By the 1850s Tasmania (still known as Van Dieman’s Land) was in need of its own, official postage system and legislation was duly passed. It was intended that the first stamps would be printed in England, but as the deadline of a November 1 1853 issue date loomed it was decided to find a local engraver. The man chosen was Charles Walton Coard.
From The Courier, Friday October 14 1853 – The New Postage Act comes into operation on the 1st November, when it becomes necessary, according to the requirements of the law, that all letters shall be prepaid by means of stamps, when they are posted. The ‘Queens Heads’ are now under issue by the Postmaster-General, and may be purchased in town, at Messrs. Walch and Sons, Wellington Bridge, and Messrs. Huxtable & Co.’s, Murray Street. The stamps, which have been engraved and printed at the Courier Office, are neatly designed, and, we may be allowed to say, are highly creditable to the colony, and Mr Coard, a new arrival, the engraver.
The Queen’s Head was of course Victoria, ten years into her long reign. And because the stamps were printed at the newspaper office they became known colloquially as Courier Stamps.
There were only two values, 1d. for local, town letters and 4d. for country and overseas postage. These early stamps continued to be issued until July 1855.
The specimen below is a fake. Can you spot any flaws?
LETTERS TO THE OLD COUNTRY WITH ‘HOME GROWN’ STAMPS
In 1854 Mr Coard returned to England. He joined the Bengal Civil Service in 1868, and worked as an engraver in India until retiring in 1887.
He died at Virginia Water, Berkshire, in 1892. After he left, Tasmanians heard nothing more of him until the following piece was published in The Hobart Mercury in 1917;
Our London correspondent writes :- The ‘Daily Telegraph’ postage stamp expert announces a discovery which will interest many Tasmanians who do not collect the pretty pieces of coloured paper beloved by philatelists. It consists in a complete sheet of the earliest 4d. orange stamp of Tasmania, issued in 1853. There are 24 stamps on the sheet, and, as the stamps are on laid paper, they are the variety for which a leading London firm asks £50 per stamp. The discovery of a full sheet of these rare stamps over 60 years after the issue had been superseded is remarkable, and the appearance of the sheet at Messrs. Puttick and Simpsons saleroom next month will attract widespread attention.
MR COARD’S OWN, TREASURED STAMPS
The history of this unique item is briefly this. The plate for these stamps was engraved by a Mr C.W. Coard….this particular sheet appears to have been retained by Mr Coard as a specimen of his work, and along with a sheet of the companion 1d. blue stamp it was hung in a frame in the artist’s home. Since the death of Mr Coard the 4d sheet has been in the possession of his daughter, who has only just become aware of the value of her treasure. The sheet of the 1d. stamps was stolen from the family’s bungalow in India many years ago, and the wonder is that the thieves did not take the 4d. stamps as well. The 4d. has survived the ravages of various climates and the stamps are of a fine colour and quite fresh. (The Mercury, Monday February 19 1917)
This could well be the bungalow mentioned. It was painted by Coard in 1870. The pen and ink watercolour is described on an auction site as, ‘A family on the steps leading down to a pond, Gobra, West Bengal.’
I wonder what happened to that framed sheet of stamps? Presumably it’s in a private collection somewhere.
PERFORATION INVENTED BY A TASMANIAN?….OR A STITCH-UP?
Oh my word, I did love this letter, from Major Charles Cunningham of Toorak, which appeared in Melbourne’s The Argus on January 6, 1934;
If there is foundation for a statement I heard 53 years ago, Australia can claim credit for further invention in postage stamps. Originally stamps were printed in sheets and they had to be severed with scissors, a task which irked an elderly lady in Tasmania, and led her to devise an easier method of detaching the stamps. She placed the sheet in her sewing-machine, and, having removed the thread, ran perforated lines up and down and across the sheet, thus giving the world the first perforated stamps.
I would so love Major Cunningham’s colourful tale to be true, but sadly it’s just an urban myth. During the 1860s, some postmasters in Tasmanian country towns began perforating stamp sheets themselves, using rouletting wheels.
Finally, in 1869 Walch and Sons began machine perforating for the Government. The earlier, ‘private perforations’ are very rare, and thus often faked.
The original plates for the stamps were defaced when printing ceased in 1855. However, there were reprintings. And yes, even the reprints were forged.
IN 1856, VAN DIEMEN’S LAND WAS OFFICIALLY RENAMED. IT WAS AN ATTEMPT TO DISTANCE THE ISLAND FROM ITS ‘UNSAVOURY’ CONVICT HISTORY, AND TO REMOVE THE ‘DEMON’ CONNOTATION. OLD STAMPS HAD TO BE USED UP, BUT FROM 1858 NEW ISSUES BORE THE NAME ….TASMANIA!
ONE HUNDRED YEARS ON…
In 1953 the centenary was celebrated. The 3d stamp issued had a design based on the original 4d. Courier.
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