The Republic of Stellaland founded in January 1883 issued its one and only set of stamps in February 1884.
Less than two years later, in September 1885, a British expeditionary force under Sir Charles Warren abolished the Republic and formally annexed it to British Bechuanaland.
The stamps remained on sale for a few more months before being superseded by the stamps of British Bechuanaland in December 1985.
Yet, despite this short lived Republic being of almost negligible world consequence, its legacy lives on in the set of five nondescript stamps which seem to have inspired forgers the world over.
Most forgeries are relatively easy to distinguish by comparing them against the genuine stamps when available.
The colour and paper differences are often quite noticeable. Also, many of the forgeries were incorrectly perforated; the genuine stamps being perforated 11 ½ to 12.
There are also eight identifying features that can be used to distinguish the genuine stamps:
In addition to the above list, genuine 1 shilling stamps have a white spot to the left of the central point of the star in the shield, and the first letter 'E' of the word EEN is slightly raised with the respect to the other letters.
The features listed above do not help with identifying one particular set of forgeries produced from
a lithograph stone borrowed or stolen from the original printing firm.
As the value tablet was not part of the stone, the measurement used for forging the value tablets was based on the length of the ZES PENCE. As a result the value tablets of the other four values are slightly shorter than on the genuine stamps thus providing a useful means of identifying the forgeries.
Stellaland did not possess a cancelling device, instead stamps were cancelled by hand using pen and ink. The most common cancellation being in the form of the
postmaster's initials along with date of posting. Genuine cancellations are also found with only the date or the stroke of a pen, yet other mail escaped cancellation completely.
Post from Stellaland is often found with postmarks of transit or receiving post offices such as Christiana in the Transvaal, or Kimberley and Barkly West in the Cape.