The early years of Central American nations are best described with term ‘Banana republics’ (or as Wikipedia finely puts: ‘a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by the collusion between the State and favoured monopolies’). This practice applied not only to export products such as fruits or minerals, but also to stamp printing.
1891 Nicaragua – 2c red, a Seebeck reprint with counterfeit / forged cancel (I believe).
However, Seebeck was apparently not the only entrepreneur to utilize collector interest to this region. Stamp catalog listings for early (pre-1940s) Central American states are usually mile long (with Nicaragua leading the pack). Despite large number of items, most are aesthetically speaking very nice looking (and usually of very low catalog value). The printers include names such as American Bank Note Company, Waterlow & Sons, and De La Rue. Not so surprisingly, coming up with postally used copies can become a complex task. For example quite large part of my (somewhat small) collection consists of CTOs and remainder canceled specimens as below:
Early Costa Rica official stamps with various CTO-cancellations (actually the last one is so called remainder cancellation). Notice that the first stamp has imperf bottom.
Moving up to more modern times, CTO (Canceled-to-order) stamps come up every now and then; usually during uncertain times. For example Nicaragua suffered from bloody civil war from late 1970s to end of 1980s, and coming up with postally used Nicaraguan stamps from this era is somewhat unlikely:
1982 Nicaragua, International ITU UIT Congress. Notice how the CTO-cancel is printed on top of stamp design with gaps / empty spaces, so that the cancel does not interfere with design.
One thing I’d like to know is why Panama issued a range of CTOs in 1960s? I guess it somehow relates to either politics or economical situation inside the country.
1967 Panama, The Clothed Maja (La Maja Vestida) by Goya. Michel 1025. A common stamp, but this specimen is misaligned with perforation shift (in normal stamp, the two ornament bars on top show fully and are straight).
That’s all I’ve got to say from stamps of this area… As usual, feel free to contribute your thoughts, opinions and comments.
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