Penny Red Stars 1850-1864



A traditional exhibit of the One Penny Red Stars, the work horse of the British Post office and the first perforated stamp in the world. It shows their development and evolution in a period of constant production changes to meet the ever-increasing demand, improve quality and reduce cost.


Following the Postage Duties Bill of 1839 and the establishment of Uniform Penny Postage in 1840, the use and demand of "labels", i.e. stamps, to pre-pay mail far exceeded expectations. These stamps were not perforated, requiring that each be hand cut, a time-consuming task. In 1849 Henry Archer, an Irish-born businessman, convinced the Treasury to conduct perforation trials with his machines. The trials conducted in late 1849 and early 1850 proved the viability of perforating stamps, resulting in the first officially perforated stamp in 1854.

Organization of the Exhibit

Section 1 - Genesis 1850-1853
— The Need for Perforations & Private Separations
— Archer Perforation Trials

Section 2 - Conception 1854-1855
— Die I Alphabet II small crown Perforated 16

Section 3 - Evolution 1855-1856
— Change to perforation 14
— Introduction of Die II
— Die II Alphabet II
— Introduction of Alphabet III

Section 4 - Transition
— Temporary Printings on White Paper
— Printings in Tone paper

Section 5 - Culmination
— Rose-red
— Provisional use of perforation 16 and
— Hand Engraved Letters.
— Reserve Plates and the End of an Era

Exhibit contents:
Section - 1 Illustrates the need for perforation followed by private trial perforations and the Archer perforation experiments.
Section - 2 First officially perforated stamps and the perforation problems encountered.
Section - 3 Steps to solve the perforation problems, improve stamp quality, the introduction of a new watermark and alphabet.
Section - 4 Phasing out of 'blued" paper and the minor events that paved the road to a consistent color on & white paper.
Section - 5 Rose-red is the color standard, watermark update, engraving of corner letter and closing of the exhibit.

Steel plates with 240 images of the one penny stamp were used by Perkins, Bacon & Co. to print and then gum the sheets at their Whitefriar's premises. The printed sheets were taken to the Inland and Revenue Department (Somerset House, London) to be perforated and distributed to the post offices. The number of production plates, 121, and fourteen issues resulted in 270 different stamps. This number of different stamps excludes shades and production varieties, with many being scarce or rare. In more than 15 years of collecting 'Stars', the author has seen only one plate 48 (blued paper) on cover, but never a perforate plate 168.

Designator Keys

Unique and/or rare items framed in Red; Scarce and/or significant items framed in BLUE.
Broken Pin varieties & states from Simpson & Sargent
Items accompanied by certificates from experts are indicated with a lower case 'e'
Throughout this exhibit, color references and issue order is from Stanley Gibbons Queen Victoria Specialized Stamp Catalog


Frame 1

  1. Introduction (1)
  2. Introduction (2)
  3. Introduction (3)
1 - Genesis 1850-1853
  1. The Need for Perforations & Private Separations
  2. Archer Perforation Trials
2 - Conception 1854-1855
  1. Die I Alphabet II small crown Perforated 16
3 - Evolution 1855-1856
  1. Change to perforation 14
  2. Introduction of Die II
  3. Die II Alphabet II - Small Crown Watermark
  4. Die II Alphabet II - Large Crown Watermark
  5. Introduction of Alphabet III
4 - Transition
  1. Temporary Printings on White Paper
  2. Printings on Toned paper
5 - Culmination
  1. Rose-red
  2. Provisional use of perforation 16 and Hand Engraved Letters
  3. Reserve Plates and the End of an Era