Rare Commonwealth Stamp Buying Guide

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Rare Commonwealth Stamp Buying Guide

The pre-paid postage stamp was introduced into the British postal system in the 1840s. The concept of the sender paying for the carriage of the letter proved very successful in Great Britain, and so it did not take for the postage stamp to catch on in postal systems throughout the world, especially in the British colonies and territories. Soon, countries around the Empire and the Commonwealth were issuing their own postage stamps. Many of these Commonwealth stamps were very colourful and had exotic designs. Today, they are very popular with stamp collectors.

Because the Commonwealth stamps tended to be issued in smaller numbers, these stamps are especially rare and so often command high prices. Therefore, it important for a stamp collector to to learn as much as they can about Commonwealth stamps before taking the plunge, especially if the collector is on the hunt for the especially rare specimens.

Good quality stamps are often hard to find, but the comparative rarity of Commonwealth stamps means that they can be particularly difficult to track down. Since casting the net as widely as possible is the best way for a collector to capture rare stamps, it pays to look for rare Commonwealth stamps online, where eBay offer possibly the largest selection of Commonwealth stamps to be found anywhere.

Examples of Rare Commonwealth Stamps

The Commonwealth currently consists of 54 sovereign states. Obviously, with a list of countries as large as the Commonwealth it is not possible to cover all the available stamps in this guide, but the examples listed are considered to be the most sought-after amongst collectors of Commonwealth stamps.

Falkland Islands 1964 6d

This stamp was produced to commemorate a 1914 naval engagement, and was issued by the Falkland Islands. This issue intended to depict the HMS Kent, but this rare stamp actually features the HMS Glasgow. Its rarity stems from the fact that only one sheet of 60 stamps was ever printed. These stamps have traded for as much as £20,000 to £30,000 each.

Australia 1930 2d. Golden Scarlet Tete-Beche

This pair of Australian stamps depicts King George V. The pair sold in 2003 for over £80,000. The high price was due to the fact that the two stamps were still joined together, with one head pointing up and the other down. This was an error in the printing. Ordinarily these stamps would only be worth a few pounds on their own. The high price for this pair of stamps illustrates well how the rarity of the stamps, printing errors, or anything which sets a stamp apart, can raise the stamp's value significantly. As with any market, something which is unusual or a source of novelty, is considered highly sought-after.

Mauritius 1847 1d Red and 2d Deep Blue

Two Commonwealth stamps whose value did not arise as a result of an error are the Mauritius 1847 2d Deep Blue and 1d Red stamps. What makes these two stamps especially rare is that they were the first stamps to be issued anywhere in the Empire outside of Great Britain. This fact, together with their rarity and colourful but fairly primitive design imbues the stamps with considerable value.

Both stamps feature the head of Queen Victoria, the reigning British sovereign at the time. They bear the words 'Post Office' and 'One Penny', and the name of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Because only a few hundred were ever printed, they are now considered extremely rare and so are highly prized

Ceylon 1000 Rupee Purple on Red 1912-1925

This stamp can be worth several thousand pounds, and more if in mint condition. It features the head of King George V, who was himself an avid stamp collector. Ceylon was the colonial name for modern Sri Lanka.

Cape of Good Hope 1861 4d Pale Milky Blue

This stamp is more modest in value, ranging from the tens of pounds to the hundred, depending on condition. It is triangular in shape and was issued by the British Cape Colony in what is today South Africa.

Factors to Consider When Collecting Rare Commonwealth Stamps

Rare Commonwealth stamps are frequently collected with the aim of making a profit. This is because in recent years, the prices for rare Commonwealth stamps have increased at a rate of about 8 percent per year. However, it should be borne in mind that only those collectors who have a deep knowledge of these stamps are better able to predict which specimens are likely to appreciate in value.

For many collectors, the purpose of their stamp collections is not investment and monetary return, but the joy of searching for and securing the most attractive specimens of these stamps, coupled with the fact that these stamps evoke images of distant, often tropical lands.

Characteristics of Commonwealth Stamps

There are some desirable characteristics which apply to all stamps. These include a clean and attractive cancellation, the mounting, whether the stamp is attached to interesting letter or postcard, and the condition of the stamp.

With Commonwealth stamps, there are frequently particular characteristics which are unique to each issuing country, and therefore some collectors confine their collections to stamps from particular Commonwealth countries. Often, the production runs for Commonwealth stamps was modest, and the quality standards for printing was not as consistent as was the case in Great Britain. However, many Commonwealth stamps, especially rare ones, are notable for their obvious creativity and innovations in design. In some cases, such as with early Mauritian stamps, they are prized for their unique charm.

Commonwealth Stamp Watermarks

It was quite common for watermarks to be applied to Commonwealth stamps. For example, a large star watermark was a feature of South Australian stamps, and a small star was included in stamps from Grenada. Many stamps issued in the Colonies had large or small crowns as watermarks, with the letter 'CC' for Crown Colonies or 'CA' for Crown Agents. These watermarks can confuse even experienced collectors, as they are not always visible in their entirety, possibly being spread across several stamps cut or torn from the same sheet of stamps. Watermarks for any stamp can be checked by applying a special fluid that reveals watermarks on stamps. Because this fluid does not actually contain any water, it does not damage the stamp.

Stamp Catalogues

Details of the watermarks for particular stamps should be checked against references in stamp catalogues. These catalogues cover each of the different branches of the stamp collecting world. The catalogues are an essential aid to the serious collector, as they also contain detailed information that can help the collector to identify and authenticate stamps.

Where to Find Rare Commonwealth Stamps

The demand for the best quality and rarest Commonwealth stamps makes it all the more important for the avid collector to keep their finger on the pulse. These stamps can become available at short notice, attract a flurry of attention, and then be snapped up quickly. This means that to have any chance of buying the best specimens, the collector should be monitoring the various outlets for stamps. For most people this is difficult, as they do not have the time to attend a constant stream of stamp fairs or dealers shops in the hope of finding interesting and rare Commonwealth stamps. A good solution, and one which many collectors now employ, is to buy rare Commonwealth stamps online. It is easy to monitor the online outlets. And some, such as eBay, frequently have a very good selection of rare Commonwealth stamps available, often at better prices than from conventional dealers.

Looking for Rare Commonwealth Stamps on eBay

Whether your interest is in rare Commonwealth stamps, or in the stamps of a particular Commonwealth country, it is easy to find rare Commonwealth stamps on eBay. Simply type Commonwealth stamps into the search bar on the eBay home page and press 'Enter'. This action brings up literally thousands of listings for Commonwealth stamps. You can narrow these down by specifying in more detail the characteristics which appeal to you. For example, if you are interested in stamps from a particular country, such as Australia or Canada, you can specify that by selecting the country from the choices available on the results page. You could also narrow down the listings by specifying the time period. These time periods are broken down into the the reigns of British monarchs. Victorian stamps for instance were issued during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Once you have a set of listings which accurately reflects your needs, study the photos of each stamp, and read the descriptions with care. You might consider asking the seller for a scan of both sides of the stamp, or asking the seller about details of any watermarks or printing plates.You can then check these details in a stamp catalogue, to help verify the authenticity and value of the stamp. To contact the seller, simply go into their profile and click on the contact link.


Commonwealth stamps were issued in small print runs, and therefore, they are relatively rare. This, combined with the fact that many Commonwealth stamps are very attractive and colourful, means that for many collectors commonwealth stamps are considered highly sought-after. Good quality, rare, Commonwealth stamps often attract high prices. For those collectors who are knowledgeable about rare Commonwealth issues, these stamps can make for good investments.

Commonwealth stamps often bear distinctive watermarks or colouring, and have styling details which set them apart from British stamps. When buying Commonwealth stamps, it is helpful to check the known characteristics in a stamp catalogue. Due to their comparative rarity, the stamps of any particular Commonwealth country may appear on the market suddenly and then be snapped up quickly. It is therefore a good idea to monitor stamp outlets carefully. The best way to do this is online, where Internet markets such as eBay offer a large selection of Commonwealth stamps. The breadth of choice, ease of searching and competitive prices make eBay a good venue for collecting rare Commonwealth stamps.

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