Embossed Duty Stamps – Cypher Labels
IntroductionBefore the Stamp Duty had been introduced prevention of fraud was foremost in the government's mind, stating in the Act requiring that each 'marks or stamps, differing from each other', thus preventing the value of the stamp being converted to a higher value by altering the wording or numerals.
The first stamps were impressed in a colourless relief, stamps impressed directly onto paper retained the impression, but stamps impressed onto vellum lost their impression over a short time due to the expanding and contracting of the document due to environmental conditions.
To overcome this a small piece of paper was stuck to the document to hold the impression. It soon came apparent stamps were being removed from one document to another. For a brief period in 1700 a punch was used to attach the stamp to the parchment.
In early 1701 two slits were made in the base paper and tin alloy strip added, and a cypher label glued over the loose ends and the duty stamp then embossed. This also acted as a security feature as the embossed stamp would be damaged if removed and placed onto another document. This simple security system would remain in place for over 200 years, eventually replaced by inked impressions.
The display examines the labels from the first issue of King William III to the last labels issued for King George V.