Your Guide to Collecting Queen Victoria Stamps

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Your Guide to Collecting Queen Victoria Stamps

Stamp collecting as a hobby began around the same time the first stamp was issued, in the mid-19th Century. Collectors take up the hobby for several reasons, including philatelic investment. Queen Victoria stamps hold a special place in philately, because Great Britain issued the first postage stamps during the reign of Queen Victoria. In fact, the very first postage stamp ever issued, the Penny Black, displayed the profile of a young Queen Victoria. Several Queen Victoria stamps are included in lists of the rarest and most valuable stamps from Great Britain.

Collectors of Queen Victoria stamps can find stamps at auctions, through stamp dealers, and at stamp markets called "bourses". Collecting stamps, especially old, rare, and valuable ones, requires a great deal of knowledge. Collectors should be familiar with the different types of Queen Victoria stamps, how they are graded, and how to determine a particular stamp's value. Collectors must also know how to use proper equipment to handle and store stamps safely.

Classifications of Queen Victoria Stamps

The major classifications of Queen Victoria stamps are based on changes in the way the stamps were printed, and changes to the design of the stamps. Some of the most common classifications are discussed in detail below.

Imperforate Line Engraved

Imperforate stamps printed using line engraving technology are called imperforate line engraved stamps.. The first stamps produced did not have the perforations that are now a feature of every postage stamp around the world. They had to be cut out of a sheet using scissors. Such stamps are called "imperforate".

Line engraving is a time consuming printing process that results in very sharp and crisp designs. In this method, recesses are cut into a metal die, line-by-line, and dot-by-dot. Ink is then applied to the engraved plate, and the plate is wiped clean, leaving ink only in the engraved recesses. Paper, sometimes moistened, is then applied to the die under great pressure. The paper is forced into the recesses, and the ink prints the stamp's design.

Line engraved stamps feature extremely fine and intricate details that are usually absent in later stamps. Imperforate line engraved Queen Victoria stamps were issued from 1840 to 1853.

Perforated Line Engraved

Soon after postage stamps were first issued, perforations were introduced to simplify the process of removing individual stamps from a sheet. Perforated line engraved stamps are simply stamps that are printed (using line engraved dies) onto a sheet, and then perforated.

Line Engraved with Plate Numbers

Line engraving used numbered plates made from the original die. Plates would wear out after some time, and would have to be replaced. The Penny Black and the Penny Red Brown stamps, both Queen Victoria stamps, were printed in sheets of 240 stamps. Starting with the 71st plate of Die II of the Penny Black, plate numbers were engraved on stamps. This practice began in 1858.

Embossed Stamps

Embossed stamps were developed to prevent stamp forgery. Embossed Queen Victoria stamps bear the head of Queen Victoria in cameo relief. Embossing successfully foiled forgery, but greatly slowed the printing process. Line engraving required only one movement of the machine, but each embossed stamp needed an additional pressing. A sheet of 24 stamps required 24 pressings, instead of one. Embossed stamps were not very popular, and were only printed for ten years.

Surface Printed Issues

Queen Victoria stamps printed using the surface printing method are called surface printed issues.. These are some of the most sought after stamps from this period. Surface printed issues are further divided into four so called "families":

  1. No corner letters
  2. Small, white corner letters
  3. Large, white corner letters
  4. Large, coloured corner letters

Surface printing is also called "relief printing". The die or plate used features raised areas on its surface, which receive ink, and print the design onto the paper of the stamp. This method is quicker and uses less ink compared to line engraving. Surface printing was the next logical step to meet the increased demand for postage stamps. It was introduced in 1855.

Lilac and Green Issues

Lilac and Green Queen Victoria issues were printed using the surface printing method. These stamps are named for the colours of ink used to print them. They were printed for just two years: 1883 and 1884.

Jubilee Issue

Queen Victoria Jubilee issues were also printed using surface printing. They are called Jubilee issues because they were issued in 1887, the year of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne. These stamps include the first British stamps to be printed in two colours. Jubilee stamps were issued until the beginning of the 20th Century. Lower values of this issue are commonly available today. Due to the wide availability of Jubilee issues, they are not as valuable as some other Queen Victoria stamps.

Understanding How Stamps are Graded

Stamps are appraised and graded based on several physical characteristics. Collectors should know what these grades mean in order to better estimate a stamp's value and condition.

Stamps are first categorised as either sound, faulty, or defective. Sound stamps have no faults or defects. Faulty stamps have minor faults, like a light corner crease or a short perforation. Defective stamps have major imperfections: missing perforations, heavy creases, stains, or holes, to name a few. After a stamp has been described in this way, other physical characteristics are used to further describe it.

The Condition of a Stamp

The condition of a stamp refers to how well-centred the stamp is, and how wide the margins of the stamp are. The various stamp conditions are listed in the table below, along with a description and the abbreviation of each.

Condition of Stamp



Extra Fine or Extremely Fine

EF or XF

Perfectly centred with wide margins



A perfect stamp

Very Fine


Well centred with ample margins



Significantly offset, but still has four margins



The stamp has no margin on at least one side

A portion of the design is trimmed off or cut into by perforations



Heavily cancelled, soiled, or cut

The condition of a stamp is not the only factor that determines its value. Its rarity is the greatest determinant of its value, and some very rare stamps are valuable even in poor condition.

The Condition of Postage Stamp Gum

A key factor in determining the value of a mint stamp is the presence or absence of original postage stamp gum, as well as the gum's condition. The various gum condition categories are listed in the following table.

Condition of the Gum



Mint never-hinged

MNH, Mint NH, NH, u/m

Unused stamp with full original undisturbed gum

No trace of damage by a stamp hinge

Lightly hinged


Mint stamp

Gum slightly disturbed by a stamp hinge

Heavily Hinged


Mint stamp

Damaged in the process of hinging

Hinge Remaining


Mint stamp

Part of the stamp hinge is still attached

Original Gum


Stamp has original gum

Deteriorated due to age

No Gum


Stamps gum washed off

Some rare stamps are issued without gum



Fresh gum applied to stamp

Stanley Gibbons, one of the oldest and most respected stamp dealers in the world, use two more terms to describe the state of stamps with disturbed gums:

  • Large Part OG: Mounted mint (mint hinged) with the majority of original gum
  • Part OG: Mounted mint (mint hinged) with less than half of the original gum

Other Factors that Determine the Value of a Stamp

There are many other factors that can raise or decrease the value of a particular stamp. These include postal cancellation marks, errors and misprints, and even overprints. Some other common factors that have an effect on the value of a stamp are:

  • The condition of perforations or "perfs"
  • Fading
  • Manuscript cancellations
  • Telegraphic postmarks

Buying Queen Victoria Stamps on eBay

Collectors interested in adding Queen Victoria stamps to their collection can find many fine examples available for sale on eBay. Searches can be made from any page on eBay in addition to the eBay home page.. To look for a particular type of Queen Victoria stamp, buyers can add descriptive keywords to the search term. As an example, a search for "Lilac Queen Victoria stamps" displays a list of only the Lilac Queen Victoria stamps on eBay. Search results for stamps can easily be whittled down by choosing from various criteria, including the denomination of the stamp, its condition, or printing method. Buyers should also note that there are replicas of rare stamps sold on eBay. These are clearly marked as such in the item's description. Before committing to a purchase, buyers should ask sellers any questions they may have regarding the condition and authenticity of the stamp. Buyers must also review a seller's return or exchange policy, in case the stamps are not as expected.


Stamp collecting began as a hobby almost as soon as the first postage stamps were issued in 1840. The "Penny Black", the first postage stamp ever issued, featured an image of Queen Victoria. Stamps issued during the reign of Queen Victoria are some of the oldest and most valuable stamps a collector can acquire. Victorian-era stamps are classified based on the type of printing technology used, or by changes to the design or colour of the stamps. Stamps are graded based on several physical characteristics, including the presence or absence of defects; how well they are centred between perforations; and the condition of the original gum used. Collectors should know how the different characteristics determine the value of a stamp. Buyers can find stamps through stamp dealers, at auctions, online, and at "bourses", or special weekly stamp markets. Buyers looking for Queen Victoria stamps online can select from a wide range of stamps on eBay.

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