GB Overprints Society

GB definitive surcharges


In the early 1880s the British government became increasingly anxious (one might say paranoid) about members of the public removing postmarks from stamps so as to reuse them. Not content with ensuring that virtually indelible ink was used for postmarks, they increasingly turned to "fugitive" inks for the stamps themselves, ie inks which would easily dissolve in water, and indeed to "doubly fugitive" inks which would also dissolve in many solvents. This all embracing approach reduced the available ink colours to just two - green and lilac. This ultimately led to the 1883 "lilac and green" set (as a result of which the GPO had to use different shaped frames to help easy differentiation of values in candle-lit offices), but as an interim solution in January 1883 the current 3d and 6d stamps were reprinted in fugitive lilac, and, to help identification, had a large red "3d" and "6d" overprinted on them. The same approach was adopted for large numbers of revenue stamps in the same period. It is reported that about 25% of these 3d and 6d stamps were used on telegrams.

Note: this numbering system was drawn up by the Society for the website, and may not be used without permission.

Queen Victoria

Value repeated in large red figures

1 January 1883

GB 3d/3d, 6d/6d

1 "3d" (red) on 3d violet (plate 21)

2 "6d" (red) on 6d violet (plate 18)

overprint varieties

2 v1 6d overprint double

2 v2 6d, slanting dot (one or both), positions AF, DC, MH, MI, OI, PH, SI.

watermark varieties

1 wi 3d watermark inverted

2 wi 6d watermark inverted

Essays exist of other stamps specially printed in fugitive lilac and similarly overprinted with their own value, and various values in blue, black or red on the 1d lilac.

The overprinted issues were replaced by the 3d and 6d in the "lilac and green" set 15 months later on 1 April 1884, but presumably just continued in use until exhausted.

The overprinted postal fiscal is also technically an overprinted postage stamp for general use - see under "Officials".

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page last updated: 7 August 2006, 11 August 2012 

gbos: GB Overprints Society