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Information and Reference of What was Found in the Archive

Stamp issues for the Trucial States printed by the Format International Security Printers Ltd. and items found in the Archive

Map of the Trucial States
Marquee for Golowe's Reference Site on the Format International Security Printers


Trucial States stamps printed by Format International Security Printers Ltd.
Links to pages with information on items found in the archive

What is fascinating about the Trucial states is the mystery surrounding who actually printed the stamps.


In my research on the Format Printers I have discovered absolute evidence that the Format International Security Printers were indeed the printers of a majority of the Trucial State stamps! They are the first stamps that the Format Printers produced when they were incorporated in 1967. A conflict arises in the statements by one of the previous owners of the House of Questa who stated that they were the producers of the stamps. Indeed they were the printers but they were printing under the name of Format and at the Format International Security Printers facilities under the guidance of Caldew Colour Plates Limited who was the parent company to both. Questa Colour Limited (later renamed the House of Questa) did not start producing sets on their own for many of the states until 1971 after they resigned and sold ownership of the stocks to Format to the owners of Caldew in 1970. Therefore, a major portion of them should be deemed as produced by Format. It has only muddied the waters, so to speak, in certain statements made by one of the previous owners of Questa. But that is another story.

This is ground breaking research into the origins of the stamps. The evidence to support my findings? It is so simple that for several years I overlooked it! It is all around us! The key is in the uncut press sheets.


A few years ago an investor of sorts contacted me with a strange story. He had visited my site and read with great interest about the history of the Format Printers and about all the mysteries surrounding their brief existence. Here is what he wrote to me:

Hi, reading your page regarding the Format International Security Printers and the archive / error stamps - https://golowesstamps.com/reference/formatprinters/FormatInternationalSecurityPrinters.htm - I would like to trade more information. In the late 80's early 90's, I used to invest in stock specializing in bankrupt firms, buying left over stock and selling it on. At the time, I was merely a cash investor not dealing with the running, selling etc. In 1991, I saw what I presume was a very large collection of the said stamps containing much of what is in your article. These were all errors presumably deliberately made by the printers. There were reversed stamps, sheets with colours missing etc. They were all obviously proofs but the unusual part of it was the quantity. There must have been in excess of 300 sheets and even original art work including paintings. Please let me know your thoughts to this collection and its existence if I could trace where it went. Regards...

This was very exciting news and I promptly responded. His next email was even more fascinating.

many thanks for your response. The mystery itself is as you say fascinating and if nothing else compelling to unearth / learn more especially having a brush with it personally. The collection came across my door step in the form of a presentation from a dealer who traded solely in bankrupt stock and had little to no knowledge of stamps. I myself had no knowledge and was rather miss-informed being of my early 20's. I did, however, understand that there may have been some money to be made so I foolishly parted with a small amount as an investor. I never saw a return on this investment as soon after this the trial began and realization came about that the true intention of this collection may have been to deceive true collectors. With this knowledge, it was obvious that the holder of these stamps would either have to separate them and attempt to sell them as true errors (which would be fraud), or sell them for exactly what they were. Due to the climate at the time, there was money to made elsewhere and as the stamps true worth were in question, they were simply forgotten - put to one side. I believe now, that these may have been the missing "evidence" as it was imply too large and many many errors?

I can tell you now that there was 180 sheets of varying types - Cook Islands, Dubai, Tuvalu, St. Vincent, etc. - I am sifting through boxes to find any lists I may still have in the attic. The pictures were "valh" something. I recognized one of the stamps on your web site where I had the actual picture that produced it as I kept it for a short while as a sample. The picture was for Tuvalu and it was 1928 Plymouth model Q USA and was accompanied by a print in a white folder with title "proof" written on it. I'm contacting old numbers now to find out more. Regards...

I responded again and he kindly replied with a long story about the procurement and how he was going to go back and see if it was still stored.
Here it is:

I am very intrigued now as this was something heavy on my mind all those years ago. I have a kind of unanswered question in my head - a "what if". I feel I need to get to the bottom of it now and find out where they went. If they are still in bulk, maybe it would prove something and put to rest any stories. One of the difficulties I have, is the said investor I worked with has not been around for several years. The last I heard of him he was in Europe somewhere. He would be in his 60's now.

Ill give you more of the story as I know it;
In 1985, through family I was introduced to a fellow from London who was a bit of a wide boy with money making schemes all be it legitimate ones. I knew him to have walked on the dark side in his younger years but was seemingly straight in the years that I knew him. Having spent some time at her majesty's pleasure, he made it clear at times when needed, that he didn't fancy any kind of a brush with the law again. In fact, a speeding ticket for him would be like getting the black death - (or so he said) :-) He became a rather prominent friend of the family and although I had already left home, he was in regular contact with members of my family with whom he began to trade with. Trade was usually in the form of pallets of returned stock from catalogues etc where he would buy in bulk, (cheap), break them up and sell individually at a profit.

I would visit the family home now and again only to find him there. Th house was a small holding with outside barns which were rented to him and from there he would have stock delivered and work on it sending it back out. One day, I happened to be visiting when he was there. He was boasting of the amount of stock available and how much money was to be made if he could get enough together. Late 80's early 90's there was a lot of bankruptcy as the UK went through a small recession. I was always a cautious fellow but finally succumbed to a little deal with some stationary from a bankrupt firm. I went with him to inspect a warehouse of this stuff. I gave him cash (small investment), to which he added his own and we bought the stuff. By the end of the week it was broken into smaller pieces and sold. We made a small fortune doing this at regular intervals as I had a full time job at the same time he did all the leg work, I just provided cash now and then.

One day, he shows up at my door, he had been dealing with some "other dealers" from Brighton and now and then had got some good deals through them. This time, there were stamps involved. A whole collection showing various stages of printing from from the pictures / artwork through to sheets with various colours that make up the final print. There was writing over the sheets pointing out errors such as no perforations etc. I remember that clearly as it was obvious. Also, there were not many duplicates. Most of the sheets were different and of a huge variety for many different countries, places Id never heard of. They were, however, mainly all commemorative. Queen mothers 85th birthday for example but only a couple of sheets. I remember thinking that maybe it would be worth more when she dies lol. There were also artworks but interestingly, not of any of the stamps in the collection. I have since looked through your web site and recognize many of the trains in your collection. I am certain we actually had the paintings from which these stamps were made. Anyway, I gave money and he went away.

The next day, I get a phone call. It's him explaining that something is wrong with the investment. Whilst he has had a good response from his usual contacts with talk of large sums, one of his said contacts called him urgently explaining that he is about to be raided. The contact himself was under investigation for something unrelated ( an antique dealer in London). Samples of the collection had been photocopied and sent by fax to various places. This had been picked up during a raid a the antique dealers therefore a raid was imminent. He explained he thinks there is an issue with the collection but despite being purchased in good faith, he was not prepared to be in the middle of any scandal, nor would he attempt to pass it on in any hurry if illegal. I was asked if I would like to take this on provided I didn't implicate him or his sources in any sales. As I too find any dishonest activity unsavory, I declined explaining I was happy for them to be "iced". He advised he was therefore going to take care of the collection but NOT sell it.

Somehow, I expected this type of call one day. It's a bit like a hustle, gain the confidence, get small investments and some returns and then go for a big one. Funny thing is, I didn't give much for the investment. If I had the cash today, Id probably buy a second hand motor bike or go on holiday - not a large amount on the grand scale of things. Anyway, the raid apparently took place. I was told they were looking for "plates" which I certainly didn't see. The story was good enough for me to accept that I was quite happy to stay away from this collection as my knowledge of the industry could be written "ironically" on the back of a postage stamp.

Well now that 20 years have passed, I am going to try and find this collection as knowing this fellow like I did, Id doubt if he really did get rid of it. I heard from a family member that he quite likely placed it storage somewhere. I saw him after the raid but we never really spoke of it except "live and learn". We did one or two more investment deals but nothing exciting. Things weren't the same and we didn't really click after then. He hung around for a couple of years but the last I saw him was about 6 years ago. He looked old, and ill. He may not even be alive but I am hoping to find out more about the firm in Brighton where he got them and where he may have left them - if he did.

I do know that they didn't show up anywhere after (as far as I can tell), so he didn't sell them on. He certainly may have "got rid" but as I said before, that would be a bit out of character. Hope this information is of use to you, certainly jogged my memory this weekend. I've remembered things I didn't realize I knew he he. For example, there were only a couple of stamps with Fergi and Andrews wedding. I've seen them on a web site somewhere where the perforations go through Andrews head. This was apparently rejected or something but in all it was scam. The one I saw in real life back in 91 was exactly the same but had specimen printed on it. Could it be that the collection I came into contact with was more of a "waste" material? The stuff that they are "supposed" to get rid of or keep for their own reference? Anyway, as you said, one of the many mysteries of this infamous company. I am in my 40's now and have a family. I've never broken the law and never been raided lol. This may have been the closest I ever came to something hat was dodgy but to this day, I still have no idea how close. I understand though, that I think it's the intentions that dictates the crime. If we sold this collection as a legitimate error collection, then that would have been fraud. If it was sold as the bulk collection, it was as " printers waste" then that may have been absolutely legitimate, however, during the time I suspect that there would have been a trial to get to that answer first. The trial for the security printers took place "after" we invested in the collection.
Hope this makes good reading.

Finally here is one of the last emails he sent:

I cant stop looking at it and every time I open the hold all, I just get carried away scanning each sheet, taking in every detail, the writing, colors, countries etc and simply wondering how these came to be in one collection this way and what is the significance of such a collection.

I'm sorry the pics weren't very clear but I was in a rush to get a few snaps on the Blackberry and send them right over. Ill be taking pics of every single sheet and sending them in as best detail as I can get. I want to know as much as possible about every single bit we have here :-).

I have no idea how to proceed perhaps you can suggest? I don't really understand what I have or what it's worth. What I do know, is for the last 20 years, every now and then I see something that reminds me of those stamps, but I never really followed up until now when it simply dawned on me that it was 20 years ago now! I googled International Security Printers and that's how I came across your web site. I recognized a lot more of the prints on your site so decided to write to you and that's how we got where we are now. What happens next I have no idea but I like your passion for these and the work you have obviously put into them over the years. (You'll have to send me your address, Id like to send you a gift). We must keep talking and see where this goes if you like, I am sure you agree we need to know what we have, therefore if it's ok, Id really like your opinion and guidance. I've started taking more pictures, let me know if this one comes through clearer.

To my amazement it was still there! In the excitement he sent me a few photos he took with his cell phone and was going to send me a detailed rundown on what was there including images. All of a sudden.....he disappeared! His email link went dead and to this day I have never heard from him again.
Why do I tell you this story you may ask. It is because it along with other evidence is the proof needed to show that the Format International Security Printers were indeed the printers of a major portion of the Trucial States stamps! Here is one of the images my mysterious friend sent to me.
Trucial States Uncut Press Sheets
As you can see there are many of them and I assure you....all different! So the evidence is right here. Taken from the Format Printers archive. Stored for all those years and never known to exist.

And so, with this evidence we can now see the key to defining what sets were printed by the Format Printers. And the key is?


Flag of Ras al Khaima
All uncut press sheets made by Format during those years used sheets with the guide imaged. Therefore...if the selvage is still in existence it is quite simple to define which stamps were produced by the Format Printers for any of the Trucial States! Given the owner of the above imaged sheets may have the only press sheets left in existence and the stamps and sets do not normally have the gripper key unless cut from an uncut press sheet. The selvage is cut away before shipment, thus the key is rarely found.
After putting two and two together I then resorted to looking at what few items George Alvizos still has available and have thus made lists of the sets by Michel numbers that definite evidence concludes have come from Format.

Here I will show you an example using Ras al Khaima as the base.
For Ras al Khaima the evidence shows that Format produced lithograph stamps from 1968 through 1972. Now by using the rare Minkus Trucial States Catalog we can define which stamps are lithograph and thus...we can define which stamps were produced by Format!

Format was incorporated on August 4, 1967. The first set produced for Ras al Khaima was the mothers Day set issued March 21, 1968. It is the only set that Michel catalog explicitly states "Security Printers, London". This was the beginning. The first set which I have evidence of the gripper is the next set issued. The 1968 Human Rights Year set. Here is an image. The proofs being sold by George Alvizos and of course they were found in the Format Printers archive. Note the gripper key at the bottom.
Ras al Khaima 1968 Human Rights stamp proof with Format Printers gripper key
So we have the basics to define the stamps printed by Format.

As for overprints and gold and silver stamp issues, at present there is evidence that Walsall were the printers. Some "experts" might try to bring Clive Feigenbaum into the mix but sorry to say, This was way before his time with the Format Printers although he was involved in gold stamps for other countries.


You will find here that the evidence presented refutes every document created and presented on the ohmygosh webpages by the Middle East Stamp Company as false and misleading including the statements and the "contracts" presented there. These "copies of documents" can be found at this link:

The Fujairah Stamps and Postal History Site

These "documents" are presented on the Ajman and Fujairah (Fujiera) webpages and can be googled easily thus many collectors and dealers may become "misinformed" as to the true facts on the status of many Trucial States stamps.
If the documents that are presented on that website were true then almost every issue cataloged in Michel and Minkus during 1970 through 1972 would have to be considered as unofficial and fake issues. Judging from all the covers and such that are available all over the world and that have been shown to be officially honored by the various Trucial States, obviously this shows us that the "documents" presented are false and misleading. The Middle East Stamp Company never had any dealings with the Format International Security Printers and thus with the evidence shown here, proving who printed the stamps, we can see who really was the "jealous and envious" company yes?

In conclusion, this is ongoing research into the mysteries of who printed the stamps for the various Trucial States. As more evidence is found it will be updated on this page and the subsequent pages linked to this one. Contact me any time if you have useful information.

And finally...here is another image I got from my mysterious friend. This will blow all of you Trucial States collectors minds!
Where are you my friend?!?
More Trucial States Uncut Press Sheets

In future I will link pages that are created for Trucial States stamps printed by Format here. Please visit from time to time as I will reveal more. The process is long and tedious.
My first page is Ras al Khaima 1968-1969. The Dubai page is very old and will be updated.
Enjoy the show!


AJMAN 1967 and 1968
AJMAN 1969
AJMAN 1970
AJMAN 1971
RAS AL KHAIMA 1968 and 1969

References taken from:
Michel Asien II
Minkus Trucial States Stamp Catalog
Evidence found in the Format Archive
Online research

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UPDATED LAST ON: 25-Jan-2015 08:45 AM