From Line Engraved to Surface Printed – The Old to the New 1880 Stamps


The first stamps, the one penny black and the two-penny blue, were produced in Britain in May 1840 by Perkins Bacon . Very considerable work was put into their production, including designs, inks and cancellations. The results were line engraved stamps, with a portrait of the new Queen Victoria, printed on watermarked paper in easily accountable sheets of 240 impressions. The first cancellation were in red ink and not the more durable black ink. The black penny stamp was soon changed to red and cancelling ink to black a situation that basically remained the same until 1879.

Whilst there were many changes, involving corner letters, perforations a second die, blued paper, different watermarks and so on, the basic design remained unchanged for very near forty years. Two new values, the halfpenny and the three halfpenny were introduced in 1870, both following the same basic design.

In the late 1870's the Post Office was worrying that cancellations could be removed and stamps re-used. There was also a cost factor involved. Higher values had been produced in smaller volumes from the mid 1850's by the surface printed method by De La Rue and this seemed a satisfactory route to follow. Tenders were issued in 1879 for a new one penny stamp and in 1880 for the remaining values. Almost inevitably De La Rue was successful in both of the tenders.

The result was new, if not very interesting, venetian red one penny stamp in Jan 1880 and a halfpenny green and a three halfpenny also in venetian red in October 1880 and finally a two penny in rose in December 1880, all printed by surface printing.

The Exhibit

The exhibit shows examples of the line engraved issues in use in 1879, and similarly examples of the new surface printed stamps of 1880. These examples have been chosen to be varied and interesting.

Some of the more scarce items are detailed below.

Line Engraved

The halfpenny - Plate 9 used and on cover.
The one penny - Plate 225 used and on cover, a block of 9 with plate number.
The three halfpenny - An 1860 issue specimen, the OP-PC for CP-PC error.
The two pence - Some varieties and an unused block of six from plate 13.

Surface Printed

The one penny - A Die proof from the De La Rue archives and another Die proof from October 1879.
The half penny - A Die proof and a plate proof.
The three halfpenny - A scarce colour trial, a plate proof and an imprimatur.
The two pence - A plate proof, a major plate defect and an official reproduction possibly for stamp albums.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. The Original 1840 Stamps
  3. Halfpenny Stamps in Use in 1879
  4. Halfpenny Stamps in Use in 1879
  5. One Penny Stamps In Use In 1879
  6. Line Engraved Stamps In Use In 1879
  7. See sheet 6
  8. Three Halfpence Stamps In Use In 1879
  9. Twopence Stamps In Use In 1879
  10. Protective Underprints On Low Value Stamps In Use In 1879
  11. The New One Penny Stamp Issued 1st January 1880
  12. Old And New Stamp Values On Covers
  13. The 1880 New Surface Printed Low Value Stamps - ½d
  14. The 1880 New Surface Printed Low Value Stamps - ½d
  15. The 1880 New Surface Printed Low Value Stamps - 1½d
  16. The 1880 New Surface Printed Low Value Stamps - 2d