Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Bisected Stamp of the Faroe Islands

During World War I, Denmark raised the price of postage to 7 øre (the unit of currency in Denmark is the krone, which is subdivided into 100 units called øre). The Faroe Islands, an autonomous province of Denmark, likewise had to honor the new postage rate. Due to the ongoing war, shipments to the Faroe Islands was iffy at best, and the postal authorities in Denmark could not get new 7 øre stamps to the islands in time for the January 1, 1919 postal increase. After quickly running out of 2 øre and 1 øre stamps that were being sold with the plentiful 5 øre stamp, the postmaster of the Faroe Islands had to resort to a tactic of bisecting 4 øre stamps to yield two 2 øre stamps.

Bisecting stamps is the process where a stamp is cut in half, almost always diagonally, so as to yield 2 stamps of half of the original stamp's value. The process was not very common in the early days of stamp use, and is unheard of in today's era. Note that the bisected stamp must appear on mail with an intact cancellation that ties the stamp to the envelope in order for the stamp to be considered an authentic bisect stamp. This is because it would be too easy to fraudulently manufacture a bisected stamp by taking a used stamp and cutting it in half.

The Faroe Islands issued the bisected 4 øre stamps for a period of about 11 days, from January 3 until about January 14th, when the postmaster was granted permission to surcharge the plentiful 5 øre stamps with a 2 øre surcharge. The bisected stamps remained as valid postage until January 31st of that year. Because of their limited time span and the fact that they must exist on posted mail, examples of the bisected stamp from the Faroe Islands command high premiums.

In 1979 the Faroe Islands honored the 60th anniversary of its brief use of bisected stamps by issuing this stamp depicting a bisected 4 øre stamp as part of its 1979 Europa issue. The second stamp in the set shows an example of the surcharged 5 øre stamp. Both stamps were engraved by Czeslaw Slania.

I have a few sets of these stamps available for trade, should you wish to expand your collection.

1 comment:

Joshua McGee said...

It may be too obvious to state, but always buy bisects on cover, tied with an in-period cancel. If the item is not like this, it could just as easily be the work of a bored stamp dealer with a pair of scissors and some time on his hands.

If you are lucky enough to have bisects in your collection, or have just come into a collection of "cut-in-half" stamps, don't soak them.