Queen Victoria Stamps of Bermuda 1883-1904

During 1882 Colonial stamps began to be printed on paper watermarked Crown and CA. The first Bermuda stamp with the new watermark was the 1d. value delivered at the end of 1882, but not issued immediately. The new watermark was not noticed until 1886 as the colour of the stamp was so nearly that of the 1d. watermarked Crown and CC. However used copies are known dated from at least December 1883 onwards and by April 1884, the stocks of the 1d. with the old watermark appear to have been practically exhausted. Apart from the watermark, the new stamps were identical to the old in perforation, sheet make-up, and plate and reference numbers. Inverted watermarks are known. The shades are dull rose-red, dull red and dull rose, appearing, it is believed, intermixed, since they all formed part of the same consignment.

A 2½d. stamp in a new design was requested on July 3rd, 1883, and an artist’s hand painted design, dated July 25th, 1883, was submitted and in due course approved. The dates on the die proofs are somewhat of a mystery, for proofs marked “BEFORE HARDENING” are known dated both December 10th and 12th, 1883, while two marked “AFTER HARDENING” are dated December 11th and December 12th, 1883. Perhaps the first die was damaged and a second one made. No plate proofs or specimens have been recorded.

The first stock of 2½d. stamps was received on November 6th, 1884, and the stamp was issued on November 10th, 1884. Its purpose was, of course, to pay the ½ ounce postage rate to the United States which had previously required the use of two stamps. From January 1st, 1894, to Christmas 1898 it was also used to pay the postage rate to the United Kingdom, which, however, was further reduced in the latter year to 1d. The make-up of the sheet and the positions of the plate number 1, are the same as for the 4d. of 1880. There is no reference number. There are three shades, pale ultramarine and bright ultramarine, both with clear gum, and deep ultramarine with brownish gum. The perforation is 14 comb. The pale and bright ultramarine shades are known with inverted watermark.

The 3d. value, now printed in grey, appeared with the new watermark at the end of January, 1886. There are only slight shades, varying from grey to pale grey, and the stamp exists with both clear and brownish gum. No specimens have as yet been reported, though in view of the change in colour it would seem likely that they would have been made.

The second printing of the 1d., received on January 20th, 1886, and in circulation by about March of that year, proved to be in a new shade, carmine-rose, which varies from deep to pale. The third printing, received on November 28th, 1887, and issued early in 1888 was in carmine with shades from deep carmine to carmine-red. The fourth printing, received on August 21st, 1889, and all subsequent printings, were in numerous shades of aniline-carmine, from deep to pale, with the colour frequently showing through the back of the stamp. It is known with inverted watermark, as is the carmine-rose of 1886.

The 2d. with Crown and CA watermark was received in the Colony on December 28th, 1882, but was not issued until December 1886, owing to the quantity still on hand of the 2d. with Crown and CC watermark and the diminishing need of this value. Only one printing in blue was made, but several shades may be found of bright blue with clear gum and of dull blue with brownish gum. The plate and reference numbers as well as the format of the sheet remained as before.

A new supply of ½d. stamps in green with the Crown and CA watermark was received on November 26th, 1891, and was first issued in the following October on the exhaustion of stocks of the ½d. stone. There are two distinct shades, dull green with clear gum and deep grey-green with brown¬ish gum, the latter, though found used from 1893 on, believed to be more common in the final print¬ing of 1899. The stamps remained on sale until towards the end of December, 1903, when it was replaced by the ½d. “Dock Type”. Unlike the ½d. stone, the plate number “1” in the margin below the lower left pane is in its normal position below the second stamp in the bottom row.

It will be recalled that stamp No. 10 in the upper left pane of the ½d. stone shows a heavy retouch of the background lines above the Queen’s head. On the ½d. green it is clear that the retouched cliche was replaced, but in doing so the top, left and bottom frame lines of the new cliche were damaged, as were also the bottom frame of the stamp above, No. 4, and the top frame of the stamp below, No. 16. The damage consists of colourless dashes, apparently splits, in the frame lines. The most prominent areas of damage are in the top frame of No. 10, at the left end, where the damage is very pronounced, and the top frame line of No. 16 towards the left end. All the damage is constant.

The colours of the 2d. and 1/- were changed in 1893 to purple and brown respectively. The first printing of the new 2d., received on June 22nd, 1893, and issued in the following month, was in aniline purple with clear gum, and shows practically no variation in shade. The second printing, received on May 26th, 1897, and believed to have been issued early in 1898, was in brown-purple, with slight shades from dull to bright. There were also two printings of the 1 /-, received on June 22nd, 1893, and on November 10th, 1897, in two distinct shades of brown, yellow-brown and olive-brown, both of which vary to pale shades. However it is not possible to say that each printing represented only one colour, for both are found used before 1897, though the yellow-brown shades appear to be somewhat scarcer. No 1/- stamps in the “Dock Type” were made and the 1/- Queen Victoria remained on sale until the appearance of the “Ship Type” 1/- on March 26th, 1912.

The last value of the series to appear on the Crown and CA paper was the 4d., received on November 10th, 1897, but only issued to the Postmaster on January 18th, 1904 (two sheets!). But the earliest recorded used example is dated June 11th, 1904. The colour is orange-brown and is quite distinct from the 4d. of 1880.

Proofs of the 2½d. have already been dealt with, but a series of plate proofs exist, on paper watermarked Crown and CA, perforated 11¾. It is believed that there are several sets, at present broken up and scattered, but the Ferrari collection contained one complete set which later passed into the T. W. Hall collection. At one time it was thought that the proofs existed perforated both 11½ and 12, but this error was due to mistakes in gauging. The colours are not exactly those of the issued stamps, being in most cases slightly brighter, especially the 2d. blue, which is a cobalt blue. From the records of Messrs. De La Rue and Co., it would appear that this series of proofs was made during July 1883, as a proposed colour scheme for all values, and was approved by the Governor on October 11th, 1883. It is interesting to note that the 6d. proofs of this series are the only 6d. values to have appeared on the Crown and CA paper.

The first issue of Gibraltar, which appeared on January 1st, 1886, was made from Bermuda plates overprinted “GIBRALTAR”. With the exception of the 1d. and 2½d., either the watermark or the colours of the Gibraltar issue differ from the then current Bermuda stamps. Forgers have frequently taken Bermuda stamps and overprinted them “GIBRALTAR”, but in the case of used examples the Bermuda cancellations quickly give them away. In this connection, the only Bermuda forgery made by Sperati is of the 1/- brown, but none are known without the “GIBRALTAR” overprint. However “die proofs” have been recorded of the forged stamp with a forgery of the over-print impressed alongside.

The 2d. blue, 2d. brown purple and 4d. orange-brown are known very crudely forged by litho-graphy with the watermark impressed. The 4d. is used and cancelled “YSLA DE ..”, like the similar forgeries of the first issue. All are rare.

Mr. H. R. Holmes also records similar forgeries of the 3d. grey and the 1/- yellow-brown, which seem to be even rarer than the other values.


  1. The Postal History and Stamps of Bermuda, M.H. Ludington, 1978