The Victorian 5 Shillings Postage Stamps 1867-1901


Introduction. The 5 Shillings was the first and only GB high value stamp when Plates 1 & 2 were issued in 1867 and 1874. Following the issue of Plate 4 under the terms of De La Rue's Consolidated Contract a new design was prepared as part of the 1884 Unified issue. This display traces the development and uses of these various issues with particular emphasis on stamp varieties, Specimen issues, Officials and the Die Proofs relating to the first design.

Treatment. The first 9 sheets of the exhibit after the Introduction relate to the 1867 design, whilst the final 6 sheets relate to the 1884 design. Each section starts with the pre-issue items comprising essays, die proofs and plate proofs, followed by imprimaturs and imperforates. The as-issued items comprise both mint and used, including paper varieties plus the overprinted examples. A detailed study of the 1867 die proofs has provided a better understanding of the missing Plate 3, as well as an explanation of the differences between Plates 2 & 4. The first section also includes a scarce example of the 1867 Edinburgh Post Office circular as well as coloured die proofs prepared by De La Rue for display purposes. The final sheet shows a stunning example of hitherto unseen fiscal usage.

Exhibit Plan (by Sheet numbers)
1. Introduction and Synopsis
2 to 7 1867 Plates 1 and 2
8 Coloured Die Proofs
9 & 10 1874 Plates 3 and 4
11 to 13 1884 Plates 5 and 6
14 & 15 IR Officials
16 Finale - Fiscal Use

Research and Personal Study. The following are some of the more significant aspects that have been studied:
  • Identification of three different states of the Queen's Head, as seen by a detailed examination of the Die Proofs for the first design, confirmed by a study of the records for working dies in IR 79/79.
  • Trialling of different techniques for distinguishing between treated and untreated white paper.
  • Preparation of records of Specimen overprints (by corner letters) including dates, purpose and numbers.
  • Study of the variation in the lettering of the IR OFFICIAL overprints.

Highlights and Scarcity. This exhibit contains a number of scarce items, as well as unique items from De La Rue and Post Office Archives. Scarce items have been identified by red frame lines, with double thickness lines for unique or where less than 5 examples exist. Of particular note are the multiples, the coloured Die Proofs, the Imprimaturs and mint stamps from the first issue, the IR OFFICIALS, some of the Specimen overprints, and the inverted watermark. The rarity of the Specimen overprints is based on Samuel's classification supplemented by my own research. Items marked with e* have an Expert Certificate.

The National Archives, Kew, IR 79/79 Bl Account of Recess Dies
John Easton, The De La Rue History of British & Foreign Postage Stamps, Royal Philatelic Society London, 1958
Chris Symonds, Die Proofs of the Victorian 5 Shillings Issues of 1867-1882, The GB Journal, to be published
E.D. Bacon, The Dies of the Great Britain Five Shillings Stamp of 1867, The British Philatelist, December 1930
Samuel & Huggins, Specimen Stamps and Stationery of Great Britain, GBPS 1980
E.D. Bacon, Victorian Ss, 10s and £1 stamps of GB overprinted "I.R.Official", The British Philatelist, February 1930


Frame 1

  1. Introduction and Synopsis
  2. 1866/67 5s Die 133 state 1 - Plates 1 & 2
  3. Imprimaturs, Issued Stamps & Specimen (Plate 1)
  4. Plate 1 - Specimen Pane Of Twenty
  5. Plate 1 - Used
  6. Plate 2 - Issued Stamps, Specimen & Used
  7. Post Office Circular- Edinburgh
  8. Coloured Die Proofs (State 1)
  9. Die Proofs For Plates 3 And 4
  10. Plate 4 - Imprimaturs, Issued, Specimen & Used
  11. 1884 5s - Pre Stamp Issue
  12. 1884 5s - On Revenue Paper - Issued Stamps & Specimen
  13. 1884 5s - On Untreated Paper - Issued Stamps & Specimen
  14. IR Official Mint And Used
  15. IR Official Specimen Overprints
  16. Fiscal Use - Edinburgh Gazette Subscriptions