The Federal Bill Stamps 1864-1890's
They were each printed by a different firm, with the Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) printing the first issue shown in the middle, the American Bank Note Company (ABN) printing the second issue, shown on the right and finally the British American Bank Note Company (BABN) printing the third issue, shown at left. All stamps were printed in sheets of 100. The first issue was in use from 1864-1865, the second from 1865-1868 and the third from 1868 until the 1890's.
The purpose of the bill stamps was to evidence payment of stamp duties on monetary instruments like promissory notes and cheques. The amount of tax required to be paid would, of course vary with the face amount of the instrument. Cheques of course were the main medium of exchange at this time, so a VERY large volume of stamps would have been printed for each issue. The scarcity of many values today lies in the fact that stamp collectors did not generally seek out mint examples, nor were there really any channels where they could obtain them, and most cheques got thrown out after being processed. The implication of course is that even when an issue has a relatively short life, as in the case of the first issue, there can still be a large number of collectible varieties, due to the very large printing.
Each issue has rarities that cost several thousands of dollars - mostly imperforate varieties and inverted centres. But once you get past those, the stamps become quite affordable. The first and second issues are comparable in price to the Large and Small Queens issues of Canada, but the third issue contains a large number of stamps that list for under $5 both mint and used.
Used stamps generally were cancelled using pen strokes, a date or initials. Occasionally you can find handstamp cancellations. These would be worth a significant premium over the more common pen cancelled stamps. However, in revenue collecting pen cancellations are to be expected and are not considered in any way to be a fault.
It should be noted that Van Dam prices his stamps in fine to very fine condition, but in practice fine is the average grade of this material: centering was generally very poor on the second and third issues. If you are after very fine or superb centering and even, intact perforations on all sides, expect to pay at least double the standard catalogue values. For multiples, expect to pay even more again, as they are nor common, especially with all stamps in the multiple being well centered.
The First Issue - 1864-1865
This issue was lithographed and as far as I know, it is the earliest involvement of the CBN in stamp production of any kind. In postage stamps, we don't see the CBN again until the Confederation and Historical Issues of 1927. Because of the nature of the lithographic process, there are a large number of varieties in the form of deformed letters (G for "C" in "Canada) for example and other flaws, which I will list in a minute. The stamps were all blue, with some shades being identifiable - so not a great choice if you want variety of colour in your collection.
There were 17 denominations which included a 1c, 2c, 3c, 4c, 5c, 6c, 7c, 8c, 9c, 10c, 20c, 30c, 40c, 50c., $1, $2, and $3. The designs were all the same: the young Queen Victoria's side portrait facing left, surrounded by an oval frame and numeral in the upper corners. Despite being printed by the CBN, the designs appear to borrow very heavily from the 1859-64 Cents Issue of Canada that was printed by the ABN. Just compare the elements of design in the centre stamp above with these stamps:
There is quite a variety of colours and frame designs on the values up to the 9c:
$1 blue and black centre
$2 red and black centre
$3 green and black centre
There are lots of shades to be found in the colours, and like the previous sets, trial colour proofs can be found in the issued colours of the dollar values, though I have not seen any for the lower values. However, I am sure they must exist.
Van Dam only lists two re-entries on the 3c and 6c, though there must be many more, given the large number of printings and given what we have seen emerge for the Large Queens over the past few decades. The stamps are affordable enough in used condition, that this would be an excellent research project for a budding specialist, as I stated in yesterday's post.
As with the previous issues, there are many imperforate varieties. The 4c imperforate left or right, 5c imperforate at left, 20c imperforate at left, 30c imperforate at left and 3c imperforate at right are the only inexpensive ones, listing for $60-120 either mint or used. The others that Van Dam lists are:
1c: imperf single - $250 used
2c orange: imperforate between pair - $2,000 used
3c green: vertical pair imperforate horizontally - $350 mint
3c green: imperforate pair - $150 mint
3c green: horizontal pair imperforate vertically - $2,250 used
5c orange: vertical pair imperforate horizontally - $2,750 used
6c green: horizontal pair imperforate between - $1,750 mint
6c green watermarked: horizontal pair imperforate between: $2,250 mint
$1 blue and black: imperforate pair - $135 mint.
In addition to the rare imperforate varieties, the $2 exists with the centre inverted. This lists in Van Dam for $12,500 in used condition.
Other than these varieties, the stamps of this issue are the most affordable of the three issues. Except for the 2c orange which is $95, all the basic stamps to the 50c are between $2.50 and $10 in mint condition. In used condition they range from 40 cents to $6 with most being under $1 (the 2c orange is still $35). The dollar values range in price from $27.50-$60 mint and $12.50-$32.50 in used condition, though do expect to pay more for really nicely centered stamps with face-free cancels. The suggested never hinged premiums are much smaller being 50% for the cent values and 100% for the dollar values. Documents are also much more readily attainable for this issue with only the dollar values being rare.
So the bill stamps are nice sets to collect even for collectors of modest means. If you are wealthy, each of the issues offers rarities to challenge you and you could easily spend a lifetime collecting only these stamps and related documents.