The Tuvalu Chess Stamp of 1986

Jon Edwards

Topical collecting can lead in strange directions. In this instance, topical becomes tropical. In 1986, the 26 square kilometer Polynesian nation of Tuvalu issued a stamp to commemorate two world championship chess champions, Bobby Fischer who won the title in 1972, and Anatoly Karpov, who received the title after Fischer would not agree to the terms of the 1975 match. It's well known that many small nations make significant revenue through the sale of stamps. I have no doubt that Tuvalu so qualifies. Two other questions rise to to surface. Where exactly is Tuvalu and do any of the 8,000 inhabitants actually play chess?

No harm, no foul, you say. What's a single issue going to do to the old chess stamp budget? Ah, but of course, the island nation also issued an imperforate sheet.

And, of course, there's always a specimen overprint to find.

And there's always a first day cover to be sought after.

Think we're done? No... we're just getting started! Tuvalu also issued the sheet with a field of mushrooms as an overprint. What do mushrooms have to do with chess, you may ask? Nothing, of course, but there are mushroom on stamp collectors, so the value of these is higher.

And the sheet with the mushroom overprint also exists without perforations

And more still. Here is the same sheet without the serial number.

And the same sheet imperforate

And the mushroom sheet without the serial numbers exists with a specimen overprint.

Here's the rarest of all the items here. The same mushroom sheet with an overprint in honor of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. Hmm. Did Columbus play chess?

Perhaps the strangest item: An overprint used to produce a local mail service issue for Hampshire!

Ah, but more. Here's the overprint issued in honor of the Canadian Philatelic Exposition in June, 1987.

And the same issue imperforate.

And, of course, even this overprint comes with a specimen overprint.

And here, the same overprint but in blue!

More! Here, an overprint in honor of the Australia World Jamboree.

The same sheet but imperforate.

Naturally, there's a specimen!

And an inverted overprint!

So what am I missing? Naturally, a cover on which one of these sheets was actually used! Anyone have one?

Now in fairness to Tuvalu, they appear not to have actually issued the Capex and Australia Jamboree overprints. A fellow collector received the following after I had posted this "exhibit."

I see you are bidding on eBay lot #xxxxxxxxxx and other similar lots of the 1987 Tuvalu Chess/Rotary stamps overprinted for CAPEX 78 and the Australian Scout Jamboree.

As an official representative of the Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau, I wish to take this opportunity to inform you that these are illegally produced overprints, completely unauthorized by the government of state of Tuvalu. The legitimate souvenir sheets were overprinted without permission by a British stamp dealer, well known for producing fraudulent issues for other countries.

Extremely large quantities were illegally overprinted, all the more making the listed price absolutely absurd. They are not rare, just illegal.

It is not our intention to tell people what to bid on at eBay, however it is our concern to make them aware that the items were not produced legally.

We are currently contacting eBay to ensure such items do not appear in the listings again, and are also contacting the seller.

While it may be too late to have the current listings withdrawn, it is our intention to make sure that Tuvalu's philatelic reputation is not harmed any further by such fraud artists.

Brian Cannon
Tuvalu Online