Multiple Strikes of the Maltese Cross


An "Obliterating Stamp", in a shape now referred to as a Maltese Cross, was issued to all Postmasters shortly before stamps were made available to the public. Along with the Maltese Cross obliterators, Postmasters were also sent instructions for the obliteration of postage stamps, as well as details for the red stamping composition to be used.

The Maltese Cross was the world's first obliterator and the lessons learnt from its use would go on to influence the design and use of future obliterating handstamps, throughout large parts of the world, for years to come.

Although the intention was that the Maltese Cross obliterator would be used only once for each stamp, multiple strikes of the Maltese Cross are sometimes referred to incorrectly as contrary to regulations, which only stated that each stamp must be separately obliterated:

"You will carefully Stamp with the Cancelling Stamp that has been forwarded to you, the stamped Covers and envelopes, as well as the adhesive stamps, the two former must be struck on the figure of Britannia, and in the case of more than one adhesive Stamp being attached to a Letter, each Stamp must be separately obliterated." - Edward Lees, Secretary of the Scottish General Post Office, April 1840


This display considers why, contrary to intentions, the Maltese Cross was used multiple times on the same cover thus increasing the workload of the clerks and introducing inefficiencies during its period of use from 1840 to 1844.


Early lack of familiarity 2-4
Correcting unclear cancellations 5
Challenges caused by multiple stamps 6
Pressure of work 7-8
Insufficiently cancelled stamps 9
Problems caused by the wrong ink 10-12
Deliberate additional strikes 13-14
Additional impressions and unusual usages 15-16


Encyclopaedia of the Maltese Cross Volumes 1-3 - Professor S. David Rockoff & Mike Jackson
Maltese Cross Cancellations of The United Kingdom - R.C. Alcock and F.C. Holland
The Cancellations of the 1841 Penny Red - Goldsmith and Danzig
May Dates - Mike Jackson


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Early lack of familiarity - Lack of familiarity with the obliterator
  3. Early lack of familiarity - Fluid ink and double-lined crosses
  4. Early lack of familiarity - Public's lack of familiarity with the adhesive
  5. Correcting unclear cancellations
  6. Challenges caused by multiple stamps
  7. Pressure of work - Stacked and overlapping mail
  8. Pressure of work - London Inland Office
  9. Insufficiently cancelled stamps
  10. Problems caused by the wrong ink - Late use of red ink corrected
  11. Problems caused by the wrong ink - Blue ink corrected with black
  12. Problems caused by the wrong ink - Watery ink and under-inked crosses
  13. Deliberate additional strikes - Additional strikes on the cover
  14. Deliberate additional strikes - Instructional marks
  15. Additional impressions and unusual usages - Double kiss and set-off impressions
  16. Additional impressions and unusual usages - Very well cancelled and fraudulent reuse