Official stamps are similar to regular stamps, but they are not for sale in post offices because they are for the sole use of governments and government agencies. Some lack value imprints and have slight design variations when compared to regular postage stamps of the same issue. Rare official stamps are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, and older examples tend to be more valuable than recent examples are. The three most valuable official stamps are British stamps from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Edward VII 6d IR Official
The Edward VII 6d IR Official stamp is one of the best known valuable official stamps. Stanley Gibbons exhibited the stamp at the 2010 Festival of Stamps in London, and the company claims that the stamp's value trebled in five years. It is the rarest stamp of its kind because an official order withdrawing its issue appeared within hours after printing commenced. Only 19 sheets of the pale purple 6d stamp overprinted with 'IR Official' appeared on 14 May 1904 and the Post Office destroyed most of them. A single known example belongs to a private collector, who bought it for 375,000 pounds in 2010. All other examples are in museums or belong to the Royal Collection. However, some specimen sheets featuring smaller copies of the stamp have surfaced. These are worth a fraction of the original, but remain sought after and demand premium prices.
1840 Penny Black VR Official
The British government introduced three official stamps in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1840, including the Penny Black. This stamp, available for official use from 6 May 1840, features a profile of Queen Victoria. The official version of this stamp has the letters V and R in the top corners, while regular Penny Black stamps feature crosses in these corners. Government departments received large numbers of these stamps, but the government decided against using official stamps. Few used or cancelled examples exist because only the Post Office used the stamps to send circulars. An 1840 1d Black VR Official or Penny Black in superb condition carried a price tag of 280,000 pounds in 2014.
1903 Great Britain Official
The 1903 Great Britain Official stamp, overprinted with 'OW Official', has a face value of 10d. It is a dull purple and carmine stamp. A block of four 1903 GB Official stamps in mint condition carried a value of 225,000 pounds in 2014. These stamps are extremely rare. Four mint blocks exist, and a private owner possesses only one of these. The Post Office printed 1,344 sheets of these stamps, but destroyed 1,200 when they became obsolete. The government used 134 sheets, which contributes to the rarity of this stamp.