Antigua, 1886 Antigua, 1903
The history of the nation is steeped in British colonialism, like many of the nations of the region. Originally the islands were settled by several migrations of aboriginal emigrants. The British began to arrive and settle the region in the 1630s and by the late 1660s, they had established a colony that would last for over 3 centuries.
In 1981, the islands became an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. The reigning British monarch (currently Elizabeth II) is the official head of Antigua and Barbuda; a prime minister takes care of the day-to-day administration of the island.
In the early days of British rule, important cash crops of tobacco and sugarcane were raised and distributed throughout the world. Sugar quickly rose to prominence and became such an important export, that sugarcane replaced most other crops.
The British brought cheap slave labor to the islands to tend and harvest the cane on the sugar plantations. Slavery was finally abolished in 1834 and many of today's residents can claim descendancy from these early slaves.
The country, like many stamp issuers in the Caribbean area, release enormous varieties of stamps and souvenir sheets. These stamps are clearly intended for the tourist and collectible market, as the island is small and has a modest population of 70,000 people.
Because of the vast number of stamps issued, Antigua & Barbuda will keep you busy year after year. In addition to the multitude of stamps, souvenir sheets are very prominent, and most recent issues are sold as stamps and souvenir sheets.
Early stamps of the area are very costly. The stamps are hard to find and a collector will pay a premium for them.
Be prepared to put some money into circulation if you want to collect this country. The high catalog values for the early stamps, coupled with the large number of yearly issues in the modern era, will make this country a very difficult one to complete.
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