“PHILATELY, IS THE HOBBY OF KINGS AND THE KING OF HOBBIES.”
The color blue; emotive, vivid, royal. In physical form it becomes highly powerful, and manifested in the form of a crown issued postage stamp it is literal royalty. The ‘Mauritius Blue’ is one of the world’s most (in)famous stamps. Colored by tale, colonialism and history, last at sale in 2011 it reached £1,053,090 and continues to be heralded as one of the world’s most significant and beautiful stamps.
Designed and engraved in 1847 by Joseph O. Bernard of Mauritius, a colony of the British Empire, it bears a portrait of a young Queen Victoria. Mauritius became the fifth country in the world to issue postage stamps and the first colony to do so. There is an intrinsic connection between a postage stamp and its nation of origin. It carries not only the communication held within, the stamp itself bears stories of the land, its history and intents: the way it wishes to be perceived by the outside world.
Printed in the pigment Prussian Blue also known as Berlin Blue and occasionally Parisian Blue, this was the first modern, artificially manufactured color. Discovered by the colormaker Diesbach of Berlin in about 1704, it proved extremely popular with artists.
Commissioned for use on invitations to a ball held by the Governor’s wife, it is the inscription ‘Post Office’ that gives the stamp its philatelic worth and monetary value. Debate rages within philately, for this is regarded as an error made by Bernard. Since the stamps were not Post Office issued it should hold the words ‘Post Paid’. This caused the stamps to be immediately recalled and destroyed after production of only 240 pieces. A handful escaped their fate and only twelve of the Penny Blue are known to remain, of which only three are unused examples.
Holding its own special place at the colloquial Blue Penny Museum of Mauritius, it has been exhibited in philatelic exhibitions worldwide. Perhaps through our innate connection to the color blue, or perhaps the legend and force that surrounds it, this humble square of paper has become one of the rarest beauties in the world. If stamp collecting is the King of Hobbies, then the Mauritius Blue is the jewel in the philatelic crown.
TEXT BY Bojana Kozarevic