lithographed by Blades East & Blades on white paper in sheets of 20, arranged in 4 horizontal rows x 5. Each stamp measures about 3.4 cm x 4.15 cm.

These are the only North Borneo stamps issued solely for revenue purposes. Apart from that, they are they highest stamp denomination of all North Borneo stamps.

Colour Trials

Many colour trials stamps were produced before the steel blue colour was selected. These include orange-brown, pink, yellow etc. These stamps are typically perforated in the middle.


Marcel, North Borneo Stamps