Friday, 10 May 2019 04:45

Holland, The Issue 1891: “The Infant Queen”

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King William III died on November 23, 1890. He was succeeded by his daughter Princess Wilhelmina, under regency of her mother, the Dowager Queen Emma. The Queen was only ten at the time and consequently the portrait shows the young sovereign of the Dutch in her early childhood. The issues are surface printed by the firm of Joh. Enschedé & Sons of Haarlem (The Netherlands). Messrs. Enschedé & Sons, the firm which at the time was also printing the banknotes of Holland, had been manufacturing the postage stamps for the Dutch Government for twenty-five years. In Holland the issue is known under the philatelic name “Wilhelmina met hangend haar”, because the young queen on the stamps is portrayed with loose hair.

The interesting Wilhelminian issue provides much opportunity for specialization in view of the printing differences, the different sorts of paper, the color changes and the wide range of shades.

The Ministerial Notice of 1891

In September of the year 1891 the stamps were ready for issue. A Ministerial Notice, dated September 24, 1891, announced that:


This notice covered the series comprising the 5 c., 7 ½ c., 10 c., 12½ c., 15 c., 20 c., 22½ c., 25 c. and 50 c., 1 Gld., 2½ Gld. The 50 cent bistre and the 1 gulden violet were of the small type, the top value 2½ gulden being the only one in the original set of larger size.

No two dutch issues can be mentioned with so many similarities as the 1872 issue and the 1891 issue.

The frame design for the new stamps is similar to the one of the 1872 issue and both issues are in the same colours.

The denominations of both issues are the same and served for the same postal rates.

The early printings of the issue 1891 are printed on the same sort of paper as used for the last printings of the preceding issue.

The issue 1872 was rich in different perforations, but during the William III period successively all the perforators were equalized to the gauge of 12 ½ all round. Consequently the last printing(s) of the issue 1872 and the first printings of 1891 were both with comb perforation 12½. However, no rule without exceptions: The 7½ cents and 1 gulden King William, issued in 1888/89, only exist with comb perforation 12 ½ : 12.

The Design

From the point of view of the minister a complete new design for the new issue was not necessary, only the portrait on the stamps should be adjusted to the new situation. The portrait of the new sovereign could be enclosed in the double lined pearl circle of the old frame design of the preceding issue of 1872, designed by H.F.C ten Kate and engraved by E.Schilling.

Charged with the engraving of the new portrait was a German Mr. Heinrich Raeder, who was employed by Messrs. Enschedé & Sons as engraver for recess-printed banknotes. He had never engraved a die for a stamp before and this was also his first effort at engraving for surface printing. As a model he used a photograph by the court photographer H.Kameke of The Hague.

He engraved a die in steel showing the profile of the young queen to the right on a ground of vertical lines. On the previous issue the King’s head looks to the left. Probably the change was based on the new coins. Proofs of Raeder’s die are known in diverse stages. Several proofs are in private hands, also the one which was finally accepted. To manufacture working-dies for the different values of the new issue an old stock of working dies of the William III-issue was used. The portraits of the King’s head were drilled out and replaced by Queen Wilhelmina’s. For the new value of 3 cents also the denotation had to be altered.

The production of the printing plates

Before 1965 it was generally assumed that all printings of the issue of 1891 were manufactured in the same way as the previous issue 1872 of forms of four galvanically made plates of fifty, which were additionally supplied with a steel finish for extra wear-resistance.

Round about 1964 the famous dutch philatelist, the late Jan Dekker F.R.P.S.L. discovered that the early printings were produced of forms composed of 200 leaden one-by-one clichés, in printer’s jargon also called types or stereos.

With his article in the dutch periodical “Maandblad voor Philatelie” of January 1965 he disclosed a long hidden secret of the archives and rewrote an important part of the history of the 1891 issue.

Before that time in philatelic circles the opinion prevailed that the indistinct, coarse appearances of the early impressions were imperfections of the first plates. Now we know it was because the soft metal of the leaden types soon worn out.

The exact reason for the use of leaden types is unknown. The multiplication of copper printing material galvanically is a time-consuming process and requires a lot of professional skill. On the other hand the moulding of single leaden types is a rather simple process. The most likely reason for the different procedure will be that the printers were much pressed for time because something went wrong in the printers’ workshop.

For the later printings of all the small size values galvanically manufactured plates were used. The plates for the 50 cent yellow-brown and the 1gulden violet were never been put to press.

Since Mr. Dekker’s discovery the Special Catalogue of the Dutch Association of Stamp Dealers (NVPH) has been adjusted.

The catalogue now distinguishes early stamps printed from single clichés and later stamps printed from galvanos.

To avoid confusion in this article the two production methods will be called “cliché-printings” and “plate-printings”.

This does not alter the fact that the printing method for all printings was surface printing and not “plate printing” or intaglio printing.

The characteristics of the early “cliché-printings”

All early printings are “cliché-productions”. (the first “plate-printings” are mentioned below).
The quality of printing is coarse, especially the eye and the hair of the portrait showing fewer details or no details at all.
All the stamps of “cliché-printings” are printed on thick paper of > 0,07 mms.
Generally stamps cancellled with the so-called puntstempel are cliché-productions.
The delivery dates of the first “plate-printings” by Enschedé to the Postal Authority are known. However, there is a considerable time difference between these production dates and the use by the public (approximately 3-6 months).

The known delivery dates of “plate-productions” are:

3 cent: May 12, 1893
5 cent: September 26, 1891
7 ½ cent: September 11, 1893
10 cent: December 5, 1892
12 ½ cent: September 21, 1892
15 cent: July, 6, 1893
20 cent: March 13, 1893
22 ½ cent: July 22, 1893
25 cent: July 22, 1893

For the 50 cent and 1 gulden no plates were used.

Stamps printed from “plates” can be indentified by their fine quality, especially the first printings. They show all the details of the portrait.

It is a good idea to collect used copies with legible dates, because the two different printing methods are related to certain printings. All copies with kleinrond cancellations before the printing-dates mentioned above, and most copies with puntstempels are “cliché-productions”.

Only the 5 cent stamp and 12½ cent stamp, printed with “plates”, can also be found with puntstempel cancellations, but these exceptions can easilybe indentified by the very distinctive printing of the new plates.

All copies printed on thin smooth paper of (< 0,05 mms.) of the later printings and cancelled with the kleinrond or the grootrond cancellations are "plate-printings". But be attentive to incidental late use of copies produced with clichés, especially in the transitional period.

Sheet make-up and border markings

The low value stamps were printed in sheets of 200 arranged in 20 horizontal rows of 10 stamps.

– On the margins 8 little squares are printed in the colour of the stamp, measuring 3 x 3 mms. The squares are found in the left margin and the right margin opposite the 5th, 11th and 16th row. At the top and bottom of the sheet similar squares are found between the 5th and 6th vertical rows. The squares divided the sheet into 8 parts each containing 25 stamps (5×5). They served as markings for post clerks to simplify the counting of broken sheets. They can be seen as the forerunners of the row numbers of the later issues.

– On the left margin there is a large circle in the colour of the stamp with a white centre, opposite the 2nd and 19th row. These circles served as a guide to punch the sheets precisely on the needles of the perforation machine to achieve well-centred perforation. In the centre a little pinhole will always be found.

– In the top right corner of the sheet, generally opposite the 9th or 10th row, the letters P.Z. are put on with a handstamp either in rectangle or circle in black, red or green. This concerns a control-mark of the Chief Controller on all sheets outgoing to, and incoming from the printer’s workshop. Severe safety-procedures on printing materials for postage stamps, banknotes, shares and other value-papers are always practiced by security printers.

Copies showing the marginal markings

a counting square of 3 x 3 mms.
a “counting square”.of 3 x 3 mms.
a control mark PZ in rectangle
a control mark PZ in rectangle
a puncture.
a puncture.

The sheet make-up of the large size bi-coloured stamps

The large size values were printed in sheets of 50 stamps arranged in 10 horizontal rows of 5 stamps, without squares or circles in the margins. The controlmark “PZ” is seen in the top and bottom sheet margins.

“SPECIMEN” overprints

Stamps overprinted with “SPECIMEN” were made for use as official references and for other official purposes. This was also done on stamps sent to the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union for distribution to the member nations.

Two types of overprints exist, either printed with type-set formes by Enschedé , measuring 15,5 x 2,4 mms. (type I), and a handstamp, measuring 14,5 x 2,5 mms. (type II).

Distinguishing types is not difficult. Enschedé used seriffed letter types, for the handstamp letter types are used without serifs . Sometimes the handstamped overprints are of poor quality.

Both types of overprints are known to exist in private hands, some being very rare, especially on the large sized values.

Copies can be seen with genuine postal cancellations. This was of course against regulations.

Further more stamps are known with blue handstamped overprint “ULTRAMAR”. These overprints are something of a mystery. It is believed that they were specimens supplied by postal authorities to the postal administrations of their overseas colonies. (“ultramar” is the Spanish word for overseas). However, information about the specific use of the different types has always been very difficult to find.

The new local rate value

A new 3 cent value was authorised by a decree dated February 11, 1894 and added to the set on April 1, 1892. The value covered the new rate for local letters with effect from that date. An official date of issue was announced. What is so exceptional about it is that the 3 cent value is the only one in the set with an official first day of issue.

Two postal items are known to be posted a day earlier on March 31, both consequently charged with postage due.


The paper used for this issue was a white wove paper, which was machine-made and not watermarked. It was of different thickness, showing less mesh, more mesh or no mesh at all.

Especially the paper of the small sized stamps varies much in thickness and appearance. The earlier printings of the low value stamps (until about september 1893) were on thick paper of > 0,07 mms. with little mesh.

During the middle years – from the fourth quarter of 1893 to the fourth quarter of 1894 – a soft thinner paper was used from about 0.06 mms. This paper didn’t perforate cleanly and generally shows pronounced mesh (see picture below).

The later printings were printed on a hard thin paper ( < 0,05 mms.) of a smooth and fine transparant appearance - nearly always with no mesh and cleanly perforated. Top ↑


The small-sized values were perforated in 12½ comb perforation but the large-sized values were issued in three different line perforations between 1893 and 1896.

Copies showing the line perforations of the large size bi-coloured stamps:
1893 A. L.11 ½ 2,50 gulden
1893 A. L.11 ½б 2,50 gulden.
1896 B. L.11½ x 11 50 cent,1 gulden and 2,50 gulden..
1896 B. L.11½ x 11, 50 cent, 1 gulden, and 2,50 gulden.
1896-1898 C. L. 11 50 cent,..1 gulden 2,50 gulden,.5 gulden
1896-1898 C. L. 11, 50 cent, 1 gulden, 2,50 gulden, 5 gulden

Trials with the new line perforation 11

Stamps of the 5 cent value and the 20 cent value on thick yellowish paper, perforated 11×11½, are trails with the new line perforator 11 and are regarded as essays (see picture below). They were not part of the regular issues.

Changing colours

The colours can be divided into two periods. Up to July 1, 1894 the stamps were produced with inks with natural dyes.

Later on inks with synthetical dyes were used , supplied by the firm of the Gebr. Jänecke & Franz Schneemann of Hannover (Germany). The natural inks were mixed by eye, the mixtures of the synthetical inks consisted of fixed quantities.

Only the stamps up to 25 cents and the bi-coloured stamp of 2.50 gulden uderwent these changes. The small-sized stamps of 50 cents and 1 gulden and all stamps of the large size, with exception of the already mentioned 2.50 gulden, were only printed with synthetical inks. The first stamps with synthetical colours reached the public round about the 4th quarter 1894.

Although the colours this issue can be divided into two main periods mentioned above, there are plenty of shades of all values. Perhaps the most popular pastime amongst collectors of the 1891 issue is the study of shades. The best way to approach the collecting of shades is to first amass a range of different shades before sorting them out and attempting to classify them. Beware colour changes being produced by excessive water immersion, humidity and ultra-violet light (sunlight).

3 - 12 ½ cent Above The difference between copies printed with natural dyes and synthetical dyes
3 – 12 ½ cent. Above The difference between copies printed with natural dyes and synthetical dyes
15 - 25 cent and 2.50 gulden Above The difference between copies printed with natural dyes and synthetical dyes
15 – 25 cent and 2.50 gulden, Above The difference between copies printed with natural dyes and synthetical dyes

The bi-coloured stamps of 1896

On Juni 5, 1896 a Ministerial Notice was issued to the effect that: –

New postage stamps of 5 guldens are to be provided for the public service; the necessary quantities will be forwarded on request on July 1. In addition to the stamps of 5 guldens, those of 50 cents and 1 gulden will be printed in two colours and supplied in sheets of 50. The new stamps of 50 cents and 1 gulden will only be supplied by the directors when the stock of the old stamps has been exhausted.

This marks the introduction of the larger design, already used for the 2.50 gulden stamp of 1891, for the printings of the 50 cent and 1 gulden denominations, and the addition to the stamps of this type of a 5 gulden denomination, the highest issued in Holland up to that date.


The main types of cancellations on stamps and postal stationary of the 1891 issue are shown below :

* puntstempels nummeral postmarks used by Head Offices only. (withdrawn: Juin 15, 1893)
* puntstempels nummeral postmarks used by Head Offices only. (withdrawn: Juin 15, 1893)
kleinrondstempels small ring postmarks diameter: 21/22 mms. (old definitive model)
kleinrondstempels small ring postmarks diameter: 21/22 mms. (old definitive model)
dubbelringstempels with double outer ring diameter: 27 mms. Amsterdam, Gouda,... .Maasluis, The Hague... (trial postmarks)
dubbelringstempels with double outer ring diameter: 27 mms. Amsterdam, Gouda,… Maasluis, The Hague… (trial postmarks)
dikke ring stempels with thick outer ring diameter: 25 mms. Amsterdam and The Hague only. (trial postmarks)
dikke ring stempels with thick outer ring diameter: 25 mms. Amsterdam and The Hague only. (trial postmarks)
grootrondstempels large ring postmarks diameter: 26/27 mms. (new definitive model) since mid-1894
grootrondstempels large ring postmarks diameter: 26/27 mms. (new definitive model) since mid-1894
* Note: A number of 259 puntstempels (nummeral postmarks) was issued, the puntstempel 189 showed above was the one of the Post Office Smilde.

The queen’s majority and the philatelic consequences

Queen Wilhelmina reached her legal majority, being 18 years of age, and was formally inaugurated in Amsterdam on September 6, 1898.
That day a 1 gulden stamp was released to commemorate the Queen’s Inauguration, showing Her Majesty in inaugural robes. The handsome stamp was printed in taille douce in sheets of 25 (5×5). The same design was retained for the gulden denominations of the definitives a year later.

The definitive version of the 1 gulden stamp may be distinguished from the commemorative by the thicker lettering for the word GULDEN and wider spaced numerals of the value in relation to the bottom frame-line.

The values from 3 cents to 50 cents were in small sizes, with denominations up to 20 cents in monochrome and the 22½, 25 and 50 cent values in two colours. The remaining values did not go into use until August 1, 1899.

Mixed frankings of the issues 1891 and 1899 were possible during a short period from August 1,1899 up to January 1, 1900.

In the new century the “issue of the major queen” underwent many changes (new values, colour changes, overprints a.s.o.), however, these changes are outside the scope of this publication.

Taking out of circulation:

A decree of Juli 17, 1899, cancelled all issues of postage stamps prior to that of 1898. The decree reads:

We, Wilhelmina, by the grace of God, Queen of the Nederlands, Princess of Orange Nassau, etc.
The postage stamps, post cards, and envelopes of the Netherlands belonging to the issues previous to those of 1898 and 1899 are discontinued and declared to be without value for the franking of letters or other postal packets, from January 1, 1990.

From this date the postage stamps, post cards, and envelopes of the early issues as above which shall be in stock and in good condition, not having been used, can be exchanged for postage stamps, post cards and envelopes respectively of equal value to the issues of 1898 and 1899 until July 1, 1900.

This decree annouced the end to the eight years of stamps with the image of “Wilhelmina with loose hair”. However with one exception: for reasons of economy the large overstock of lettercards would be sold out to the public and be valid until January 1, 1910.

The decree also included the withdrawal of all remaining stamps of the William III issue of 1872 and the printed matter stamps of 1876 which were valid during the “loose-hair-period”. Mixed franking was possible during the whole period up to January 1, 1900.


W.E. Gerrish O.B.E., F.R.P.L., ‘Holland, The Young Queen’. In: The London Philatelist LXIX (1960) nr. 812, pages 135-143.

J.Dekker F.R.P.L., ‘De Haarlemse postwaardenproduktie in de negentiende eeuw / 1891’. In: Nederlandsch Maandblad voor Philatelie 42 (1965) nr. 1, pages 12-14.