GB 1858-1879 1d Red Brown and Two Penny Blue - Letters in all 4 Corners

From Stamps of the World

  • Date of Issue : 1858-1879
  • Perforations : 14, Die II
  • Watermark : Large Crown
  • Sheet : 12 x 20 (240 stamps)
  • Plate Numbers (shown on sides) : 71-225
  • Plate Numbers 1d.(prepared but not used or rejected) : 69,70,75, 77, 126, 128, 226, 227, 228
  • Plate Numbers 2d.(prepared but not used or rejected) : 10 and 11

It was decided in 1857 that a new set of plates would commence, these differed from the earlier plates in that the top corner stars were replaced with the plate letters but in reverse. e.g. AB at the bottom and BA at the top. This was a further fraud protection to the design. The second difference was that the plate number was incorporated into the design of the stamps side framework.

Inverted watermarks are known from most of the plates.

Detailed information on the production dates and quantities printed for plates 69-228 are given in Allan Oliver's publication. Also included are images of plate 77 stamps AB, BA and PH (p. 54).

Large crown watermark - toward bottom of stamp
1d rose-red Plate 190
1d lake-red Plate 76
1d rose-red, detail showing position of plate number 190
2d deep blue (Thin lines), detail showing position of plate number 14
2d blue (thick lines) Plate 12
2d deep blue (thin lines)

1d red, Plate 77[edit]

The 1d red, plate 77 is a great rarity as this printing plate was rejected as defective soon after production with the plate being defaced to prevent it's use around 1862/1864 and then destroyed. As far as British Post Office Records are concerned it was never used to print postage stamps. The great mystery is that perhaps 10 stamps from this non-existent plate have been known since the early 1890's through to 1994 with a number appearing to have been used as postage.

Given the spread of lettering on the known stamps, AB and so on to as late as stamp PI at least one sheet must have been produced. While we have no direct evidence, one can theorise that to check the quality of the work done in producing the plate a sheet was printed and perforated, however, upon being checked by Perkins Bacon staff and Inland Revenue officials it was found that the plate was defective, and the decision was taken to deface and destroy the plate rather than to fix the defects. This sheet survived rather than being destroyed also and was placed in Post Office stock.

The two copies of this stamp, both unused, with the most certain provenance are the stamp with corner letters AB in the Royal Philatelic Collection and the stamp lettered BA in the Tapling Collection in the British Library. Stamp AB was purchased by King George V in 1918 and stamp BA was acquired by the library with the rest of Thomas Tapling's collection on his death in 1891.

In 2008, a London based collector, Abed Najjar, reported his discovery in Europe of an 1865 part cover sent by the famous playwright Victor Hugo, who resided in Guernsey at that time, to his publishers in Brussels, Belgium. The cover is damaged and contains 3 x 1d reds (stamps lettered RL, SK and SL), which Mr. Najjar states originate from three impressions on plate 73 re-engraved with a plate number 77; he has had the cover extensively examined and tested. Mr. Najjar presents extensive archival and forensic research of the stamps, the 1858-1879 issue, and of plate 77, including 3 American expert opinions agreeing with his assertion that the stamps are from plate 77, however, other philatelic experts do not believe the stamps are from plate 77. Principally, the Royal Philatelic Society of London (RPSL) considers the stamps to be from plate 73 altered to mimic stamps of plate 77 (RPSL, certificate 194468).

Stamp BA Plate 77, Tapling Collection
Stamp LL plate 77
Stamp MI plate 77
Stamp PH plate 77, Fletcher Collection
Stamp PI plate 77 on piece with 4d

The recognised plate 77 stamps are:

  • Stamp ?? in the William Hughes-Hughes collection, later in the possession of Philip Ferrari de La Renotière (Ferrary) (unused) and location unknown;
  • Stamp ?? owned by H.J. Crocker and destroyed during the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 along with his collection (unused - destroyed);
  • Stamp AB purchased in 1918, in the Royal Collection (unused);
  • Stamp AC purchased in 1919 and sold by Charles Nissen. After several owners it was purchased by a Major Raphael in November 1959 at a Robson Lowe auction; and then disappeared in 1965 when his collection was stolen. (unused);
  • Stamp BA in the Taping Collection at the British Library (unused);
  • Stamp LL sold in 1915 for £50 (used). It is now owned by a J.W. Phillips, location unknown;
  • Stamp MI found in a box of a million stamps in 1944 and sold for £220 (used). This stamp lightly cancelled by a London "75" numeral, clipped perfs at foot 1944 RPS & 2014 BPA Certificates. Ex. Percy Jackson (Robson Lowe, November 1944) & "Verus". This stamp has been sold by Stanley Gibbons in 2015 for £475,000;
  • Stamp NC found in a collection in 1994 and sold at auction by Harmers, London (used), location unknown;
  • Stamp PH found in 1920, contained in the Fletcher Collection at the British Library (used);
  • Stamp PI on piece with 4d. Found in 1920 in a box of stamps purchased from dealers Johnson and Readhead; Stanley Gibbons sold this stamp in 2012 to a anonymous investor in Australasia for £550,000.

Plate Blocks[edit]

1d rose-red, plate 190
1d rose-red, plate 190, back showing watermark

Registered Cover[edit]

1873 Registered cover
Detail of cover showing 1d rose-red, plate 140; 2 x 2d blue (thick lines), plate 12; 1/2d bantam, rose-red, plate 4

References & sources[edit]

  • Penny Red Collector, [1]
  • "Rare plate 77 Penny Red for sale by Channel Islands dealer", BBC News, 8 February, 2012, [2]
  • "Stanley Gibbons sell Britain’s most valuable stamp for £550,000", Stanley Gibbons, [3]
  • Debney, Richard, Great Britain: The 1858–1879 1d Rose-Red Plate 77, Collectors Club Philatelist,88(2), March–April 2009, pp.105-110., [4]
  • Najjar, Abed, The Iconic Victor Hugo Plate 77 Cover, [5]
  • Oliver, Allan, Life span of the printing plates for all the line engraved postage stamps produced by Perkins, Bacon and Petch, (and after 1852, Perkins, Bacon and Co.). Also including the embossed issues produced at Somerset House And the Mulready envelopes. Version 8.01 (16 February 2013), ,p. 51-64.,[6]
  • Stephens, Glen, GB cover with 3 x Plate “77’s” discovered?, [7]