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The Surface Printed Postage Stamps of Great Britain


The surface printed postage stamps were a necessary evolution of stamp production.  The line-engraved method was not adequate to produce the volume of stamps required at the required pace and due to the high turn over of plates due to wear, was not economically practical.  The embossed issues turned out to be a failed experiment,  due to clumsy slow production,  they were also a poor medium for perforation.  The surface printed technology,  provided by the printing firm of De La Rue,  was fast, relatively inexpensive,  and the plates held up better to wear.  In this section an attempt will be made to provide examples of some but not all of the various denominations of surface printed stamps issued.  Also, examples of various stages of the process which lead to the final product will be presented, such as essay, proof,  and imprimatur.  However,  the surface printed stamps form a rather vast area of Queen Victoria Great Britain Philately, and therefore no attempt at complete comprehensive listing of minor types and varieties will be made.

This section is arranged by order of denomination, beginning with the lower denominations and covering each type up to the high values.  This procedure will be followed up to the 1879 and 1880 tender in which case the stamps will be handled grouped in the manner of sets.

The 1855-83 Surface Printed Issues

This is a period of experimentation, providing the collector with a wide range of design changes,  plate numbers, watermarks. The evolution of
many of the stamps goes from a design without check letters, to the addition of small white check letters, to large white check letters to large
colored check letters.  In addition to this the colors change due in some cases to universal postal regulations, and the watermark in most cases
changes finally to the Large Crown.


The postal authorities did just about everything imaginable to foil counterfeiting and re-use of the stamps.  Beginning in 1840, they added two
check letters and a watermark.  They then changed the color to red in 1841.  They added another two check letters to the surface printed
stamps and experimented with fugitive inks.  However,  no system is perfect and the "Stock Exchange Forgery" proved to be quite successful.

Stock Exchange


The 1880-1900 Surface Printed Issues

More experimentation with size in regards to easy identification of values, fugitive inks (the 1881 Penny Lilac and 2s.6d.) and oops! for the first time some of the low values do not have check letters!  During this period imprimatur sheets are discontinued and control numbers begin.


The Green & Lilac Issue

One word: ugly.  These stamps were a result of De La Rue only being able to supply two colors of doubly fugitive ink: green and lilac.  The rest
of the story is simply a lack of imagination!


The Jubilees

As a result of the Green & Lilac Issue,  postal employees were given stamps with color and design that would make identification easy.  The
public was pacified with color and lots of it in regards to both ink and paper.
Main Contents
Surface Printed Contents