The independent state of Antigua and Barbuda, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the Leeward Islands, consists of two major inhabited islands — Antigua and Barbuda — and a number of smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the uninhabited island of Redonda which has actually issued its own stamps as well but these are unlisted in both the Scott and Stanley Gibbons catalogues). The capital and largest port and city is St. John’s, on Antigua. The main settlement on Barbuda is Codrington. The country is nicknamed “Land of 365 Beaches” due to the many beaches surrounding the islands. Its governance, language, and culture have all been strongly influenced by the British Empire, of which the country was formerly a part.
The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 1, 1981, with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda. The Right Honourable Vere Cornwall Bird Sr became the first Prime Minister. The first stamps to be inscribed Antigua & Barbuda were issued on Independence Day (Scott #633-637, listed in the catalogue under the heading of Antigua). Two subsequent issues —a Christmas set on 16 November (Scott #638-642) and one for the International Year of the Disabled released 1 December (Scott #643-647) — bore only the name of Antigua but all further stamps include the twin-island name.
Antigua and Barbuda, like many of the Caribbean islands, is a heavy stamp issuer. According to the stamp issuer data sheet on the old Stamps Of Distinction blog, the nation had 2,978 general issue stamps listed in the 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue. While a number of stamp issues do portray local themes, quite a few tackle popular topicals such as Disney, U.S. presidents, modes of transport, and sports.
Scott #746, today’s featured stamp, is the 50 cent value in a set of four stamps and one souvenir sheet picturing ships. I’ve long been interested in ocean liners and I remember being struck as a child the first time I saw the S.S. Canberra of the P&O Line. Built by Harland & Wolf of Belfast (the same builders of Titanic), the Canberra entered service between the United Kingdom and Australia in May 1961. Later adapted to cruising, she is perhaps best known for her role as a troop ship during the Falklands War from April to June 1982. The 820-foot long ship was withdrawn from service in September 1997 and sent to the ship breakers at Gadani, Pakistan, the following month. Her deep draft meant that she could not be beached as far as most ships, and due to her solid construction the scrapping process took nearly a year instead of the estimated three months, The Antigua and Barbudan stamp picturing S.S. Canberra was printed using lithography, perforated 15, and issued on 4 June 1984.