Siam Scout Overprints
Not Just on Any Old Stamps
Harry Thorsen

So much has been written about the Siam Tiger Overprints, Scott #B12-30, that the basic stamps themselves have been ignored almost completely.  Too bad.  Bet you didn't know that they rate as Scout fringe issues all on their own without any overprint.  The first and second set, #B12-17 and #B18-23 are, except for the 5 satang value, overprinted on the same stamps.

Six of the seven stamps picture King Vajiravudh, or Rama VI, as do five additional different stamps of the third set, #B24-30.  King Vajiravudh shown on these eleven stamps had a passion for Scouting.  In Siam he was its founder, patron and driving force as well as the President of the Boy Scout Association.

Vajiravudh, King of Siam
Royal Scoutmaster

An interesting philatelic letter, used as an advertisement for a San Francisco envelope manufacturer, circa 1930, explains why you might consider placing an unoverprinted stamp in your collection for 10 cents in case you can't manage the cost of an overprinted set.  The King is incorrectly referred to as Rama IV instead of Rama VI.

VIJIRAVUDH (RAMA-IV) Imperial Scout Master Extraordinary
as Related by PHIL A. TELIC.

Although Siam is no longer an absolute Monarch this stamp pictures one of the last of the true kings of Siam, Vijiravudh or Rama IV, now passed on.  I remember him as a scholar, a gentleman and a good Boy Scout, particularly for the latter, as Rama, believe me, was no piker at anything he went for.

While Crown Prince he traveled to the United States and absorbed many of our Western customs and ideas, much to the dismay, naturally, of the gray beards and priests of the traditional Siamese royal court.

One of his new Occidental ideas was a tremendous enthusiasm for Scouting, an especially disturbing innovation to his phlegmatic Oriental subjects, for when he ascended the throne, Rama blandly informed those that would seek or retain royal favor to take up Scouting.

Needless to say, a hint from an absolute monarch is enough; all the nobility enrolled in troops, and Scoutmasters were appointed by Royal decree and a good turn a day was in order.  Furthermore, members of the court were expected to maintain large retinues of Boy Scouts as honor guards, these were lavishly equipped with gold plated axes, diamond encrusted honor badges, brocaded uniforms, embroidered silk pup tents and sterling silver chow sets.

I tell you the thing was simply terrific.  To keep up with one's Scouting duties in Siam was so expensive that the nobility had to cut all manner of corners on their budgets.  The result was that even harems had to be curtailed which was all right with jolly little Rama, for although his daddy, King Chulalongkorn, had left 600 widows, 134 sons and 236 daughters, one of Rama's modern ideas was monogamy, even if he was single at the time and had little time for anything but his country and Boy Scouting.

Advertising Cover for Siam stamps
Rama VI Cachet Cover from the United States

For more information on determining genuine and fake Siam Scout stamps, see Siam Scout Fund Overprints Forgeries Explained

SOSSI Journal, Volume 26, Number 11-12, November/December 1977