G.B. Queen Victoria 1887 – 1900 Jubilee Issue

The Queen Victoria “Jubilee” issue of British postage stamps, issued between 1887 and 1900, is really a misnomer, in that the set was planned from 1884. The fact that the first 12 stamps came out onJanuary 1 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, was fortuitous. The previous issue of stamps, the 1883-4 lilac and green series, was not popular with the public, as the colours were dull. Postal clerks did not like the fact that postmarks often covered the denomination and as several different denominations were of the same colour and fairly similar in design it was difficult to know that the correct denomination stamp had been used on the envelope. The Post Office decided to replace the entire series with stamps of different colours for each denomination and some were to be bi-coloured. The resultant series represented a considerable break with tradition and must have appeared very modern and colourful. Coinciding with the Queen’s jubilee, it quickly became known as the Jubilee Series.

In November 2010, I visited a client in Wolverhampton who showed me a superb specialised collection of these issues, including proof material and covers. Regrettably for me the collection was not for sale, as he was still adding to it and hoped to competitively exhibit it at some stage in the future. However I was able to tell him about an item coming up for sale in our December 1st 2010 auction, which could be sensibly added to his collection.

Queen Victoria died after a very long reign, in 1901, and the Post Office immediately set about the planning of replacement stamps depicting the head of the new monarch,Victoria’s son, Edward VII. The “Jubilee” issue had only been in use for 14 years and 2 of the stamps, the ½ d blue-green and the 1/- green and carmine had only been in use for a few months. These two later colour changes had resulted from a decision to alter the colour of the ½ d value to comply with Universal Postal Union recommendations. It was not the policy of the Post Office to issue stamps as frequently as they are issued these days, but nevertheless a new series would be deemed essential on the death of a monarch. De la Rue were the printers being used by the Post Office at the time and one of the ideas they put forward was to replicate the designs of the Jubilee issue, but replace the head of Victoria with that of Edward.

The item which was being vended in our December 1st 2010 sale was called a “paste-up”. It was an essay consisting of a Jubilee 2 ½ d value with the portrait of Victoria cut out and replaced by a ¾ face lithographed portrait of Edward VI1. It was mounted on a small card with bevelled edges. All of the Q.V. Jubilee issues were treated in this manner, as was the 1881 1d lilac. I think the resultant design is quite attractive and, dare I say it, better than the stamps which were eventually issued. The paste-up realised £3,450.


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