As Native Americans are discovering, the autonomy granted their areas can lead to business opportunities. This gaming of the system can raise a people up when there is in fact little inborn proclivity to industry. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
Todays stamp was from English King George V Silver Jubilee stamp issue of 1935. All of the colonies and dominions celebrated with commemorative stamp issues. The issues really are brilliantly put together. A standard portrait of George V with maps and sights from the still far flung Empire. The issue was so successful that it was copied by later Monarchs up to Elizabeth II. There is a whole group of stamp collectors that try to collect the full set of colonial issues of a specific Monarch, George V is getting quite expensive, but George VI is more doable, Elizabeth II issues are just too numerous with her long reign. While most colonies are still in the British Commonwealth, I don’t think Prince Charles will be able to pull off such a grand stamp issue when he ascends the throne. The sad part for the hobby is that the idea of it will probably not occur to him. The Cayman issue is slightly different than some other colonies as more birds and turtles are shown than bridges or port facilities. This is part of the genius of the stamp issue, by being both standardized and yet showing the character of the individual colony.
Todays stamp is issue A8, a 1/4 Penny stamp issue of the Cayman Islands, then run as a dependency of the then Crown Colony of Jamaica. Imagine the value proposition of being able to send a letter for just a quarter of a penny, but Grand Cayman is a small island. The stamp was part of a 12 stamp issue in various denominations celebrating the 25th anniversary of the beginning of George V’s Reign. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 60 cents mint. The value doubles if the stamp is used. The 1930s were the pinnacle of stamp collecting and this was one of the great stamp issues. The downside is that the high demand meant many more copies were printed than needed for postal use.
The Cayman Islands were uninhabited until the 17 century when escaped veterans of Oliver Cromwell’s army set up a community. A treaty between Britain and Spain secured the islands for Britain. The islands were administered by the colonial authority in nearby Jamaica. African slaves were brought in but not in the numbers as most Caribbean islands. After a failed West Indies Federation, Jamaica was set for independence. Independence usually meant the flight of British, Indian, and Chinese residents who simply were not welcome by the now in control black majority. Cayman decided to stay a colony and the protections of the British colonial institutions. This kept the islands diverse demographically.
There was still the problem of economic development. Here the continued colonial status paid big dividends. Sir Vassel Johnson was the first Financial Secretary of the colony after the break from Jamaica and designed the financial system to be a tax haven. The islands themselves were tax free and therefore tax evasion was not a crime. Banks had no requirement to report ownership of accounts. The government is funded by tariffs on imported goods. The tax free status lead to a proliferation of banks and other corporations in the islands. The islands are home to more corporations than people and that has resulted in a top 10 in the world per capita GNP. The island hosts more guest workers than natives and is in the process of forming a coast guard to ward off migrants. A far cry from the poverty and misery of nearby now independent Jamaica.
The world organizations of course resent tax havens but again here the colonial status pays off. Caymaners can rightly say that their foreign relations are handled by the Queen Elisabeth II, the head of state. The Queen can then honestly say that her subjects on Cayman are self governing and it is not her place to interfere with that. That does not mean that there is no corruption. The current Speaker of the Assembly was elected despite being arrested for misuse of government credit cards in Las Vegas when Premier. In 2018, the British appointed governor had to be recalled to London after being drunk, bullying staff, beating his wife, and demanding shirtless massages from a young maid in the Governor’s mansion. He had just been appointed with some fanfare as he was of Bangladeshi rather than British heritage. I assume there was less fanfare at having him back in London.
Well my drink is empty and I have yet to receive a government credit card to pay for another round. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.