Ceylon 'CAVE' overprints

These interesting overprints were applied by the Cave Company in Ceylon in order to prevent theft of postage stamps by their employees. The Cave company, based in Colombo, was involved in the business of selling books and stationery and had a printing operation as well. They also were involved in the importation of billiard tables & accessories, music sheets & instruments and, as a result, much of the company's business was done by mail. A large number of stamps were therefore kept on premises to maintain this correspondence. Runners were employed to carry company correspondence to post office. This practice was carried out in many Asian countries at the time. If the stamps were not cancelled before being sent to the mailing authorities, some runners were likely to remove the stamps, discard the envelope and its contents, then sell the uncancelled stamps in the local marketplace. There are a number of examples of double-cancelled stamps from places such as Straits Settlements and India. The overprints were applied between the years 1884 and 1908. Overprinting ceased in 1908 when the company instead began to use the 'CAVE' perfin.

So far I have in my possession three types of the overprint in two colours. Two are overprints measuring 13 mm X 4 mm and the larger overprint measuring 16 mm X 4.5 mm. The other is a light purple handstamped overprint measuring 13 mm X 4 mm.

At least 7 types of the overprint are known. They include handstamped impressions and printing press produced overprints. I would guess that since the Cave company had printing presses, that they were the creators of the overprints on the stamps.

If you are aware of any other types of the overprint, I would be very interested to hear about them. I would also appreciate any further information or research into both the overprints and perfins, or any more history of the Cave company in Colombo. If you have any stamps with CAVE overprints that you are willing to get to me via a trade, please email me.

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