SHEILA DANIEL SITS BEHIND her desk at the Nevis Philatelic Bureau reviewing a pile of newly arrived correspondence. Awaiting her reply are email requests for stock lists and order forms from stamp aficionados in far-flung countries across the globe, places like Pakistan, China, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, and Japan. For while this small Caribbean island of eleven thousand is still building its reputation as a discerning traveler's vacation destination, it has already earned itself a high profile in the field of philately.
"When it comes to stamps, we're tops in the Caribbean," asserts bureau manager Daniel without a trace of false modesty. Indeed, more than five hundred dealers plus collectors and hobbyists from Argentina to Zimbabwe would tend to agree with that assessment. They regularly besiege the philatelic headquarters in Charlestown with orders for its jewel-like creations sold in clusters of four, six, or ten and set in a harmoniously designed background known as a souvenir sheet.
Nevis, located along the northern curve of the Leeward Islands, is part of a twin-island nation, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, but philatelically speaking the two have gone their own ways, operating separate bureaus since 1980, three years prior to their formal independence from Great Britain. Of the six to seven Nevisian stamp issues produced annually, many focus on the natural beauties of this thirty-six-square-mile outpost lush with tropical vegetation and dominated by stunning, three-thousand-foot Nevis Peak. One recent offering featured exuberant, pastel-tinged renditions of four of the diaphanous orchid species that populate this temperate Caribbean climate zone.
Other handsomely designed issues have spotlighted the region's thriving bird populations and butterflies as well as its marine life, including endangered species such as the hawksbill turtle. Depictions of favorite island sports like horseback riding, windsurfing, scuba diving, and cross-country-hiking have been explored as well. And still another impressive edition paid homage to local watercolorist Eva Wilkin with delicately etched reproductions of her lyrical Nevisian landscapes.
Striking the correct balance between regional and international themes remains an ongoing challenge, according to Daniel. "It would be nice to focus more on our own area, but we have to cater to our collectors around the world, and they also want to see stamps featuring international subjects,"...