Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Falkland Islands/Las Malvinas Dispute

A Brief Philatelic History

On March 10-11 2013, the Falkland Islanders will vote in a referendum on the following question:

  • Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, YES or NO
It's doubtful that the referendum will end the dispute over sovereignty of the islands, as the Argentinian Government has already declared it illegal, and will not recognise the result. That response would suggest that they believe the Islanders will vote YES.

Information about the political history of the Falklands is available elsewhere. 

This blog is an attempt to provide a brief (and no doubt incomplete) philatelic history of the dispute. 

As far as I can ascertain, the Falkland Islands first appeared on a stamp in 1898. The famous Canada 2c Christmas stamp, SG168, showed a map of the world, with the Empire, including the Falklands, in red. Thus, the first illustration of the islands on a stamp was provocative!

I've found no other reference to the islands on a stamp between 1898 and 1933, when the Falklands themselves issued the Centenary of British Administration set. I think this is one of the most beautiful sets of stamps issued during the King George V period, and I use the £1 stamp featuring the King as my online avatar. 

The 3d stamp, SG131, showed a map of the islands

The set was issued in part as a propaganda issue, and it was a red rag to Argentina, who considered the issue invalid and didn't recognise the stamps. Covers posted to Argentina bearing the issue were considered to be unpaid, and were charged double the deficiency.

This philatelic cover was posted in July 1933. The front of the cover looks quite normal, bearing the 1d black and scarlet, SG128. 

However, the reverse shows a postage due marking for 50c, as the cover has been treated as though no stamp had been affixed

Not to be outdone, Argentina issued a stamp in 1936, SG660, that clearly showed their claim to sovereignty of the Falklands

In 1960, Argentina issued a stamp for the national census, SG989. Again, the map claimed the Malvinas as part of Argentina

In 1964, Argentina issued a set of three stamps pushing their claims on the Antarctic, SG1105-07. However, in perhaps the most provocative issue to date, Argentina included the Falklands, South Georgia, South Orkneys and South Shetlands in their claim, even planting a flag on each of them on the 4 peso stamp!

A further issue, in 1965, SG1126-28, was named "National Territory of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctic and South Atlantic Isles", although the stamps provide no reference to the Malvinas.

Britain and Argentina signed the Joint Declaration of Buenos Aires in 1971, an agreement which was designed to facilitate communication and the movement of people between Argentina and the Falklands. A special cachet was used on covers between the two countries. The Declaration was terminated in 1982.

On 2 April 1982 (a Friday), Argentinian forces invaded/re-took the Falklands/Malvinas. The Post Office at Stanley re-opened on 5 April (Monday), but no Argentinian stamps were available until 8 April. The islands were allocated the Argentinian postal code 9409.

From 6 April to 10 April, the postmark carried the Argentinian flag at the bottom of the postmark. Legend has it that this was a protest gesture by the postal staff. Envelopes with Falklands stamps, which were already in the postal system, were cancelled by pen, with the "protest" postmark added elsewhere on the cover

An Argentinian stamp, SG1632c, was overprinted with "Las Malvinas Son Argentinas" (The Malvinas Are Argentine)

The special circumstances on the islands, and the expected interest in postal history, led to inevitable forgeries. This cover, postmarked 26 April, and featuring a picture of President Galtieri, carries a bogus postmark, recognisable by it's thicker lettering

The Falklands were liberated/re-taken by the British on 14 June 1982. This cover was carried on the MV Norland, which was repatriating wounded troops to the UK

A year after the war, stamps were issued by both Argentina and Great Britain. The Argentinian stamp celebrated a year since the the recovery of the islands on 2 April

The British issue celebrated the liberation on 14 June 1982, with stamps celebrating all three services and the merchant navy, while the miniature sheet also showed the regimental badges of all the units that served

And so it goes on. Argentina issued yet another sovereignty series in 2012, which is a rather attractive set. The notation on the bottom left of the cover translates to "the question of the Malvinas Islands sovereignty forever", which may indicate that nothing has changed.

A series of referendum stamps has been issued by the Falkland Islands in 2013, with the £3 miniature sheet quoting the referendum question

Whatever the result of the referendum, it's likely that there will be many more issues, and much more postal history, generated as the two nations continue to claim sovereignty over the Falklands.
Interestingly, most Falklanders consider themselves neither British or Argentinian.

They are Falklanders.


  1. Great review!

    This must be one of your collecting interests as you have wonderful material.

  2. Hi Jim, I was lucky enough to come into a Falklands collection, which sparked my interest. It's a fascinating collecting area, especially the postal history. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Very interesting,informative about postal history that's new to me. Thank you.