The Large Queen Issue of 1868-1876
BackgroundFollowing Confederation it became necessary to prepare a new issue of stamps which would replace the issues of The Province of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. British Columbia would continue to use its own stamps until it joined Confederation in 1871, and of course Newfoundland would join in 1949.
The contract to print the stamps went to the British American Bank Note Company of Montreal and Ottawa. The basic design for all the values in the series was the young Queen Victoria facing right, which was based on the famous engraving by Charles Henry Jeens. The actual engraving of the portrait was the work of Alfred Jones, while the frames and lettering were engraved by Henry Earle Sr. The frames varied slightly on each denomination, but consisted of beautifully ornate scrolls in the corners and foliate ornaments within which were the words "Canada Postage" and then the demination expressed in both words and numerals.
There were nine basic demoninations and colours in this series as follows:
Postage Rates, Usages and Quantities Issued
Condition and Availability
Points of Interest
I will deal with the shade differences and how to distinguish between them in a future post. Most of the shades are not particularly rare, but the blue and violet shades of the 15c, containing no grey or slate, whatsoever, are rare and desirable.
The basic perforation for these stamps is 11.9 on the Instanta gauge, which the catalogues round to 12. The 1/2c and 15c are both found perforated 11.5 x 12, from the Montreal printings made in the mid 1870's.
The 5c value is found in three perforations: 11.75 x 12, which accounted for 60% of the stamps printed; 11.5 x 12, which accounted for 34% of the stamps printed, and finally 12.1, which is rare and found only on 6% of the stamps printed. The difference between the 11.75x12 and 12.1 is very minute and can be easily misidentified unless you use an Instanta gauge, which is accurate to .05 of a perf. , or a Kiusulas gauge, which is calibrated specifically for Canadian stamps and is based on Imperial measurements.
In all cases, the 11.5 x 12 stamps are scarcer than the perf. 11.9's. The catalogue does not really assign a premium to the 1/2c value, although in my experience it should, but it does assign a considerable premium to the 15c value.
Plate Flaws and Re-Entries
All the values except for the 5c and the 12.5c exist with major-re entries, and in the case of the 6c, a very dramatic double print of the bottom portion of the stamp. A re-entry occurs when a portion of the design is doubled after printing using a plate that has been re-worked. The early plates were made from soft steel, which wore as they were used. Periodically, they would be taken, and the transfer roll containing the dies of the design would be re-applied to the plate. Of course, very rarely would the new impression perfectly align with the old, creating the doubling. The Unitrade catalogue lists only the most spectacular of these, although there are probably many minor ones to be found as well.
There are also other flaws to be found as a result of damage to the plates and are found primarily on the 1/2c, 2c, 3c, 12.5c and 15c values:
1. On the half cent, a small spur protruding left from the outermost ornament just to the upper left of the "H: of half can be seen on some stamps. A variation of this in which the spur is in the form of a small "H" also exists as well. There can also be found stamps showing a line above the "P" of postage, and finally the Chignon variety, which is an absence of shading in the bun of the Queen's hair.
2. On the 2c a slash accross the tip of the Queen's nose is called the "Needle Nose" variety.
3. On the 3c value diagonal lines can be found in the "C" and "T" of Cents. A blob of solid colour on the Queen's chin is known as the "Goatee" variety and has been well known for a long time - as long as I can remember. A newer listed variety consists of a slash of colour accross the chin and has been dubbed the "Shaving Nick" variety.
4. On the 12.5c value, three large guide dots in the lower left corner is called the "Balloon Flaw", which was unlisted until just a few years ago.
5. On the 15c value, three dots in a triangular pattern can be found in the margin to the right of the right "15". This is called the "Pawnbroker" variety.
All of these flaws, except those on the 1/2c are very expensive, being worth hundreds of dollars and up.
With the exception of 1c circulars, drop letters, 3c covers and 6c covers to the US, all postal history from this issue is scarce to rare, with many covers being valued at thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars. This issue pre-dates the UPU, so postage rates to destinations other than the UK could be quite expensive and were at the discretion of the steamer companies like the Cunard line that carried the mail.
A very challenging idea indeed would be to get one cover from each of the following rates made from different combinations of stamps as follows:
1. Periodical - single use of the 1/2c
2. Drop letter- single 1c (each colour on a separate cover) or a pair of 1/2c stamps
3. Circular - as above on unsealed circular
4. Domestic 1/2 oz - 3c single use, 2c +1c, 2c plus 2 x 1/2c, 1/2c block of 6, strip of three 1c.
5. Domestic 1oz - 6c single use and the above stamps doubled, plus strip of three 2c.
6. USA 1/2 oz - as above for the domestic oz, but to US destinations
7. Red river - as above for domestic oz
8. British columbia 1/2oz - strip of 5 2c, 6c plus pair of 2c, 6c plus four 1c.
9. Domestic registered: 3c + 2c, 3c + block of 4 1/2c, 3c+ 2 x 1c
10. UK via Newfoundland: 12.5c single usage; 6c x 2 plus 1/2c; 3 x 4 plus 1/2c, 2c x 6 plus 1/2c etc.
12. UK via New York:single 15c, 6c x 2 + 3c, 3c x 5 etc.
13. Reduced rate to UK: single 5c.
The above example collection would comprise 40 covers and would take years to assemble, and that is not even taking foreign, non-uk destinations into account.
So there you have it, a run-down on the Large Queen issue of Canada. The issue proved to be expensive to produce, due to the size of the stamps. So starting in 1870, just 1.5 years after they were first introduced, the post office replaced them with a similar design in a smaller format. Only the 1/2c 5c and 15c designs were retained, being replaced in 1882, 1876 and after 1900 respectively.
My store currently has over 100 Large Queens available for sale at all price ranges. To take a look at what I have, click on the following link: