The embossed adhessive stamps 1847-1854

The embossed adhessive stamps 1847-1854

6d, 10d and 1/- original die engraved by William Wyon. Frames engraved by Thomas Moss. Embossed at department of the board of Inland Revenue, Somerset House. 1/-, 11th September 1847. No WMK on Dickinson silk thread paper. Number issues 5,655,420. (282,771 sheets) in sheet of 20. 10d 6th November 1848. No WMK on Dickinson silk thread paper. Number issued 2,805,960 (116,915 sheets) in sheet of 24. 6d, 1st March 1854. WMK large VR. Number issued 3,718,280 (92,957 sheets) in sheet of 40.

In 1847, 7 years after the worlds first postage stamps a 1/- stamp was provided to pay the rate to certain British colonies and the USA. The Inland registration fee was also 1/- and this new stamp was to meet that requirement . In 1848 a 10d of similar design was issued for postage to France and to some other British Colonies. In 1854 the final value was issued, 6d being the postal rate to much of Europe and the registration fee having been reduced, this 3d and last British embossed stamp was released to the public. The trio is most interesting as each stamp was printed independently and laboriously into sheets of 20, 24 and 40 respectively, they were printed on coining presses from the Royal Mint in an operation both complex and slow. The 1d black and 2d blue, were printed on hand made paper, but it was decided to produce the 1/- and 10d on machine made paper for these two values no WMK was impressed, instead Dickinson silk thread paper was used, as the wet pulp passed over the gauze rollers of the machine wooden bobbins fed in the silk threads, these passed over the cylinder and into the paper as it was drawn out at the other end. The bobbins were arranged in such a manner that when impressed, each stamp would have two threads 5mm apart running through it. The paper for the ill fortuned Mulready envelopes and letter sheets was made in this fashion.

All the Dickinson paper was manufactured at Apsley Mill, Hemel Hempstead. Paper for the 6d value was however watermarked and had no silk threads, manufactured by Stacey Wise of Rush Mills, Northampton, it was hand made, the Watermarks ‘BITS’ being wired into the gauze press to establish 40 impressions of Sans Serif VR across each sheet, the gum was similar to that used on the blacks and blues of 1840 and was applied before embossing. In some cases as the gum was clear, the embossing was made on the gummed side in error so to correct this the gum was lightly tinted with green dye. The primary die was prepared by William Wyon, it consisted of a block of steel. The head was cut into this in bold recess, the background of the die was left a plain octagon and the Queens pendant curl was left out. This die was then hardened and could produce any number of original dies, it was then the turn of Thomas Moss, an engraver at Somerset House to add the pendant curls, frame and value with inscription. The Moss dies were now hardened forming females which were then forced into blocks of soft steel to produce the male or punch dies. These were then hardened and embossing could then take place. These final master pairs were kept by a special officer of the day and were issued to the stampers as and when required. The 1/- was struck from two die pairs marked on the design on the Queens bust line by numbers WW1 and WW2. WW being the initials of William Wyon. A 3rd pair was struck but never used, likewise the 10d was struck from six die pairs marked in the same fashion, the first die however was not numbered, the second and subsequent die pairs being numbered WW1 to WW5. Official records state however that die 5 was not used, but some unused examples do exist, these are extremely rare. Four die pairs were prepared for the 6d but only one was used, in all cases the die numbers should be readable but in many impressions they are either faint or invisible. When printing, the dies were struck so as to emboss and colour in a single operation but as each stamp was struck independently it can be seen, particularly in multiples that many stamps touch or indeed overlap each other. The original colour for the 10d was at first decided to be yellow, proofs were struck but were unsatisfactory.

The 1/- was intended to be in brown but the 10d took this colour instead. The pendant curl in each value is slightly different, the engine turned surrounds of the 1/- and 10d also differ and of course the frame of the 6d is totally different in as much as it is more ornate. Each value can be found in various shades, double impressions are rare and the 6d may be seen with WMK inverted and or reversed. The 6d and 1/- do exist privately, pin perfed on covers from Taunton. As with the 1d and 2d, this issue was imperf and cut at the post offices at time of issue with knife or scissors, but in many cases the stamps were not cut from the sheet squarely but around the design or, cut to shape’, this greatly affects the value today and a stamp cut square with four clear margins all round is rare and demands a good slice of SG catalogue unlike most other QV stamps which sell at a percentage. It should be also noted that the 1/- does exist without silk threads, being from the edge of sheet.

Mint examples are in all cases very rare and blocks of four are catalogues as much as mint singles, pairs are scarce, all values may be found overprinted SPECIMEN in RED or BLACK in different formats, these catalogue about the same as used copies. Up until quite recently the embossed issue has not been very popular with collectors, this may be because they do not clearly resemble postage stamps and in some cases are mistaken for cut outs from embossed pre paid envelopes released some years later. However times change and a revival is beginning, all three are rare to find in good condition and it should be said here that if you do not own a set already, to delay further could well prove expensive. They are in my mind an attractive set with an unusual background and a good future. Fill your gap as soon as you can.