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What is so special about Specimen Stamps

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David View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote David Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: What is so special about Specimen Stamps
    Posted: 25 April 2011 at 22:02

There seems to be no doubt to me, that Specimen Stamps appear to be sometimes relegated to the back fringes of Philately. Is this because when they are Over Printed (OP) they are demonetised? Could it be because they are seen as Cinderella stamps? Could it be because the OP spoils the look of the otherwise, unblemished stamp? Because of this they not only lose their value as objects to be used for postage but, for the higher value stamps, the purchase price for collectors can be often a small fraction of the same stamp, but, in mint unoverprinted (OP) condition.

Wiseman (1) in his magnum opus appears to regard Specimen Stamps as a somewhat lesser form of collecting. “Coming to Specimen Stamps themselves, they are of course highly collectable in their own right. But they are not, and never were “Specimens” in the sense that they were specially chosen. If anything, they were probably less than perfect copies and most mint stamps are better “specimens”, i.e. examples of their genre, than anything overprinted with the word SPECIMEN........In view of the foregoing, specimen overprints will receive little status or attention.” Yet In 1881 Philbrick and Westoby (8) felt; ‘It has not been thought necessary to enumerate those thus surcharged SPECIMEN, but some collectors attach value to them, as indubitably showing early copies.’

So some early collectors put a value on SPECIMEN stamps and felt that they were some of the first printed of each stamp. Certainly Samuel (2) tells that at one time Specimen stamps were used as space fillers. Is this still the case?

Samuel has given us a Philatelic Definition of Specimen stamps:- “A stamp or stamp proof which has been provided or preserved as a sample, for which no payment has been made to the revenue, and which has been defaced to prevent its postal (or fiscal) use.” Quoted in Bendon (7). Though I cannot prove it conclusively, I believe that the 1841 2d Blue (SG DP43), with no letters in bottom cartouches, is the world’s first attempt at a SPECIMEN stamp, albeit no OP. So, therefore the world’s first genuine SPECIMEN OP adhesive stamp is, in all probability, the 1847 1/- Embossed stamp (SG H1), with Red OP. I feel that that makes collecting these OP stamps so worthwhile.


I would attach photos/scans of some of my stamps but I do not know how to get them into this site!!


1) Wiseman W. A., The De La Rue Years 1878 – 1910 Volume 1, 1984 London

2) Samuel Marcus and Huggins Alan, Specimen Stamps and Stationery of Great Britain, 1980, GBPS

7) Bendon J., UPU Specimen Stamps, 1988, Limassol

8) Philbrick F. A. & Westoby W. A. S., The Postage and Telegraph Stamps of Great Britain, July 1881, Philatelic Society of London, reprinted by J & H Books 2009


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Steve View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Steve Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 April 2011 at 11:13
Specimen stamps can be quite a mixed bunch. The overprint renders them invalid for postage, hence they have no intrinsic value. Thus a 1c specimen from a definitive set has same value as the $5 if they are produced in similar numbers.
They may be produced by the printing firm for archive purposes for the company themselves or the issuing authority. As such they would not be poorer quality than the final stamps.
Others may be produced as samples for approval by the issuing authority. In this cicumstance, if rejected, they may be different from the issued stamp in design or colour, and hence be quite collectable.
Others may be produced just to satisfy collectors.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daniel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 April 2011 at 13:30
I think that they are collected but there are two distinct eras, classic and modern. Classic Specimen stamps are listed in specialised catalogues, such as Stanley Gibbons Specialised Stamp Catalogue for Great Britain and Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers and they can be very valuable.

Then there are more modern Specimen stamps that are of a more dubious nature. I'm referring to those that are sometimes given away free with stamp magazines or were sometimes given away at stamp exhibitions, these are interesting but not particularly valuable. Some countries sell Specimen stamps such as Australia and New Zealand and the reason for this is less obvious. But at least these latter modern examples are more affordable and I have a few in my collection. I remember that David raised the question in another thread as to whether or not Specimen stamps qualified as Cinderellas and my view is that as far as modern examples are concerned, I would say quite possibly.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote David Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 April 2011 at 09:19
Thank you to Steve and Daniel for replying.

To Steve, on the whole you have a point.  The Topic I posted is only part of a 7,000 word article which has just been sent away for publication.  The article was on QV postage stamps only.  I have over 100 QV SPECIMEN and CANCELLED stamps.  Most are of excellent quality, otherwise what is the point of collecting them?  The earliest SPECIMEN stamps were produced to go onto postmaster circulars in 1847 (the 1/- Embossed) and to stop the said post masters taking them off the circulars and using them!!  So much for Victorian meanness - mark you the Treasury managed stamps in those days so their parsimony is understandable. 

I accept that one SPECIMEN stamp in my collection, the SG 62 of 1855 is a bit bashed.  It has Overprint (OP) Type 3 vertically on it (the only stamp with Type 3 on it).  However, it is one of probably 5 survivors of 4,000 OP TYpe 3 produced for Postmaster Circulars, so its rarity plus the fact that it is one of the first GB Surface Printed  stamps puts it firmly into "of historical interest" category.

Actually one of the finest stamps I have comes off a De La Rue printers stock book and it is CANCELLED Type 14.  De La Rue did use CANCELLED stamps as samples of their work to foreign countries when they were touting for work, so the quality of the stamps had to better than excellent.

It does need to be remembered that many so called Mint stamps are often of poor quality.

Now Daniel I have no knowledge that some countries OP stamps SPECIMEN to sell to collectors.  On the whole the bulk of my collection of SPECIMEN stamps are pre 1910 as after that they get a tad pricey.  Certainly by QV days there are v few SPECIMEN stamps.

SPECIMEN stamps are used for the following reasons:-

  1. Post Masters Circulars – only 1841 -1873

  2. UPU for world-wide distribution – only with SPECIMEN OP’s from 1879

  3. For printers use:-

a) Different plates

b) Shades

c) Abnormal

d) Colour, paper and other trials

e) For their own reference collection

f) As samples to foreign postal authorities – to get orders

  1. For Inland Revenue distribution to foreign postal authorities such as the German example above

  2. For Inland Revenue Records at Somerset House

  3. Unissued issues

  4. Imperforate a) plain imperforate and b) on Imprimatur which are imperforate

  5. Colour standards both with SPECIMEN & later CANCELLED OP’s

  6. For Inland Revenue collection at Somerset House

  7. Various other official purposes such as Post Office itself

  8. Presentation sets to dignitaries

  9. Post Office Training with Black lines?

I shall put on some pictures of SPECIMEN stamps when I can sort out the difference on my scanner between pdf and jpeg!






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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Steve Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 April 2011 at 09:44
I, like Danel, have seen and have modern examples of Specimen stamps. When purchasing mint sets from St Vincent and similar small territories they arrived often accompanied with a few additional 'freebie' Specimen stamps.
These also turn up as free gifts as an enticement to buy philatelic magazines in a little packet stuk to the cover.
Interesting perhaps, collectable possibly, valuable and documentary? neither.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Keith Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 May 2011 at 03:42
I've managed to lay my hands on the images that David mentioned in his initial post and here they are.

Keith
See the online catalogue of members' stamps at http://www.askmeaboutstamps.com
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote David Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 May 2011 at 08:02
Thank you Keith for putting images onto the site.

The SPECIMEN OP's came in Types (after Type faces I suppose), and started not surprisingly with Type 1 and went to Type 13.  Type 14 was for Colour Standards so was a CANCELLED. Then came more SPECIMEN  Type 15 - 16.  We then get onto EVII.  QV also had Type 18 CANCELLED.  I do not have any with Type 7 as there are only 5 stamps with this on.  Nor do I have any Type 13 - for me the nicest typeface!  I do not have any 16 for QV so I have put a couple of EVII on instead.

This might be obvious but stamps with no OP's are written specimen (a lot of people call stamps 'specimens of x or y or z ) in lower case, whereas those with OP's are written in upper case hence SPECIMEN or CANCELLED.  There are no 1840 Penny Blacks or 2d Blue with SPECIMEN on.  The earliest 1d Red with SPECIMEN on is 1848/9.  The 1841 2d Blue with white lines and no letters in corner cartouches is probably the worlds first attempt at demonistising a stamp to prevent its reuse.   Needless to say it was used!!  So we get to what is - and it is a strong contender - probably the worlds first stamp OP SPECIMEN the 1847 Embossed 1/- Green.  It is OP Type 1 in Red and Type 2 in Black.

Type

Type 1 lasted 1847 - 70.

Type 2 1854 -73

Type 3 1855 (only on SG 62 the first GB Surface Printed stamp)

Type 4 1856

Type 5 1862 -7

Type 6 and 6A 1860 - 87

Type 7 c 1861

Type 8 1862 -77

Type 9 1871 - 1900 the commonest OP and has several different versions

Type 10 1874 -87 also with versions

Type 11 1876 - 1900 also with versions

Type 12 1881 - 87

Type 13 1883 - 92

Type 14 1883 -1900 also with versions

Type 14A c 1873 used by De La Rue to send work to prospective customers overseas

Type 15 1891 - 1902 also with versions

Type 16 1891 - 1902

Type 18 1900 - 1907

Type 17 was EVII only and was in an inverted horse shoe shape so the letters did not go over the Kings face!!

In the images I have included most of the above together with versions as OP's came horizontal, vertical i.e top to bottom and vica versa and diagonally top left to bottom right (rare) and bottom left to top right.

Most OP's were hand stamped on and as shewn in the 1/2d Slate Blue look as if they were done by a child.  Those 9 stamps have 10 OP's!  It does seem these were done by the Inland Revenue at Somerset House and later on De La Rue took over and made up formes so they were printed on properly.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Steve Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 May 2011 at 10:15
That is a fine Collection. It deserves a capital C.
I especially like the 1841 2d Blue without cartouche letters.
Thanks for sharing them with us
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote David Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 October 2011 at 08:24
Long time no write!!

If you are interested in Specimen stamps OP's then look up Sothebys catalogue for the Mairi Bury collection, there are some choice ones there, then Spink and look up Chartwell sale especially one 12th Oct when there were about 500 Specimen OP's to be had or about 300 individual stamps.  I only managed a couple due to some silly prices but am delighted with the ones I got, and a week later I am still waiting for the stamps to be posted.
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