Friday, April 8, 2022

Bhutan's Never Released Liquid Crystal Scout Stamps of 1973

An article appearing in the March, 2022 issue of the Postal Himal 189 titled “The Premature Announcement of the Bhutan Liquid Crystal Scout Stamp Issue of 1973” authored by Leo van der Velden, some very interesting accounts pertaining to our postal history have been reported.

In a letter dated July 22, 1969 addressed to late Lyonpo (Minister) Dawa Tshering who then served as the Minister for Development, Burt Kerr Todd, a part shareholder of the company appointed as worldwide Agent for marketing of our postage stamps until 1974 based in Nassau, Bahamas, wrote as follows - quoted verbatim:

Dear Mr. Tshering,

We have discovered a remarkable process, just invented by a very small company here in the United States, which we think is one of the most revolutionary discoveries of our time. Made into a stamp issue, it would be another first in the world for Bhutan.

In response, by a letter dated December 22/23, 1969, Lyonpo Dawa Tshering conveys the approval of the Royal Government of Bhutan for the production of the proposed stamp, using the “revolutionary” process, as Burt K. Todd described it.

Letter of Approval for the production of the Liquid Crystal Issue Stamps

Sadly, the self-adhesive imperforate stamps never saw the light of day because, subsequently, on January 3, 1974 the Royal Government of Bhutan, via a telegram, forbade Burt K. Todd's company from producing the proposed stamps. Ofcourse by then the stamps were already produced and its release date of December 28, 1973 was prematurely announced to the world collectors by Burt K. Todd’s company – Bhutan Stamp Agency, Ltd., on December 6, 1973,

The stamps in question were a series depicting the following four emblems of the Scouts movement.

The Liquid Crystal Stamps depicting the emblems of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Life Scouts and International Scouts

In his letter to Lyonpo Dawa Tshering, the “revolutionary” production process of the stamps, involving liquid crystals, were described by Burt K. Todd in his following exact words:

The process is called Liquid Cristals. This exciting phenomenon are crystals bonded between microthin plastic, which change color (all spectrums of the rainbow) in response to minute changes in temperature. A slight increase in temperature and they scatter brilliant reds, yelloes, greens, blues and violets in that order. On cooling, they reverse themselves to complete a cycle that can be repeated over and over. The crystals can detect a change in temperature in one-fifth of a second.

The stamp series were to be called the “Liquid Crystal Scout Stamp Issue of 1973”. They never saw the light of day. However, some quantity of these stamps was delivered to the P&T Department in Phuentsholing where they were reportedly destroyed – but apparently not before 200 sets of these stamps were stolen by someone in the P&T Department. These stamps which were never released found their way into the international collectors market. A collector even has a cover with the Liquid Crystal Scout Stamp affixed on it with official cancellation stamp of Phuentsholing Post Office, dated 10.11.1972. This has to be an inside job of a person working within the P&T Department.

A cover with the never released Liquid Crystal Scout Stamp affixed on it and bearing the cancellation mark of the Phuentsholing General Post Office

It appears that there was an in-house thief lodged inside the confines of the P&T Department in Phuentsholing who regularly lifted unissued stamps and sold them to collectors around the world.

It is provable that this same person was also responsible for the lifting and release of the "1974 Reading and Writing Series" of stamps – many years before the official release of the stamps on 2nd May, 1993, after having remained locked up in the Bhutan Customs warehouse in Phuentsholing for close to twenty years. Please read the full detail of the case at:

From all accounts our postal history appears to have been shaped by numerous colorful events – unfortunately most of them rather unsavory ones.

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