Alternative Burma

Burma, in the real, and boring, world used the stamps of India until the reign of George VI.  But, in an idle moment in 2005 Gerald King came across an India KGV “specimen” essay and was “struck by the fact that it would have suited Burma very well”.   The result was a full philatelic history for Burma from 1886 to the coronation of George VI in 1937.  The designs use elements of actual essays and also utilise the designs of actual stamps (for example the George V Silver Jubilee set of 1935).

The stamps are gummed by gum arabic which is applied by brush and left to harden before the sheets are perforated.  The perforations are approximately 11 to 11.5.

The stamps are without watermark.  Unlike, for example, the Elizatoria issue, the backs are unmarked.  There was some talk of producing an underprint to indicate the status of the stamps but this seems to have never happened although all the proofs are signed, either on the front or back by Gerry (although you have to be careful as Gerry claims to sometimes forge his own signature).  All the stamps were produced in low numbers and, at most, 20 sets exist.

The alternative catalogue of Burma comprises.

1886.  Queen Victoria definitives.  8 values, 1/4 to 8 annas, small format and 4 values, 1r to 5r, large format.  Shades exist of at least the 1/4a, 2a, 4a and 6a.  All exist as proofs as shown below.


The 1886 large format stamps also exist as proofs printed in black.  How many exist is not known.  There is also, from 1897, a postcard commemorating Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

QV Black

1898.  Irrawaddy Flotilla Company.  Conveyance labels.  6 values, 1a to 1r


1903.  King Edward VII definitives.  8 values, 1/4a to 8a, small format.  5 values, 1r to 10r, large format.  2 different shades of the 1/2a and 8a are known to exist.  The 1/4 is also shown here as a vertical pair imperforate between.  The second scan shows two oversized essays of the 3a in black with different shades of grey-green around the oval of the frame.

KGV defins KEVII O:S Essay

1908 and 1920 Postage Dues.  6 values, 1a to 8a.  The designs are the same for both issues but the 1908 issue is on thick laid cream paper and the 1920 issue is on thin white wove paper.  Ony the later set has been seen as a se tenant proof set.


1912  King George V definitives.  10 values, 1/4a to 12a, small format.  6 values, 1r to 25r, large format.  4 different colour variations of the 4a are known to exist.


1927.  King George V airmail.  6 values, 2a to 12a.  The design is a mirror image of the India 1929 issue.

KGV airs

1930.  King George V pictorials.  14 values, 1/2 to 25r.

1/2a  Ox-cart                               1a   Rangoon Regatta                          2a   Walkway, Inle Lake

3a      Elephants                          4a   Buddha images, Sagaing            6a    Burmese princess

8a      Irrawaddy cargo boat    12a   Hornbill                                         1r     Whirlpool, Zawgyi

5r       Tiger                                  10r   Mingalar Temple                       15r     Thayetmyo river scene

25r     Bridge on the River Kwai

We are invited to spot a “deliberate mistake” amongst these subjects.

KGV picts

KGV picts proofs

1935.   King George V Silver Jubilee. 4 values, 1a to 1r.  The Empire omnibus key-type inscribed “Burma”.  See earlier scan.

1936.  King Edward VIII definitives.  Prepared for use but not issued.  8 values, 1/2a to 8a, small format.  6 values, 1r to 25r, large format.  These are only known as imperforate essays and the design is taken from a Nasik KEVIII essay for India.


1937.  King George VI Coronation. 3 values, 1a to 3 1/2a.  The Empire omnibus key type inscribed “Burma”

KGVI Coronation

Two items of postal history are known.  The first is a letter to Colonel Pickering in Rangoon from Mandalay.  Colonel Pickering is the linguist friend of Henry Higgins who sprang to fame in Pygmalion.  The reverse is stamped in Burmese with the words “On the road to Mandalay, where the flying fishes play etc, etc”

 Pickering Obverse Pickering Reverse

The second cover is a first flight from Rangoon to Singapore addressed to Somerset Maugham

Mauugham obverse

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