Sealed - 400 years revenue stamps

Tax stamps in former Dutch colonies

Tax stamps in former Dutch colonies

Although the VOC and WIC were private companies, they were actually states within the state.

Taxation in the former colonies began with the establishment of the  

  • Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602, and the
  • West India Company (WIC) in 1621.

The Republic divided the entire world between these two companies:
the VOC was given the sole right to trade east of the Cape of Good Hope, in other words, the entire Indian Ocean and the western side of the Pacific; the WIC was granted the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern side of the Pacific.

Overview of all trading posts and colonies in the 17th century:
– dark green: WIC
– light green: VOC
– orange: trading post

Although the VOC and WIC were private companies, they were actually states within the state. After all, they were allowed to keep their own army, had local independent governing bodies, could wage war, found settlements and make treaties with local rulers. They even had the right to mint their own coins and levy taxes. What company is allowed to do all that?

A 1792 copper duit struck by the VOC and bearing the VOC’s monogram

Tax stamps were introduced in the colonies in 1657 (VOC) and 1672 (WIC). The stamps had the same function and design as in the Republic. Many areas and trading posts of the VOC had their own stamps, including Java, Bengal, Ambon, Ternate, Makassar, Menado and the Cape of Good Hope. Here are some examples.

Embossed tax stamp of Java, 40 rijksdaalders, circa 1750

Embossed tax stamp with the letter ‘C’ for Cabo (Cape of Good Hope), 24 stuivers, 1714

Embossed tax stamp of Bengal (India), 24 stuivers, circa 1775

(Left) Very rare embossed tax stamp with the letter ‘T’ for Ternate (the Moluccas), circa 1750
(Right) Very rare embossed tax stamp with the letter ‘M’ for Makassar (Celebes), 5 rijksdaalders, circa 1760

When the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands ceased to exist and was replaced by the Batavian Republic and later the Kingdom of Holland, war with England began. England conquered or occupied almost all Dutch colonies during what for the Netherlands was the ‘French period’. In this period, VOC stamps were replaced in part by new stamps.

Embossed tax stamp with the monogram LN for Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland (1806–1810)

English East India Company embossed tax stamp of Java while under English occupation after the defeat of Napoleon, 4 rijksdaalders, circa 1814

After the Netherlands recovered many of its colonies from England (but lost, for example, the Cape of Good Hope and territorial possessions in India and Ceylon – today’s Sri Lanka), work began on establishing the Dutch East Indies in the area that is now Indonesia. Naturally, new tax stamps arrived. And the same happened in Suriname and the Antilles.

Various tax stamps from the second half of the 19th century

In the 20th century, the quantity and variety of tax stamps also increased enormously in the Dutch East Indies (including what would later be Indonesia), Suriname, the Antilles and the autonomous Antillean islands. Tax stamps still exist in all these countries and territories. Many stamps were simply copied by Indonesia and continued to be used after independence.

During the occupation of the Dutch East Indies, the Japanese occupying forces also simply used the existing system of tax stamps. Here are four examples. Here are some examples.

After Indonesia became independent, it was some time before control of Dutch New Guinea was also transferred. That is why New Guinea had its own tax stamps from 1949 to 1962.