From Telegraph Stamp to Postage Stamp – a great British classic!

One of the “must haves” for any good GB collection is, of course, the great £5 orange of 1882.

Why so popular? Well my theory is simple, it’s big, bright and at £5 was worth several weeks income at the time it could be bought from the Post Office. No such stamp has existed since, even my design favourite, the wonderful PUC £1 black of 1929, was a ‘cheapy’ in comparison!

So little wonder that owning this stamp instantly upgrades any collection!

The £5 orange had more humble beginnings as the telegraph stamp (apologies to any lovers of the telegraphs…) issued in 1877.

By 1874 the rapid expansion of telegraphic business required separate postage and telegraph accounts, the solution was the adoption of special Telegraph stamps. The Inland Revenue wrote to the PMG requesting details of the size, colours & values of the new stamps, also asking if they would have corner letters similar to current postage stamps; they also expressed the hope that the sizes would be similar to current postage stamps to limit production costs.

The first values appeared in 1876 and had letters just in the lower corners, as opposed to the postage stamps of the time, later that year the PMG authorised additional telegraph values up to the £5 and as current postage designs went no bigger than the ‘long’ £1 stamps, an even bigger size was proposed and issued for the £5, on 1 March 1877.

In 1882 our beloved £5 postage stamp appeared, the “Telegraph” removed and the “Postage” added as a separate operation, so the word sometimes appears slightly out of register or even as a slightly different orange shade. At around that time the four corner letters were both appearing and disappearing from British stamp designs, yet the £5 still only showed the lower pair of letters, which is a unique feature.

Initially the paper was blued. As the degree of bluing varies, the valuable blued paper type (SG 133) is for distinct bluing only and although purely white paper did not appear until March 1889 an earlier postmark date does not automatically qualify the stamp as a ‘blued’.

In all, 246,826 of the £5 orange postage stamps were produced in sheets of 56, with almost exactly the same amount of 1867-83 10s grey- greens (of each watermark) & £1 brown- lilacs (wmk Maltese Cross) produced, with 112,000 examples of the £1 wmk Anchor, and surprisingly only 84,000 examples of the £5 orange Telegraph!

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