Commonwealth Stamps Buying Guide

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Commonwealth Stamps Buying Guide

Stamp collecting is a popular hobby. With the wide array of stamps available, many collectors choose to focus on stamps from a particular time period or category. Commonwealth stamps are widely sought after collector's pieces. These stamps vary in price, which is often determined by the rarity of the stamp. Stamps may be sold as single items or in sets. Due to their age, many commonwealth stamps are in less than mint condition. However, the rarity of the stamp can increase its price. Many people buy commonwealth stamps in order to make a profit, while other simply enjoy the art of collecting.

Historical items, such as commonwealth stamps, are a great way to retain a piece of history. When purchasing commonwealth stamps at retailers such as eBay, buyers should familiarise themselves with the history of the British commonwealth and commonwealth stamps, consider the various types of commonwealth stamps available, and understand the different features to look for in order to make an informed purchase.

History of the British Commonwealth

During the late sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century, the British Empire continued to expand. Overseas territories and trading posts were set up, and political, linguistic, and cultural influences flourished. By 1922, the British Empire ruled one quarter of the world's population and spanned more than 13 million square miles. This lead to the popular saying that "the sun never sets on the British Empire", because the sun was always shining in at least one of Britain's numerous territories.

During the Second World War, Japan occupied British colonies in Southeast Asia. This began the decline of the British Empire. Two years following the end of the war, Britain granted independence to India, its most populated and valuable colony. During the late twentieth century, an increasing number of British territories gained their independence. After doing this, many former colonies joined the Commonwealth of Nations, a free association of independent states. Sixteen commonwealth nations were united under the rule of Queen Elizabeth II.

History of Commonwealth Stamps

In the twelfth century, King Henry I of England appointed messengers to carry letters for the government. During the subsequent reign of Henry III, uniforms were provided to messengers. Later, Edward I instituted posting houses where messengers could change horses. The first postal marking was introduced during the reign of Edward II. It was handwritten and contained the words, "Haste, post haste".

In 1516, Henry VIII created the Royal Mail in which permanent positions were appointed. Brian Tuke became Master of the Posts, while the position of Chief Postmaster was given to Thomas Randolph. In 1635, the Royal Mail was made available to the general public. In 1661, with rising complaints regarding delayed letters, Henry Bishop, the first Postmaster General, introduced the Bishop mark. This mark was stamped on each posted letter, and contained a small circle with the month and day inside.

In 1840, postage stamps were introduced in the United Kingdom. This postal system was considered to be very effective and gained popularity throughout the British Empire. Stamps issued often commemorated the commonwealth.

Types of Commonwealth Stamps

When searching for commonwealth stamps, certain indicators can help buyers to determine the time period of the stamp's creation. The reign of each British monarch brought with it unique commonwealth stamps.

King Edward VII Stamps

When King Edward VII took to the throne in 1901, new stamps came into effect. Unlike earlier stamps, these were produced on chalk-surfaced paper. Buyers in search of these items should examine the stamp's surface closely. When rubbed with silver, a black mark should be left on the stamp.

King George V Stamps

King George V reigned from May 1910 to January 1936. Stamps during this period are identified by their three quarter portrait, which is surrounded by an ornamental frame with a value tablet at the base and a crown at the top. In 1924, the United Kingdom's first commemorative stamps were issued for the British Empire Exhibition. These stamps featured a lion in an imposing stance with the year of issue inscribed on the stamp. In 1929, a second set of commemorative stamps were issued to mark the 9th Congress of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). In 1935, a stamp was issued to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee. This was the first stamp to relate to a royal event.

King George VI Stamps

King George VI reigned from December 1936 to February 1952. During his reign, stamps were made that featured the profile of King George VI on a solid coloured background. In 1940, the centenary of the postage stamp was celebrated with a set of six stamps. These stamps depicted Queen Victoria and King George VI side by side. Other popular commonwealth stamps during this period commemorated the return of peace after the Second World War, the Summer Olympics of 1948, and the 75th anniversary of the UPU in 1949.

Commonwealth stamps during this period are often identified by their lighter shades. With the Second World War in full progress, stamp printing was greatly affected, so they were printed with less ink.

Queen Elizabeth II

New stamps were issued for the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, which began in 1952. Collectively, these stamps became known as the Wilding series, and featured a portrait of the Queen. They were not released until 1967. Subsequently, Machin stamps were issued and are still used as the standard British stamp. The Machin design depicts a profile of the Queen on a solid coloured background. These stamps can be found in various colours and in varying denominations. Stamps commemorating events relating to the Royal Family during Queen Elizabeth II's reign are highly sought after.

Factors to Consider When Buying Commonwealth Stamps

When buying commonwealth stamps, buyers should take into account the stamp's condition, price, and grade. These factors help buyers to narrow down their choices.

Condition of Commonwealth Stamps

When searching for commonwealth stamps, buyers should decide whether they wish to collect mint or cancelled stamps. Mint stamps are those found in pristine condition. These stamps have not yet been used and do not contain any post date markings. Mint stamps are often more expensive. On the other hand, cancelled stamps are sometimes preferred for their rich history. These stamps are considered to be used and have been stamped by the post office. The commonwealth stamps issued during the early years of the postal service that were postmarked are highly rare and sold for a great sum.

Price of Commonwealth Stamps

Commonwealth stamps vary widely in price. The rareness of the stamp often increases the price as these stamps are more difficult to obtain. The condition of the stamp also affects the price.

Grade of Commonwealth Stamps

The value of a commonwealth stamp is based on a grading system. This system takes into account several factors regarding the stamp's condition. The number of rips or repairs to the stamp are considered, as well as the stamp's perforation and gum condition. Hinge marks can affect the stamp's grade directly. For cancelled stamps, the way that the cancellation mark appears on the stamp, in size and density, also affects its grade. In addition, any fading that the stamp has endured over the years also influences its grade. Grades range from superb to poor.

How to Buy Commonwealth Stamps on eBay

There are many different types of commonwealth stamps available on eBay. Buyers can search for them on the eBay home page using keywords, such as "commonwealth stamps" and then narrow down the results to mint or cancelled items. Using eBay's filters can help to save the buyer from searching through the thousands of commonwealth stamps that eBay has to offer. From the home page, buyers can also use precise keywords for the best results if they know what they are looking for.

Buyers should look carefully at the condition of the commonwealth stamp before purchasing, and if they have any questions they can contact the seller by using the "Ask a question" link. If the commonwealth stamp is collection only, and not too far away, buyers should ask the seller if they can view the stamp to check the condition before purchasing. This gives buyers the opportunity to examine the stamp closely for any signs of wear and tear.


Commonwealth stamps of all types can be found on the eBay website and buyers can navigate easily to the appropriate listings. With the expansion of the British Empire, a postal service was established to deliver letters successfully to designated locations. The reign of each British monarch brought with it unique commonwealth stamps, often designed to commemorate contemporary events. When searching for commonwealth stamps, buyers should consider the various types available. The King or Queen's portrait was often placed on the stamp and is a good indicator of the stamp's era of origin. Other historical events such as the Olympic Games, the Second World War, or a monarch's jubilee can offer an insight into the time period of the stamp's creation.

When searching for commonwealth stamps, buyers should also consider the stamp's condition. Some people enjoy collecting stamps in mint condition, while others prefer the rich history of cancelled stamps. In addition, the grade of the commonwealth stamp should be considered. Both grade and stamp condition ultimately affect the stamp's price. eBay sellers offer a range of commonwealth stamps for keen collectors.

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