Status: Absolute Monarchy
Population: 450,565 (2018 estimate)
Area: 2,226 square miles
Currency: 100 sen = $1 Brunei = 67¢ U.S. (The Brunei dollar and
the Singapore dollar circulate interchangeably in Brunei.)
In the 14th century the Malay ruler of a small coastal settlement in northern Borneo, now called Brunei, converted to Islam and became the first of 29 sultans in the world’s oldest surviving dynasty. Two centuries later Portuguese navigators found Brunei a major regional power, but their arrival marked the start of its decline. In 1573, Spain, seeking to end the sultanate’s influence in the Philippines, attacked Brunei and burned its mosque.
Brunei used this 5c on 16c Labuan surcharge in 1906, Scott 6.
In 1839, British adventurer James Brooke arrived in Brunei. The embattled sultan sought his help in suppressing a rebellion and, as a reward for his help, the sultan made him rajah of Sarawak. A dispute between Brooke and the Sultan resulted in Sarawak’s independence in 1846, the same year the sultan was forced to cede Labuan to the British. In 1877, British investors leased northern Borneo, reducing Brunei to the capital and the land around it.
First stamps of 1895 are not listed by Scott because they weren’t valid outside of Brunei.
In 1906, the British cemented their control with a treaty in which the sultan gave them most executive powers. Not long after oil was discovered in 1929, the Japanese quickly overran Brunei in World War II and occupied it until 1945. A 1959 agreement with Britain restored much of the sultan’s authority, and he declined to join the Malayan Federation, Brunei became self-governing in 1971 and independent on January 1, 1984.
In 1907, De La Rue printed the first new stamps, Brunei River pictorials such as Scott 19.
Sarawak opened the first post office in Brunei, probably in 1893. Sarawak operated a monthly mail boat from Kuching to allow the coal-mining office in Brooketon to communicate with Kuching. The office used Sarawak stamps.
A 1931 6c Brunei Town pictorial, Scott 60.
An engineer named Robertson opened a post office in Brunei Town probably on July 22, 1895 to transport mail to the British colony of Labuan, a distance of about 30 miles. The office issued a set of ten monochrome Star over Mountain stamps listed in the Stanley Gibbons catalog but not recognized by Scott because they could not be used outside of Brunei. Labuan stamps were used if the mail had to go farther. When Robertson was transferred to North Borneo in 1903, the post office closed.
This $3 stamp, Scott 310, marked Brunei’s independence in 1984.
In 1906, the newly arrived senior colonial administrator established the first Brunei mail service. The first post office opened and 12 Labuan stamps was overprinted or surcharged and released October 11. In 1907, they were replaced by new issues printed in England by De La Rue.
Brunei’s 1949 8c Sultan Ahmed Wad-din Silver Jubilee stamp, Scott 76.
In 1942, occupying authorities overprinted Brunei stamps in Japanese. Unoverprinted Japanese stamps also were used interchangeably.
After WWII, the British Military Administration reestablished the postal service, reopening post offices in Brunei Town and the oil center of Kuala Belait December 17, 1945. “BMA” overprints from North Borneo and Sarawak were used until new Brunei stamps arrived on January 2, 1947. Beginning in 1949, the sultan’s picture was routinely added to Brunei stamps, and Arabic inscriptions were regularly included after 1981. After independence in 1984, the traditional name “Brunei Darussalam” was used on stamps.