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British Stamps

Surface Printed Issues

1855-1862

The first surface printed British Stamps appeared between 1855 and 1857.  The designs were very simple and featured the usual left facing portrait of Queen Victoria.

WMK 21
Small Garter

The Four Pence denomination British stamps shown above were issued in 1855.  They are typographed, perforated 14, and they were printed on paper with WMK 21 -- the Small Garter watermark.  This would be the only occasion that the Small Garter watermark would be used.


  • 4 P.  (1855 - Scott #22) - Rose on Light to Deeply Blued Paper.
  • 4 P.  (1855 - Scott #23) - Rose on White Paper.


WMK 22
Medium Garter

The Four Pence stamps were again issued in 1856.  They were printed on paper with WMK 22 -- the Medium Garter watermark.  This would be the only occasion that the Medium Garter watermark would be used.


  • 4 P.  (1856 - Scott #24) - Rose on Bluish Paper.
  • 4 P.  (1856 - Scott #25) - Rose on White Paper.


WMK 23
Large Garter

The Four Pence stamp was once again issued in 1856.  It was printed on paper with WMK 23 -- the Large Garter watermark


  • 4 P.  (1856 - Scott #24) - Rose on White Paper, Carmine Rose on white paper, Rose on thick Glazed Paper.


WMK 24
Heraldic Emblems

In 1856, two new surface printed denominations were added.  They are both shown above.  The stamps were printed on paper with WMK 24 -- the Heraldic Emblems watermark.


  • 6 P.  (1856 - Scott #27) - Lilac, Deep Lilac, Lilac on Blued Paper, Lilac on Thick Paper.
  • 1 S.  (1856 - Scott #28) - Green, Pale Green, Deep Green, Green on Blued Paper, Green on Thick Paper.

The 6 P. denomination exists with a watermark error, watermarked Three Roses and a Shamrock.  These errors are very rare.


WMK 23
Large Garter

A new Four Pence denomination stamp was issued in 1862.  This new design was printed on paper with WMK 23 -- the Large Garter watermark.


  • 4 P.  (1862 - Scott #34) - Vermilion, Bright Red.

This new design features four small, solid colored squares in the corners.  These squares contain what are called "check letters"

The tiny check letters in the bottom squares indicate the location of the particular impression on the plate.  In mathematical terminology, these letters are the x-y coordinates of the stamp's position in the printed sheet.

The lower-left-corner letter indicates the row the impression is on, and the lower-right-corner letter indicates the column the impression is located in.  The letters in the top squares are the same check letters, but in reverse order.


WMK 24
Heraldic Emblems

Also in 1862, the 6 P. and 1 S. denominations were re-designed with small check letter boxes in the corners, and new 3 P. and 9 P. denominations were added, also with small check letter containers in the corners.  All of these British stamps were printed on paper with WMK 24 -- the Heraldic Emblems watermark.


  • 3 P.  (1862 - Scott #37) - Pale Rose, Deep Rose.
  • 6 P.  (1862 - Scott #39) - Lilac, Deep Lilac, Lilac on Blued Paper, Lilac on Thick Paper.
  • 9 P.  (1862 - Scott #40) - Straw, Bister, Straw on Blued Paper, Straw on Thick Paper.
  • 1 S.  (1862 - Scott #42) - Green, Deep Green.

The 6 P. and 9 P. denominations exist with watermark errors.  They are all very rare.

The 4 P., 6 P., 9 P., and 1 S. denominations exist with hair lines.  These are fine colorless lines diagonally crossing the check letter boxes.  Except for the 4 P. and 6 P. denominations, these hair line errors are very rare.

For the specialist, there are a multitude of collectible varieties of most of the British stamps described on this page, including essays, die proofs, plate proofs, color trials, plate markings, plate numbers, control numbers, shade varieties, etc.  For details, please refer to the Stanley Gibbons Specialised Catalogue - Volume I - Queen Victoria.




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Great Britain Postage Stamps

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British Stamps - Surface Printed Issues of 1855-1862





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