Displaying items by tag: Queen Victoria

Thursday, 25 April 2019 04:54

The most valuable and rare British stamps

A select few Victorian stamps are very rare for the obvious reason that they had a high face value. In an age when the average take-home pay of a working man was under £1 a week, it stands to reason that few stamps of that value would be purchased solely for inclusion in collections. In this group we find the 10s and £1 stamps of the 1867-83 series.They were first released in 1878, with a Maltese Cross watermark, and in mint condition they now have a catalogue quotation of £28,000 and £32,000 respectively. At the same time, the £5 stamp was added to the series and, with blued paper, it rates £24,000.

The rarity of these 10s and £1 stamps is largely due to the fact that they were replaced by new designs after a fairly short life, but their successors – in use between 1884 and 1902 – are also extremely pricey nowadays. The 10s was originally released on April 1, 1884 in an ultramarine shade on blued paper (SG 177) and is now quoted at £16,000, but it was followed a month later by a cobalt shade (SG 177a), which now rates £18,000.

The corresponding £1 stamp also made its debut on April 1, 1884 with a watermark of three Imperial Crowns (£15,000) but was re-issued in February 1888 on paper watermarked with three Orbs (£26,000). Two stamps from Plate 2, lettered JC and TA, had broken frames and these varieties now rate £22,000 and £34,000 respectively in mint condition.

Most valuable item
Britain’s most valuable stamp is undoubtedly the celebrated Penny Red of 1864 printed from Plate 77. Previous Penny Reds, with lettering confined to the lower corners, had been produced from plates numbered up to 68, and so the first of the stamps with letters in all four corners were to have been produced from plate 69. However, this plate and several others – 70, 75, 77, 126 and 128 – were rejected as being sub-standard. What is most peculiar is that at least one sheet of stamps was printed from Plate 77 and, even more remarkably, a few stamps with this plate number engraved in the side panels got into the hands of the public. There is an example in the Tapling Collection at the British Library and about half a dozen other examples (mint or used) have so far been recorded.

Official overprints
From 1882 onwards certain stamps were overprinted for the use of the Inland Revenue and other government departments. Under Clause 17 of the Stamp Duties Management Act of 1891 it became a criminal offence to be in possession of such stamps, let alone trafficking in them. Several prosecutions in 1903-4, including that of one of the most prominent philatelists of the period (who received a prison sentence) led the authorities to withdraw these official stamps abruptly on May 14, 1904, and destroy existing stocks. That this decision was taken in great haste is borne out by the fact that a new stamp, the Edwardian 6d overprinted ‘I.R. OFFICIAL’, was only released a few weeks previously. As a result this stamp is now Britain’s rarest stamp to have been regularly issued. Today it’s worth £90,000 mint and £70,000 used.

The £1 stamps of Queen Victoria, similarly overprinted, are now catalogued at £22,000 (Crowns) or £30,000 (Orbs), but only in mint condition. As these high values were only employed for internal accounting purposes it would be hard to imagine used examples in the normal postal sense. The Edwardian 10s and £1 stamps with IR Official overprint, were released on April 29, 1902 and they now attract a quotation of £17,000 and £10,000 in mint state, or £10,000 and £8,000 respectively in used condition.

The Board of Education also specially overprinted stamps. This yielded the other major rarity from this category – the Edwardian 1s stamp issued on December 23, 1902 which is now listed at £40,000 mint and £30,000 used.

Modern rarities
Modern GB rarities have all arisen from the production of stamps in multicolour photogravure by Harrison and Sons. As early as August 1961, examples of the Savings Bank centenary set were turning up with one colour omitted. The omission of one or more colours can produce a spectacular effect, such as the missing Queen’s head or the ‘no value’ varieties. The most expensive of these is the Roses 13p of 1976 with the value omitted (£20,000). Next come under a dozen stamps with a price tag of £10,000: Christmas 1s 6d of 1967, British Paintings 1s 6d of 1968, the Ships 1s of 1969 (two different varieties), the Anniversaries 3p of 1971, the Universities 3p of 1971, the Christmas 3 1/2p of 1974, the Historic Buildings 9p of 1978, the Rowland Hill miniature sheet of 1979 and the 12p and 15p of the Sports series of 1980.

Here is a permanently updated listing of most expensive Great Britain stamps with proofs of sale.

1. $63,250.00. December 2010, Cherrystone auction. Great Britain 1902 I.R.Official, 10sh ultramarine, watermarked Anchor.

2. $26,450.00. May 2007, Cherrystone auction. Great Britain 1882 £5 bright orange, White Paper, never hinged, Brandon cert. (Scott 93, SG 137).

3. $14,950.00. July 2007, Cherrystone auction. Great Britain 1840 1p black, plate 5, lettered “A-K”, full original gum, Brandon cert.

4. $13,200.00. March 2006, Cherrystone auction. Great Britain 1885 £1 I.R. Official, watermarked Crowns (SG O11, £ 32,000).

5. $11,500.00. September 2006, Cherrystone auction. Great Britain 1891 £1 green, never hinged marginal single in pristine condition (cat. £4,750)

Source: mystampworld.com

Published in News

The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was first issued in Great Britain on 1 May 1840, but was not valid for use until 6 May. It features a profile of Queen Victoria.

In 1837, British postal rates were high, complex and anomalous. To simplify matters, Sir Rowland Hill proposed an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 1⁄2 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance.

Postal delivery systems using what may have been adhesive stamps existed before the Penny Black. The idea had at least been suggested earlier in the Austrian Empire, Sweden, and possibly Greece.

Treasury competition
On 13 February 1837, Sir Rowland Hill proposed to a government enquiry both the idea of a pre-paid stamp and a pre-paid envelope, a separate sheet folded to form an enclosure for carrying letters. Hill was given a two-year contract to run the new system, and together with Henry Cole he announced a competition to design the new stamps. There were some 2,600 entries, but none was considered suitable; instead a rough design endorsed by Hill was chosen, featuring an easily recognisable profile of the former Princess Victoria. Hill believed this would be difficult to forge. An envelope bearing a reproduction of a design created by the artist William Mulready was also issued.

The portrait of Victoria was engraved by Charles Heath and his son Frederick, based on a sketch provided by Henry Corbould. Corbould's sketch was in turn based on the 1834 cameo-like head by William Wyon, which was used on a medal to commemorate the Queen's visit to the City of London in 1837.[2][3] This portrait of Victoria remained on British stamps until her death in 1901, although by then she was 81 years old. All British stamps still bear a portrait or silhouette of the monarch somewhere on the design. They are the only postage stamps in the world that do not indicate a country of origin; the monarch's image symbolises the United Kingdom.

Initially, Hill specified that the stamps should be 3/4 inch square, but altered the dimensions to 3/4 inch wide by 7/8 inch tall (approx 19 x 22 mm) to accommodate the writing at the bottom. The word "POSTAGE" at the top of the design distinguishes it from a revenue stamp, which had long been used in the UK; "ONE PENNY." at the bottom shows the amount pre-paid for postage of the stamped letter. The background to the portrait consists of finely engraved engine turnings.

The two upper corners hold Maltese crosses with radiant solar discs at their centres; the lower corner letters show the position of the stamp in the printed sheet, from "A A" at top left to "T L" at bottom right. The sheets, printed by Perkins Bacon, consisted of 240 stamps in 20 rows of 12 columns. One full sheet cost 240 pence or one pound; one row of 12 stamps cost a shilling. As the name suggests, the stamp was printed in black ink. A two penny stamp printed in blue and covering the double-letter rate (up to 1 oz or 28 g) was issued on 8 May 1840.

Although the stamps were not officially issued for sale until 6 May 1840, some offices such as those in Bath sold the stamps unofficially before that date. There are covers postmarked 2 May, and a single example is known on cover dated 1 May 1840. All London post offices received official supplies of the new stamps but other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, continuing to accept payments for postage in cash for a period.

The Penny Black lasted less than a year. A red cancellation was hard to see on the black design and the red ink was easy to remove; both made it possible to re-use cancelled stamps. In February 1841, the Treasury switched to the Penny Red and began using black ink for cancellations instead, which was more effective and harder to remove. However, people still reused stamps by combining the uncancelled parts of two stamps to form an unused whole, so in 1864 as a further safeguard the top corner stars on the Penny Red were replaced by the lower corner check letters in reverse order.

Imprimatur sheet
Imprimatur sheets are from among the first sheets of stamps printed from a finished printing plate. The actual imprimatur (Let it be printed) refers to the written permission of the Inland Revenue officials entered on the back of the sheet of stamps. In the 19th century, it was common for officials to remove some stamps from each sheet to present as gifts to dignitaries and other important people. Individual stamps from an Imprimatur sheet can thus be found for sale on the open market.

A complete sheet of the Penny Black without check letters is held by the British Postal Museum. This unique item is in fact a plate proof, and by definition not an imprimatur sheet.


The Penny Black was printed from 11 plates, but as Plate 1 was completely overhauled due to excessive wear, it is generally considered to be two separate plates, 1a and 1b. Plate 11 was originally intended solely for the printing of new red stamps, but a small number were printed in black. These are scarce.

The stamps were printed in unperforated sheets, to be carefully cut with scissors for sale and use. As a result, stamps with badly cut margins, or no margins, are common and worth very little, while examples with four clear margins are rare and valuable, and fetch very high prices, especially if in mint condition.

An original printing press for the Penny Black, the "D" cylinder press invented by Jacob Perkins and patented in 1819, is on display at the British Library in London.

The total print run was 286,700 sheets, containing a total of 68,808,000 stamps.[10] Many were saved, and in used condition they remain readily available to stamp collectors.[11] The only known complete sheets of the Penny Black are owned by the British Postal Museum.

The VR official

In addition to the general issue of the Penny Black, a similar stamp intended for official mail was produced, with the letters "V" and "R" replacing the crosses in the top corners. Because the general public quickly accepted the postage stamps and ridiculed the Mulready stationery produced at the same time, vast supplies of Mulready letter sheets were given for official use to government departments such as the tax office and the idea of introducing an official stamp was abandoned. Only a few postally used examples exist, which probably originate from the Post Office circulars sent out as advance notice of the new stamps. Four are known on covers; all were cut from their envelopes and then replaced. Most of the cancelled examples are from trials of cancellation types, inks, and experiments with their removal. Those trials led to the change from black to red stamps, and vice versa for the cancellations.

Source: Wikipedia

Published in Firsts stamps