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First stamp used in this region





February 2019

A brief progression of philately in Malaya.

The Malay Peninsular runs directly south from Thailand for over 1000 kilometres to its southern tip in the state of Johore from where it’s joined to Singapore by a causeway approx. 1 mile long.

There are 11 Malay states each with its own Sultan and then the Sultans elect their overall king or agong of Malaya.

The states are -

Johore, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan, Kedah, Malacca, Pahang, Perlis, Perak, Selangor, Trengganu and Penang (where I lived).

Each state has its own stamps and some of the early stamps just have the state name on them but generally the stamps will also say Malaya, Malaysia or whatever.

The original colony comprised Penang, Malacca and Singapore under British rule and in 1867 the first set of stamps was issued as overprints on the stamps of India. This was followed by issues for the Straits Settlements and continued through Queen Victoria, Edward VII, George V and into George VI until the end of WW II.

In 1945 a set overprinted B.M.A. Malaya was issued for the British Military Administration. There were also a few stamps issued during the war with Japanese occupation overprints but these were very scarce and the local people were naturally not very keen on using them.

In 1946 Singapore formed its own Crown colony (still under British rule) and so Penang and Malacca joined the rest of the Malay States and in 1948 the Federation of Malaya was formed and stamps under this title were issued from 1957 to 1965.

The stamps marked Federation of Malaya must not be confused with those marked Federated Malay States as in the early 1900s some of the sultanates combined and issued their own stamps under this name up to 1935.

In 1963 a big merger took place combining Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah (which was previously North Borneo) and Singapore and taking the overall title of Malaysia. The first stamps under this name were issued in September 1963 and the name remains to this day.


Singapore actually separated from Malaysia in 1965 and is now completely independent from the mainland. The first stamps of Singapore say “Malaya” on them up to the new Constitution set issued in June 1958 - these are all listed under Singapore in Scotts catalogue not under Malaya.

So now we have 3 extra areas included in Malaysian stamp sets. Together with the 11 states there is Sabah, Sarawak and Wilayah Persekutuan. This latter is a rather vague term meaning Federal Territories. The area consists of Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia (known as K.L.), Putrajaya, administrative capital and Labuan international financial centre. KL & Putrajaya are both in the State of Selangor and Labuan is an island off Sabah or North Borneo.

Now as well as individual Malaysian stamps there are several whole sets issued for these 14 areas and also quite a few for the individual states when an important event occurs such as a Coronation or Installation of a new Sultan. These are all listed alphabetically under the individual states in Scott’s catalogue following “Malaysia”.

Prior to 1963 the individual States are listed immediately before Malaysia in the catalogue and most of them are easily identified but a few of the States have their names only in Sanskrit so you just have to learn to read those characters!

A word on these early stamps.


Some of them particularly the overprints are very pricey and also maybe a little difficult to identify. Another thing to watch for is the cancellation as many of the high values have fiscal cancellations. This brings the value down considerably but Scotts gives no indication of this. Generally it is easy to tell the fiscal cancellations, they are often in red or orange, maybe elliptical rather than round and sometimes even say they are officially cancelled.


If you are in doubt ask an expert but don’t get your hopes up as a good postmark on the high value stamps is extremely rare and as the most likely way these stamps would have been used was on a large parcel, chances are it would be damaged anyway!


at April meeting, 2019

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