The War Tax Stamps of 1915-1918

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This is my last detailed post on the ever-popular Admiral Issue of 1911-1928. Today's post will deal with the War Tax stamps that were first issued in 1915. In that year, as a measure to finance involvement in World War I, a 1c war tax was levied on all lettermail, increasing the current postage rates. Initially, it was decided to issue separate postage stamps for the actual war tax itself and then later for the war tax and the postage. Finally, in 1918, these stamps were discontinued and the 3c brown was issued to cover both the basic postage and the war tax, without any mention of the said tax.

There were three basic issues for the war tax stamps:

1. The first issue shown at the left had the words "war tax" in white letters in two lines across the design. There were two denominations issued for this design: a 1c dark green and a 2c carmine-red. The only stamp intended to be used for postage was the 1c, with the 2c being intended for use on cheques as a revenue stamp. Generally the only way that the 2c will be found postally used is if it was simply used as a 2c postage stamp. The idea when these were issued was that the postage was supposed to be paid with one stamp, while the war tax was to be paid with another.

2. The second issue shown in the centre had three of the values of the set overprinted with the words "war tax" diagonally. The stamps overprinted were the 5c blue, 20c olive green and 50c black. Eventually, the words "Inland Revenue" were added to the overprint. The overprint on the 5c and 20c was black, while the overprint on the 50c was red. This issue was entirely intended for revenue use, so postally used examples are very scarce.

3. The third issue shown on the right was issued in 1916 to replace the first issue. The idea with these was that they would cover both the postage and the war tax on one stamp. They were issued in only one denomination 2c + 1c and were issued first in carmine and later in brown.

Collecting Possibilities

The First Issue

The first issue is relatively straightforward, with no booklet stamps and no coils. There were also no known imperforates. Both stamps exist with type B lathework at the bottom of the sheets. Despite being relatively simple, there are some good shades of the 1c and 2c to interest the specialist and these shades an be very useful to someone studying the 1c and 2c admirals, as they provide a good reference source for the 1915-1918 inks. The green tends to be a blue green and a dark myrtle green, while the 2c shades are deep rose red, deep scarlet vermilion and carmine vermilion as well as deep rose-carmine. Unitrade lists only two shades of the 2c: carmine and rose-carmine. The 2c exits with two styles of precancel as well. In addition to the shades, and the precancels, one can also collect the different plate blocks. I do not know exactly how many plates were used for this issue, but I would expect that there would be anywhere from 5-10 different plates based on the amount of time that they were in use and on the number that would have been printed.

The Second Issue

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Unitrade only lists the two different overprint types on the three values of this issue and no other varieties. However, I believe that one can probably find at least two shades of each value and possibly more. Of course, one can also collect these stamps in plate blocks, which will be very expensive as these are scarce stamps in their own right. The stamps are very rarely seen on cover and are scarce in postally used condition, so an excellent challenge will be to collect as many different cancels on these as possible.

The Third Issue

The third issue is where the bulk of this issue lies. There were three basic sheet stamps issued as well as two basic coil stamps perforated 8 vertically. In addition to this, all the stamps exist with the usual large range of shades, which is particularly pronounced in the case of the 2c carmine, as well as two different due types. The difference between them lies in what appears under the large "T":

  • On die 1, there is a short white line under the "T".
  • On die 2, there is a short white line to half way under the "T", a diagonal line and 5 small dots under the rest of the "T". 
The sheet stamps that were issued are:

  • The 2c + 1c carmine, die 1, perf. 12. 
  • The 2c + 1c  carmine, die 2, perf. 12 - this is the scarce variety. 
  • The 2c + 1c brown, die 2, perf. 12
  • The 2c +1c brown, die 1, perf. 12 - this is the scarce variety. 
  • The 2c +1c carmine die 1, perf. 12 x 8
All of these exist in several shades. Unitrade does list two shades of the die 1 carmine stamp: carmine and rose-red, and lists two shades of the die 2 brown stamp: brown and yellow brown. In practice, there are many more shades than this and collecting them all can form the basis for a very deep specialized collection, since they can be extended to plate blocks for all values.

Both of the basic stamps exist with precancels: 2 styles with the carmine stamp and 11 styles for the brown stamp. The 2c brown exists with several imperforate and partially imperforate varieties, all of which are scarce, and all of which were issued without gum:

  • Imperforate pairs of die 1 and die 2,
  • Horizontal pairs imperforate vertically exist of both the brown and yellow brown shades, these are only found in the die 1.
  • Vertical pairs imperforate horizontally exist for the die 1. 
No other Admiral stamp has this many imperforate varieties. 

The 2c + 1c brown stamp also exists with three different types of lathework: A, B and B-inverted. In addition to the basic types, type A can be found with plate numbers under the lathework, while both types can be found with double lathework. 

The coil stamps were issued for both colours and once again, several shades can be found. The carmine stamp comes only in die 1 and is scarce in mint condition, while the brown stamp comes in both dies 1 and 2, with die 1 being the scarce type. Strips and pairs can be collected that have both dies 1 and 2 se-tenant. All of the coils can be collected in paste-up pairs and strips of 4. 

One final word of caution about the 2c + 1c carmine coil: these can be faked by trimming the top and bottom margins of the less expensive MR5, the perf. 12 x 8 sheet stamp. Examine the top and bottom edges carefully - they should be perfectly straight. If they appear crooked or trimmed, avoid them. Similarly, they can be off centre from top to bottom, but the combined width of the margins should be at least 2 mm. If you come across a stamp with less than 2 mm of combined top and bottom margin, it may be a trimmed example of MR5. 

This concludes my post about the Admiral issue. I hope you have found this series of posts useful. I will now turn my attention to the issues of the 1927-1936 period. As I have stated in an earlier post, I consider this to be a highly neglected field of Canadian philately that affords many possibilities to the creative specialist. On Monday next week, I will start with the 1927 60th Anniversary of Confederation Issue. 

Have a great weekend everyone!


  1. Have to say your posts on the Admiral issue have been an epic journey, and I have enjoyed them greatly. Have reworked my album layouts to reflect the information you have provide on paper and shade varieties, with the result that the Admiral issue now takes up most of 11 sides (5 1/2 double sided 6-row pages) of Vario F stock sheets.

    Verm much looking forward to your posts on the issues of 1927 to 1952, they should definitely help expand many collector's horizons as to what is possible to collect from this period compared to what is listed in Unitrade.

    Gene in Columbus OH

  2. Thanks for your kind words Gene. I am very happy to hear that you enjoyed them and were able to revamp your album pages based on what I wrote. I am really looking forward to writing more posts. Also, if there are any stamps you are looking for and cannot seem to find, check out my store or contact me with your want list. I am always glad to help and will always break sets to supply you with exactly what you are looking for.


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