Quick reference

General issues: Independent within the British Commonwealth 1966-1970, Republic 1970-Present

Country name on general issues: Guyana

Currency: 1 Dollar = 100 Cents 1966-Present

Population: 661 000 in 1966, 800 000 in 2013

Political history Guyana

The colonial era

Postal history Guyana

Please click on the image to enlarge

Guyana is located in South America. Before colonization, the population consisted of several Amerindian peoples. The most important of these were the Arawak and the Carib – peoples widely found along the northern coast of South America and in the Caribbean. The Amerindians in modern day Guyana represent just under 10% of the population. The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle in the future Guyana, establishing colonies from the early 17th century. In 1815, the Dutch colonies were ceded to the British, who joined the colonies in 1831 to form British Guiana.[1]Guyana is the traditional name for a large geographical region in South America between the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. Several countries, and parts of countries, have derived their name from the region. The name is spelled alternatively Guyana, Guiana, Guayana or Guyane.

The British developed British Guiana as a plantations colony. Throughout the 19th century, sugar cane was the major cash crop. To man the plantations, slaves were brought to British Guiana until the abolition of slavery in 1834. From then on, large numbers of Indians from British India were brought to British Guyana.  The Indo-Guyanese and the Afro-Guyanese are, until today, the largest population groups in the country, representing over 40% and around 30% of the population respectively. As the demand for sugar cane was falling, in the late 19th century the economy was diversified to include other crops – rice – and mining – bauxite and gold.

Politically, British Guiana has, from the 1940’s, gone through a number of steps towards self government. Self government was eventually gained in 1961. In 1966,  British Guiana became independent within the British Commonwealth as Guyana.


The Kaieteur Falls. The Kaieteur Falls are on of the key natural landsmarks of Guyana. Located in the Kaieteur National Park in central Guyana.

The Kaieteur Falls. The Kaieteur Falls are on of the key natural landsmarks of Guyana. Located in the Kaieteur National Park in central Guyana.

In the first two decades after independence, Guyana was led by Forbes Burnham – the leader of the Afro-Guyanese party and the first prime minister of Guyana. Burnham proved to be an increasingly authoritarian leader, election results during his period in office being disputed. In 1970, Guyana was proclaimed a republic – officially a cooperative republic – and a ceremonial president was appointed as the head of state. Guyana remained a member of the Commonwealth. Burnham sailed a socialist course, in 1970’s nationalizing the larger part of the economy – a policy that would bring the economy to a downturn. After his death in 1985, his successor implemented political reforms that, in 1992, led to what are considered the first free and fair elections since independence. Elections that brought the Indo-Guyanese party to power. The economy was, in the 1990’s, liberalized, thus attracting foreign investors. The economy has since shown moderate growth, but Guyana, to date, has the lowest Human Development Index of the South American countries.

Disputed borders

Guyana has border disputes with two of its neighboring countries: Venezuela and Suriname. Both are longstanding disputes over substantial parts of the Guyanese territory. Disputes that strain the relations with the neighboring countries and prevent agreements on the maritime borders off the coast – of importance because of the oil deposits found there.

Postal history Guyana

1982 – A tax stamp overprinted for use as a postage stamp. The overprint reads ‘Essequibo is ours’ – Essequibo being the territory disputed by Venezuela.

The dispute with Venezuela focuses on the territory west of the Essequibo River, to which Venezuela had laid claim as early as 1824. Having taken over the Dutch colonies in 1815 – largely situated east of the Essequibo River – the British explored, settled and subsequently claimed a substantial territory west of the Essequibo River. The dispute with Venezuela would last all through the 19th century. In 1899, a settlement was reached through arbitrage establishing the border – awarding most of the disputed territory to Great Britain. Venezuela would, in 1962, revoke its signature under the 1899 settlement on legal grounds and revert to its original claim to all the lands west of the Essequibo River. The dispute has yet to  be settled.

Not only the border with Venezuela is disputed, so is the border with Suriname. The dispute with Suriname is focused on the New River Triangle – de facto administered by the British from 1843 and awarded to the British in the 1899 settlement. The Dutch – then in possession of Suriname – have formally protested the 1899 settlement, the protest being turned into an official claim in 1962. The claim is upheld by the Suriname government until today.

The border with Brazil is the only border that has been undisputed since it was settled in 1904.

Postal history Guyana

Postal history Guyana

1978 – Issued to promote the National Science Research Council

The first stamps issued in the future Guyana are issued in the name of British Guiana in 1850. The early issues of British Guiana are in the high to very high catalog value ranges. The 1856 ‘Black on Magenta’ currently ranks as the worlds most expensive stamp.

Independent Guyana has issued stamps from 1966. The first stamps were issued on the day of independence to commemorate independence. Until 1980, the stamps issued by Guyana are a blend of issues with themes of national interest and themes of interest for the thematic collectors market. Since 1980, Guyana has employed agencies to issue its stamps – often several agencies at the same time. The stamp output has since been almost exclusively aimed at the thematic collectors market.



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