Great Britain Single Frankings
Individual uses for GB pre-decimal stamps May 1840 – February 1972
General Introduction James Heal
Pre-decimal postage stamps and postal stationery were available at times in up to 31 different denominations from ½d to £5. Some are ubiquitous, others only had very limited use and some were only available as postal stationery; these few registered envelopes are in a separate tab and by no ways complete.
Stamps used to be issued for specific purposes and, when their need dried up, withdrawn. With the introduction of the so-called Jubilee series in 1887 a range of stamps in most denominations up to 1/- was issued, although some only had limited individual use. Of course, they could always be used to make up other rates. This system continued for most of the definitive series issued up to and including the Machins. The series had individual values added and sometimes removed but there were still plenty of more exotic items, whose need as individual stamps was small. Most commemorative stamps issued were planned for specific needs and often fitted the occasion during the EII era. The most striking case ignoring any practical use was the 1961 CEPT group with 2d, 4d and 10d stamps, none of which paid a first step rate of any kind, neither inland nor foreign.
The use potential of lower value stamps decreased in the EII period thanks to rising prices, so it is often difficult to find these used on their own. The same rarity applies to the high values of earlier periods. I have left out the £5 as postal use is practically non existent. 3 reference works are indispensable for working out rates: "British Letter Mail to Overseas Destinations 1840 to UPU" by Jane Moubray, second edition published by the RPSL is the most useful and complete overview for this period. "British Civilian Postage Rates of the 20th Century" by Michael Furfie published by the author nearly 20 years ago has an excellent overview of the last century. On the GBPS website Maurice Buxton has put together a superb listing of various rates to complement these and includes inland parcel post rates. I still struggle with parcels going abroad as the destination is not readily available. Forces rates in the last century are also beyond me. Please excuse my maybe excessive mention of Weston-super-Mare covers (my home town) which are part of my special collection and feel free to visit my page under postmarks showing the development of same there from the early 1800's on.
The set-up of this page is to follow the development of the issues by value, so logically in chronological order as far as possible. As commemoratives did not actually replace definitives, I have followed the lead by the SG specialized catalogues and put the definitives first and then the commems. When different usages were possible, I have tried to show these. More exotic destinations and usages are always welcome additions! It automatically shows the short lifespans of some stamps, not readily seen in the normal catalogues. Most items are from my collection, my friend Olaf Groth has also contributed and in some cases I have used items from other sources (with references). There are slots still to fill for which placeholders have been included. I have sometimes included inverted and sideways watermarks as well as phosphor alternatives, although they cannot usually be seen on the scans – you will just have to take my word for it! Shades are often very subjective, so have only been included when clear. I have decided against a tab for plates of the 1d red. There are so many of these, some 400 in all, many of which were used with several different stamp categories so some 600 altogether, compared to the approximate 3000 for all the rest! For this exercise the line-engraved penny stamps are fairly boring as their usage was almost always the same - just inland letters, first weight step. In the main listing I have just included examples of the different groups and some less usual usages. Due to the numbers available I have added tabs für 1d Controls, 1½d Controls and 1½d Advert Panes.
Please feel free to add covers to illustrate usages and any missing items. Please only single usage covers with correct postage; there has to be a logical cut-off point! Please excuse the very few items listed which are not single usage but near impossible as such, at least at correct rates. Registered covers with pre-printed stamps are therefore only acceptable if without further stamps. Underpaid items are acceptable, also if postage due markings have been applied but NOT please if postage due stamps have been added, as then no longer "single usage". Small overpayment is acceptable if it is not clearly philatelic. First Day Covers are ok if at correct rates and preferably commercial usage = not special covers with special postmarks, although these are acceptable as place holders until something better turns up! Cinderella labels without any value are also okay to include, as they do not have any influence on the postage rate. Please put your name in brackets at the end of the text so we can keep track of ownership.
Just as a reminder: QV line-engraved and embossed stamps together with most surface printed ones were valid for use until May 31st 1901, only the 1d lilac, the 8d, 2/- and £5, the 3 high values with coloured corner letters and the Jubilee series including the green £1 were valid until June 30th 1915. The 1d fiscal stamps were released for postal usage from June 1st 1881 and the other values January 1st 1883 and as far as I know valid until June 30th 1915. All Departmental Overprinted Officials were invalidated May 14th 1904. All other EVII stamps were valid until March 31st 1930 and all LSD stamps were invalidated February 29th 1972.