The first adhesive prepaid postage stamp were introduced into Great Britain in 1840. Known as the 'Penny Black', it featured the profile of Britain's ruling monarch at the time, Queen Victoria. Introduced in order to modernise a crumbling postal system, the Penny Black was a great success, and the concept of prepaid postage was adopted by postal systems around the world.
The variety of Victorian-era postage stamps has made collecting Queen Victoria stamps especially rewarding. However, collecting these stamps can prove confusing for the uninitiated. Whereas a mint-condition Penny Black can change hands for thousands of pounds, most Queen Victoria postage stamps are worth just a few pounds each. Therefore, before setting out to buy Queen Victoria postage stamps it is important to research the history of these stamps and the current market, as well as how to assess the condition of Queen Victoria stamps offered for sale.
Most stamp collectors turn to eBay to source stamps for their collections. eBay carries a good selection of Queen Victoria postage stamps,, making it an ideal place to buy stamps. However, it is important for the collector to know how to navigate the site properly and how to assess sellers to ensure a successful acquisition.
The Background to Queen Victoria Postage Stamps
Prior to the year 1840, postal charges in Britain were paid by the recipient, rather than the sender. In 1840 this all changed with the introduction of prepaid postage. The advent of prepaid postage stamps was an attempt to reorganise the British postal system, which was operating at a loss at the time. A second innovation, made at the same time, meant that no matter how far the letter had to travel, the postage fee was always the same. The introduction of a uniform rate, prepaid postage stamp, effectively saved the postage system. Soon after the postage stamp was introduced in Britain, it was being enthusiastically adopted by postal systems abroad.
How to Find Queen Victoria Stamps on eBay
It is easy to find Victorian stamps on eBay. A collector simply need type in a phrase such as 'Queen Victoria stamps&' into the search bar. The more specific the search phrase the fewer results the local search engine returns to the user. Therefore, it is recommended that the visitor to the site use a generic search phrase, like 'queen victoria stamps', and then employ several search filters to sort the listings. Sellers categorise stamps according to denomination, colour, printing method, era, and whether the stamps are sold as single stamps, multiples or blocks of stamps.
Types of Queen Victoria Postage Stamps
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901, which means that the stamps originating during her long reign are very diverse. This uncommon diversity was due to the enormous success of the prepaid postage stamp. In just a decade (1839 to 1850), the number of letters sent by mail went from 79 million to 350 million. The various kind of Queen Victoria stamps include perforated and nonperforated stamps, as well stamps manufactured using various printing techniques. Queen Victoria stamps also came in a variety of colours. eBay allows you to filter search results according to the printing method, the denomination of the stamps, as well as the colour of the stamp.
Perforate Queen Victoria Stamps
The process of perforating a stamp involves cutting an organised series of small holes around the stamp, in order to allow it to be removed from the larger sheet of printed stamps. The very first stamps were not perforated, and had to be cut from their sheet with scissors. However, it became apparent in the first few years of postage stamps that it was difficult to neatly cut the stamps from the larger sheet of stamps. Perforated Queen Victoria stamps came to be an effective solution to this problem.
In 1850, the first experiments were carried out with perforated stamps, when a set of Penny Red stamps was cut using a trial perforation machine. By 1854, perforated stamps were in general issue in Great Britain, and their use spread abroad.
The first stamps did not have perforations. They are referred to as 'imperforate' stamps by collectors, so as to distinguish them from perforated Queen Victoria stamps. These imperforate stamps include, for example, the Penny Black.. Because Penny Blacks were replaced after a year by Penny Reds, they were never issued with perforations. Therefore, a Penny Black that is offered for sale that has perforations is not a genuine Penny Black stamp.
Perforations were not the only innovation introduced. Different types of printing processes were also used. Queen Victoria stamps can be categorised according to the printing process used. The categories include line-engraved stamps, embossed stamps, and surface-printed stamps.
Line-engraved printing was a method which involved engraving a finely detailed image, in reverse, onto a metal plate. This engraved plate was then used to create a series of images via a surface called a transfer roll .The skill required of line-engraving printing made it a much slower and more painstaking method of production. Therefore this printing method was quickly superseded by surface printing. The first line-engraved stamps included the Penny Black and Two Penny Blue.
Surface-printed stamps include some of the most highly-collectible and sought-after specimens. The first surface printed stamp was a 4-penny stamp,, introduced for letters sent to France. In surface-printing, instead of the picture being cut away from the metal, leaving a raised area of ink, the picture is cut in relief onto the metal printing plate. In other words, the metal itself is a raised outline of the image. As well as being a faster printing method, this process also used less ink, and did not require the paper be pressed or stretched, as was the case with other methods. The printing plate also incurred less wear and tear.
Fugitive Ink Victorian Stamps
One other development worthy of note was the introduction of 'fugitive ink' stamps. These were low denomination stamps printed using water soluble inks that would run if the stamp was soaked in water. As the only colours of fugitive ink available at the time were green and lilac, this series of stamps became known as the 'Lilac and Green' series. Although unpopular at the time, these stamps are considered highly sought-after today. A collector should bear in mind that the most valuable specimens are those still in good condition. The less desirable ones are those faded due to contact with water.
Although the first stamps were in small denominations of one penny and then two penny stamps,, stamps in variety of values went into circulation once the concept of the prepaid postage had caught on. By far the most popular stamp denomination was the one penny stamp, which went through several colour changes, but always outsold the others. This means that there are generally more one-penny specimens available today, compared to stamps in other denominations. Only the one penny stamps in the best condition fetch the highest prices.
Colours of Victorian Stamps
The first stamp, the Penny Black, was a one penny stamp. It was replaced after a year by the Penny Red, of the same denomination. In some cases, as with the Lilac and Greens, the colours of the stamps were based on the availability of inks. In most cases, however, the colours were simply used to identify the value of stamps. Thus, after the introduction of the Penny Red in 1841, one penny stamps were for 40 years always a shade of red.
The Penny Red itself changed its shade to become the Penny Venetian Red in 1879, and was then replaced by the Penny Lilac in 1881. This surface-printed Penny Lilac was the most heavily produced Victorian stamp, and specimens are widely available today. The first two-toned Victorian stamps were in the Jubilee Issue of 1887. These stamps were popular because of their bright colours.
Among the rarest of the Victorian stamps are the early, imperforate 1840 versions of the Two Penny Blue. After 1841, a white horizontal line was added at the top and bottom of the stamp. The early versions of the Two Penny Blue were printed using the same die as the Penny Black, and so early Two Penny Blues lack this line. Because the printing of Two Penny Blue was limited, the early versions of this stamp are among the rarest, not just among Queen Victoria stamps, but of all world stamps.
Important Buying Considerations
Because of the massive price difference between two apparently similar stamps, it is essential for a new collector of Queen Victoria stamps to carefully consider what they plan to buy. For example, over 68 million Penny Blacks were printed, and many have survived to the present day, so a Penny Black, which is not in very good condition, is not especially rare or valuable. The collector should compare the stamp they wish to buy against profile specifications as listed in a stamp catalogue. Along with considering the stamp's quality, the collector should also consider how the stamp is mounted, whether it has gum on the back, the presence of watermark, or not, and whether the stamp has corner numbers. When collecting stamps on eBay, it is important to look at the photo of the stamp very carefully and note the specifications listed in the item description. If the photo is not very clear or there is any information missing from the item description, the collector can contact the seller by going into their profile and clicking on the contact link.
If a collector is attracted to stamps for their decorative qualities, or historical value, there is no need to spend a lot of money. If, however, the collector is hoping to make money in the long term, or plans to spend a substantial sum on their collection, they must choose stamps with great care. When sourcing stamps on eBay, it is best for a collector to only do business with Top-Rated Sellers. Such a seller has earned high praise from customers in the past, and is likely very knowledgeable about the stamps they have listed for sale. To identify a Top-Rated Seller, a collector simply need look out for the icon in the item listings that denotes a Top-Rated Seller.
Postage stamps developed in the 19th century as a way of rescuing the British postal service from financial ruin. In instituting the prepayment system, the Victorians gave rise to a wave of innovation in stamp production.
Because of the sheer diversity of Queen Victoria stamps available, it pays for the collector to do some research before going onto eBay and conducting a search. Because there are potentially thousands of listing for stamps, a collector should use the search filters to efficiently sort the listings based on criteria related to stamp denomination, printing method, and colour. It important that the collector examine photos of the stamps carefully, and ask the seller questions.
The ease of searching, the breadth of choice and the availability of advice from Top Sellers all make eBay a good place to buy Queen Victoria stamps.