Belize (formerly British Honduras) - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Belize is a small country in Central America bounded by Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea. Belize was known as British Honduras during the period from 1862 to 1974. The early history of the region dates back to 1500 BC when the Maya civilization flourished. During the latter stages of this era (AD 800 thru AD 1000), it is estimated that the population of the area stood at around 400,000 interestingly comparable to the current population of the country of Belize. Belize has a total land area of just under 9,000 square miles and a population of around 325,000 making it a scarcely populated country at less than 40 per square mile. English is the official language (unique for Cental America), although Spanish is equally popular. The GDP (ppp) stands at around $8000 – it is a developing economy dominated by agriculture and tourism.

Travel Resources:

While some might argue Belize does not have an extensive palette for attractions, Lamanai Temple and the Actun Tunichil Muknal (both linked to Mayan civilization) handsomely defy that. The rain-forest experience is indeed great and equally pleased are the divers with many, many miles worth of reefs, and atolls. Snorkeling is another popular activity. Dry season which runs from December through April are considered tourist-friendly though November and May are popular too. Belizean food is an amalgamation of Caribbean, Mexican, African, Spanish, and Mayan cuisines.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Fodor’s Belize978-1400004225 $13An ‘Experience Belize’ introduction covering 25 pages followed by region-wise coverage along with good maps.
Easy Belize: How to Live, Retire, Work and Buy Property in Belize, the English Speaking Frost Free Paradise on the Caribbean Coast978-1451501018 $21A complete guide to relocating to Belize.
Laminated Belize Map by Borch978-3866090484$11Scale – 1:500,000. Expressways to county lanes marked. Legend includes sights, sites, parking, gas stations, hotels, reefs, etc. Inset maps of Belize City, Yucatan Peninsula, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, Caracol, El Pilar, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit, Xunantunich.
Belize Grounded Adapter Kit – GUA and GUDB001FD5CPO$15
AccommodationNAVaries


Philatelic Profile:

Belize, a small country in Central America bounded by Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea has a total land area of 8,867 square miles and a population of close to 340,000. The first stamps of British Honduras were Queen Victoria (QV) keytype issues released in October 1866. The set of three stamps (Scott #1 to #3) were in three colors and denominations (1p pale blue, 6p rose, and 1sh green). The set is valuable at around $800 for MNH and around half that for used. One interesting note with these stamps is that the two higher denominations were only printed in a sheet with the 1p pale blue. Gutter pairs showing two of these denominations are known to exist and fetch a huge premium at close to $40K. QV keytypes of different designs and a few varieties and overprints (denomination changes) were the only stamp issues of British Honduras till 1901. Many of these stamps in lower denominations are affordable at a few dollars with the higher denominations going into the 100s. Revenue Error Overprints that read “Bevenue” and a couple of other variations do exist for the QV keytype (revenue overprint) released in 1899 (Scott #48 thru #51). The set catalogs for around $200 MNH and double that for used. The error overprints fetch around $100 for the lowest denomination (5c ultramarine) while the highest denomination goes for as high as $4K (50c on 1sh gray).

The period from 1902 to 1920 saw a few KEVII and KGV keytypes – a few short sets and a couple of long sets. The long sets (Scott #62 to #71 and Scott #75 to #84) are both very valuable with the former fetching around $500 MNH and $750 used and the latter fetching a little less. Certain Common Design Types showing KGV head were the only stamp issues during the period from 1921 to 1937.

Following are prominent issues of British Honduras from 1938 to 1973:
  1. A beautiful set (Scott #115 to #126) of twelve stamps in as many denominations (1c to $5) and design showing local scenes and the seal of the colony with KGV head as a common factor was released in 1938. The set catalogs for around $80 MNH and about half that for Used. The designs show Mayan Figures (1c green and violet), Chicle Tapping (2c car and black), Cohune palm (3c brown and dark violet), list of local produce (4c green and black), grapefruit harvesting (5c slate blue and red violet), Mahogany logs being shipped (10c brown and yellow green), Sergeant's Cay (15c blue and brown), Dory (25c green and ultra), Chicle Industry (50c dark violet and black), Court House ($1 olive green and carmine), Mahogany cutting ($2 rose lake and indigo), and Seal of Colony (brown and carmine). Mahogany and Chicle (sap is used to make gum – chiclets were named after this tree) sap export formed the bulk of exports in the early periods and so appear prominently in this set. The set catalogs for around $80 MNH and around half that for used.
  2. A set of six stamps released January 10 1949 to mark the one-fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Caye – the battle took place in September 1798 between Spanish invaders and Baymen who first settled there in 1650. The designs show St. George’s Caye and H.M.S. Merlin, the sloop used by Baymen against the Spanish. The set (Scott #131 to #136) is very affordable at less than $5 for MNH and around $2 for used.
  3. Another beautiful set of twelve stamps (Scott #144 to #155) in as many denominations (1c to $5) and design showing local scenes were issued between 1954 and 1957. This set is also valuable at around $80 MNH and less than half that for used. The designs were arms, tapir (national animal), Legislative Council, pine industry, spiny lobster, Stanley Field Airport, Mayan Frieze, Blue Butterfly, Armadillo, Hawksworth Bridge (built in 1949 across Macal River), Pine Ridge Orchid (the black orchid from this area is the national flower), and Maya woman.
  4. A long running set of stamps first released in 1962. The original set of twelve stamps (Scott #167 to #178) in the Birds theme was released on April 2nd 1962. Part of the set (Scott #167a to #175a) was reissued in 1967 with a different watermark. In the interim, part of the same set (Scott #182 to #186) was reissued with a “SELF GOVERNMENT/1964” overprint. The original set is pretty valuable and catalogs for around $75 MNH and around one-third that for used. The 1964 overprint is inexpensive and can be had for a few dollars. The 1967 reissue is also fairly affordable at well below $10. The design shows a bird and a QE head at the corner. The birds depicted were Great Curassow, Red-legged Honeycreeper, American Jacana, Great Kiskadee, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Scarlet Macaw, Massena Trogon, Redfooted Booby, Keel-billed Toucan, Magnificent Frigate Bird, Rufoustailed Jacamar, and Monte-suma Oropendola.
  5. A set of stamps first released in 1968 in the Fish theme. Part of the set along with a half-cent denomination was reissued (Scott #234 to #240) between 1969 and 1972 with a different watermark. The original set of twelve stamps (Scott #214 to #225) catalogs for around $20 MNH and $15 used. The reissue catalogs for around $30 MNH and $35 used. Crana, Jewfish, White-lipped Peccary, Grouper, Collared Anteater, Bonefish, Paca, Dolphinfish, Kinkajou, Yellow-and-green-banded muttonfish, Tayra, Great Barracudas, and Mountain Lion.
In 1973, stamps inscribed “Belize” started to appear following the country’s name change. Following are significant issues of Belize from that time onwards:

  1. A set of thirteen stamps (Scott #312 to #324) released on June 1, 1973 which were reissues of the Fish theme sets originally released in 1968. The reissues used an overprint that featured a silver panel over which “BELIZE” is inscribed in black. The set is remarkably affordable at around $10 MNH and around $15 used, considering these were the first issues with the Belize inscription. A reissue of the same set (Scott #327 to #339) followed in 1974, this time without the overprint but instead using a direct inscription. That set is also similarly valued.
  2. A set of sixteen stamps in the ‘Butterflies of Belize’ theme released between 1974 and 1977. The set (Scott #345 to #360) catalogs for around $35 MNH and $25 used.
  3. A set of two stamps (Scott #381 and #382) released on October 18, 1976 to mark West Indies winning the 1975 World Cup Cricket Championship. The set catalogs for just $2 MNH or used. The first design (35c blue, white, brown and red) show a map of the Caribbean with West Indies marked in Red and showing cricket equipment in the middle – it is a great design that show cricket as the unification factor for modern West Indies, a mix of small countries in the Caribbean sea – although Belize opted not to join the West Indian Federation in 1958, this issue shows their strong cultural association. Belize started issuing Canceled-To-Order (CTOs) in 1979 and those stamps have very little value.
  4. Belize issued three different sets of stamps in 1981 to mark independence from United Kingdom (September 21 1981). The first two sets released on the day of independence were “INDEPENDENCE September 21 1981” overprints on previous issues. The first set (Scott #563 to #569) was the issue to mark the 75th anniversary of the Rotary Club and catalogs for around $35 MNH or postally used. The second set (Scott #572 to #587) is the beautiful Shells set first released in 1980. The set catalogs for around $80 MNH or postally used. The third is a short set in an orginal independence theme design. The set (Scott #594 to #599) catalogs for around $50 MNH or used. The designs show flag, map, black orchid, tapir, mahogany tree, and keel-billed toucan. Collectors need to be careful when acquiring one of these sets as the CTO equivalents of these sets have very little value.
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Belize (British Honduras at the time) were British Colonial Bronze coins issued in 1885, following the establishment of the separate Crown Colony of British Honduras in 1884. Prior to this, imperial coins along with the Spanish dollar and Honduran currency were used. ‘GR’ monogram countermarked coinage was also used during the period from 1810 to 1820 (Revolutionary War Period). In 1894, the colony changed to the gold standard based on the US gold dollar. Coins with ‘Belize’ inscriptions were issued starting in 1973.

Numismatic items of Belize include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$2 and upRecent UNCs start around $2. Boxed silver proof sets from the 1970s start around $50. Gold proofs from the 1970s start around $100. 1992 Battle of El Alamein 50th Anniversary Gold Proof sets with mintage of just 500 and certain other commemorative proof sets go well into the 1000s.
Paper Money$1 and upCommon UNCs from the 2000s starts around $1. 22kt gold notes and recent year sets start around $20. Rare date UNCs start around $100 and can go into the 1000s depending on rarity.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Ethnic handicrafts - wooden carvings, sculptures, and watercolors, Marie Sharps’ sauces, and baskets are popular takeaways from the island.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Antiques & MiscVariesMayan and other wood carvings and coral jewelry form the major themes. Authentic scout medals are another sought after item from the area.


Last Updated: 12/2015. 
 

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