You sometimes encounter stamps which really look like postage stamps. They are beautifully printed and have designs which closely relate to the history, culture and progress in different areas in the country whose name they carry. It is a real pleasure to add those stamps to one’s collection!

Typical examples are the 21 stamps released by Paraguay during 1944 and 1945. The complete set comprises eight stamps for ordinary post and a further 13 values for air mail. In spite of the fact that only 4,000 copies were sold of the top 10-guaraní value, the set is still quite affordable. This is probably due to the fact that philately is poorly developed in the South American nation. Also Paraguay is not terribly popular among the world’s stamp collectors.

The order to print the long set went to the British firm of Waterlow & Sons Ltd. For many years this was one of the major companies in the field of printing stamps, banknotes and stock shares. The company was sold to Purnell & Sons in 1961 and was later absorbed into the De La Rue company. Waterlow was particularly successful in securing printing contracts in the Latin American market. In 1940, the company received its first order from Paraguay to print stamps.

When Waterlow representatives approached postal administrations in a bid to secure printing contracts they presented a number of sample stamps to show the quality of their work. The sample stamps were previously printed stamps from different countries which had been reprinted in different colours and overprinted “WATERLOW & SONS LTD.”. Also a small hole had been punched out, usually over the denomination.

paraguay-specimen-stamp-1c-1944-1945

Great care was taken to print the stamps with crisp and clear colours. The result was generally very good and these sample stamps have always been of considerable interest to a select group of collectors. In some cases the sample stamps were printed in small sheets of nine.

Waterlow printed all 21 stamps of Paraguay’s 1944-1945 issue in different colours. They were then overprinted and punched as indicated above. There are several interesting designs which tell a lot about this South American nation. The 1c (above) and 70c values depict the parejhara, the early way of sending messages by the Guaraní indians. Paraguay’s first railway line was opened in 1861 and an early steam engine is shown on the 5c (below) and 20c stamps. A trading ship from before 1865 is depicted on the 3c and 10c stamps. Finally I would like to mention the 2c air mail stamp (below). It features the very first telegraph in South America. The first messages were transmitted in 1864.

paraguay-specimen-stamp-5c-1944-1945

paraguay-specimen-stamp-2c-1944-1945

The 7c and 10 guaraníes stamps are devoted to marshal Francisco Solano Lopez (1827-1870). At the early age of 18 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Paraguayan aimed forces and ten years later he became War Minister. His rather impressive career was probably due to his father being the country ‘s president. When his father passed away in 1862, Francisco Solano Lopez was elected president for a period of ten years.

In 1864, a war erupted between Paraguay on one side and Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay on the other. The War of the Triple Alliance only ended when Solano López was killed in 1870. The war ended in complete disaster for Paraguay; only 10% of the male adult population survived the carnage. It took many decades before Paraguay could recover from the effects of la tragedia which is the Paraguayan way of describing the 1865-1870 period according to the inscription on the two stamps depicting the trading ship.

It is rather strange that Francisco Solano Lopez was selected to be shown on a stamp considering the disastrous results of his presidency.

Strangely enough the 7c sample stamp (below) exists in a different variety. I have a pair which lacks perforation holes between the two stamps. The stamps are not punched but apart from that they are exactly the same as the other 7c sample stamps. These were probably production errors which were never intended to be used as sample stamps.

paraguay-specimen-stamp-7c-1944-1945

paraguay-specimen-stamp-10c-1944-1945

In 1968, the legendary British stamp dealer Robson Lowe was commissioned to sell off the Waterlow archive of sample stamps through his company in Bermuda. A richly illustrated sales catalogue was produced and mailed to interested collectors. Lowe writes that there were quantities ranging from one to about a hundred of each stamp. On page 31 we find a listing of the Paraguayan sample stamps.

I was recently able to acquire the long set of sample stamps and when I compare my purchase with the listing in Lowe’s catalogue it is identical. Robson Lowe charged US$125 for the complete lot of 23 stamps (including the imperforate between variety). I paid about $50 for the set at a recent auction and I suppose this was something of a bargain. From an investment point of view the original purchase some 40 years ago was far from successful in this case but I am sure the previous owner had a lot of pleasure from these stamps.

The Paraguayan sample sets obviously constitute a philatelic oddity but they certainly look very attractive when mounted on the two album pages which I could then add to my collection of the regularly issued stamps.