Stamp, 1894

Issued by the Principality of Trinidad (Prince James of Trinidad)


Created with Sketch.

On 15 October 1894, the Chancellery of the Principality of Trinidad in New York City announced that on 01 November, the Administration Postale de la Principauté de Trinidad (Postal Administration of the Principality of Trinidad) would release the nation’s first stamps, with values ranging from five cents to five Francs. Printed in Vienna, Austria, the stamps depict the island of Trinidad in the South Atlantic — not the homonymous Caribbean island — from the south, with a vessel sailing in the foreground. The inscriptions say “Principauté de Trinidad, timbre poste et fiscal” in French, the official language of the Principality. Stamped envelopes (5c and 15c) and postcards (5c and 20c) were also produced. Although the designer is unknown, it is not unlikely that Mr. H. Heckler, Charge d’Affaires of Trinidad in Nova Scotia, Canada, and a renowned stamp dealer and collector, was involved in their development. 

Because Trinidad’s stamps were not issued by a recognized postal authority, they are called “Cinderella stamps” or “Phantom stamps.” Stamps are one relatively inexpensive way for newly-minted monarchs to assert their status far and wide, and for new states to manifest legitimacy. They can also be remunerative, as they are sought after by stamp collectors. Indeed, quite a few 19th-Century fictional countries were invented as schemes to sell stamps to unwitting collectors unaware of such nations’ inexistence. Mindful of hoaxes, Trinidad’s Foreign Minister de la Boissière stated that the stamps “were not introduced to satisfy the curiosity of collectors, but to serve.” He would later disclose that they constituted a modest source of income to the Principality.

A persistent legend that the stamps were first discovered in Harden-Hickey’s luggage upon his death is false; visiting the Chancellery in the 1890s, author Richard Harding Davis saw “on the table…the postage-stamps of the new government” which were “of various colors and denominations.” While researching for “Real Soldiers of Fortune,” first printed in 1897, he “found when [he] tried to procure one to use in this book, they are worth many times their face value.” 

Medium & Techniques

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Printed paper, perforated


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W 0.94in (24mm) x H 1.2in (30mm)

People involved

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  • Prince James of Trinidad  (James Harden-Hickey) (1854-98)
  • Count E. G. de la Boissière (Grand Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad)
  • H. Heckler (Charge d’Affaires of Trinidad in Nova Scotia, Canada)


Created with Sketch.

Acquired from N. Jandus of Knutsford (Cheshire, England)