The 1/2d. and 4d. of 1880 Bermuda Stamps

The postal convention of 1876 between Bermuda and the United States, details of which are given in Chapter IV of Part I, gave to Bermuda the right to charge 2½d. per half ounce on letters to the United States. Since Bermuda had no ½d. stamps at that time, only 2d. was charged for single rate letters, and no steps were taken by the Postmaster General to provide any. A report appeared in the “Philatelic Quarterly” for July-September 1877 that a provisional consisting of the current Id. stamp surcharged “HALF (½) PENNY” in black, had appeared and was in use. This report was corrected in a later number for no such stamp existed.

It was not until the reorganization of the Post Office in 1878-1879 that a ½d. stamp was at last ordered, together with a 4d. to cover the new rate to the United Kingdom, reduced from 6d. on April 1st, 1879.

Essays for the two stamps were submitted on October 1st, 1879, and approved, and both denominations were issued on March 25th, 1880. Both stamps were designed around the same head of Queen Victoria (Diadem VI) as had been used for the previous issue. In the case of the id. the head was fitted into an oval frame, for which it was not really suited, since part of the chignon had to be cut away, but for the 4d. the circular shape was retained. The colours were stone for the ½d. and orange for the 4d., neither showing any great variation in shade since only one printing of each was made. Both were printed on the standard wove paper, watermarked Crown and CC, and perforated 14 comb by the printers, so that no wing-margin examples exist. The sheets, as before, were 240 stamps in four panes of 60, each pane consisting of ten rows of 6 stamps. There are no reference numbers, but instead the plate number, “1” in each case, appears four times in the margins of the sheet. On the 4d. it appears above stamp No. 2 in the upper left pane, above stamp No. 5 in the upper right pane, below stamp No. 56 in the lower left pane and below stamp No. 59 in the lower right pane. On the ½d., the plate number appears in the same posisitions in three instances, but for some unexplained reason is below stamp No. 57 in the lower left pane, that is, below the third instead of the second stamp in the bottom row. This position is constant on the ½d. stone, but when this value was issued in green, on paper watermarked Crown and CA, in 1892, printed from the same plate, the plate number appeared in its normal position below stamp No. 56 in the lower left pane. The ½d. stone exists with inverted watermark.

A prominent retouch of the background lines above the Queen’s Head is found on stamp No. 10 in the upper left pane of the ½d. The retouch appears only on the stamp printed in stone, the cliche having been replaced before the printing was made in 1892 of the ½d. green, watermark Crown and CA.

Details of the artist’s original made up designs and of the die proofs are given in the check list. No plate proofs have been recorded of either stamp, but both exist with “SPECIMEN” overprint in serifed capitals and in sans-serif capitals.

One printing only of each stamp was made. Supplies were received in Bermuda on March 25th, 1880, and issued to the Colonial Postmaster the same day. The ½d. remained available until approximately October 1892, and the 4d. until the middle of 1904.


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