Considered the Holy Grail of Great Britain stamps, the 5-pound orange stamp is a very unique and significant stamp of the UK.
The first £5 Orange was not a postage stamp at all. It started out as a telegraph stamp, not a postage stamp. A message of just four words cost more than 5 pounds; hence there was a need for a £5 telegraph stamp to receipt payments of high charges. The telegraph stamp lasted around five years.
In October 1881 it was decided that telegraph fees should henceforth be paid using postage stamps and all telegraph stamps were to be withdrawn. As the highest value postage stamp at the time was the only 1pound, a 5pound postage stamp was needed.
There was no 5pound postage stamp and because high-cost telegrams were still being sent, the post office decided to print its first £5 postage stamp, which could also be used to receipt telegrams. The printing plate of the £5 Telegraphs was adapted by simply removing the word ‘Telegraphs’ and printing the word ‘Postage’ in the space created in a separate operation.
The £5 Orange ‘Postage’ stamp was not actually used for postage – it was primarily for telegrams. However, it was also used for other purposes, such as bulk mail payments and internal accounting. The stamp was used extensively in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast, possibly as a method of recording the excise duty paid by distilleries in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The £5 Postage stamp had a lifespan of over 20 years. As there is a relatively small number of surviving examples, the stamp commands high prices.
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