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Philatelic Collections: The Board Of Inland Revenue Stamping Department Archive

The Archive has a long history, dating from 1710, and has come into existence as a result of amendments in United Kingdom legislation, and the resulting administrative reorganisations. Two major changes have affected the operations of the Stamping Department during this time.

Firstly, under the Inland Revenue Act of 1849 the control of revenue stamps was transferred from the Excise Department to the Stamp Department at Somerset House. Subsequently proofs and specimens of stamps from 1710 were also deposited. The Stamping Department thus undertook the production of revenue and fee stamps until 1934 when responsibility for this work was transferred to the Stationery Office.

Great Britain: 1862-64 9d. abnormal plate 3 (with hairlines), die proof.

Great Britain: 1862-64 9d. abnormal plate 3 (with hairlines), die proof.


Secondly, up to 1914 the stamping of legal documents and the production of adhesive postage and revenue stamps had been undertaken by the Board of Inland Revenue ‘in house’, and externally by contractors supervised by the Board’s inspectors. Under ‘The Inland Revenue and Post Office (Powers and Duties) Order, 1914’ responsibility for the manufacture of postage stamps passed to the General Post Office, but some production continued at Somerset House until 1934. During those 20 years imprimatur sheets of stamps were kept by the Inland Revenue and the Post Office, and earlier material of this type dating from 1840-1914 was passed to the G.P.O. Archives (now Consignia, Heritage Services). Reference collections of these stamps were however maintained and are virtually complete.

  • Because the Archive is so large, i.e. over 400,000 items, it is more easily understood by being sub-divided into various collections as follows:-
  • The earliest, and one of the most extensive set of registers of dies and stamps used by the Stamp Revenue dating from 1710-1849 contained in some 28 volumes.
  • Registers of dies and stamps intended for use by the Stamp Revenue in America and the West Indies from 1765-66.
  • A mixed collection of postage and revenue stamps, dating from 1849-1884 held in 7 volumes.
  • The inspectors’ Specimen Books of impressed postage and revenue stamps for the period 1885-1964 in 10 volumes.
  • The Registers of impressed revenue stamps and dies from 1916-1964 contained in 7 volumes, and the Secretary’s Specimen Book of Irish Dies.
  • Proofs and specimens of Ace of Spades, Almanack, Hat Tax, Home Duty, Medicine, Newspaper, Pamphlet and Playing Card stamps and wrappers, in come 26 albums.
  • A large number of registration sheets, in guard books, of postage and revenue stamps dating from 1914-1934. Some of these sheets were overprinted for use in overseas territories such as Bechuanaland, Eire, Hong Kong, Levant, Morocco and Nauru. There are also some sheets of stamps for use in the Palestine Mandate. In addition this group contains sheets of Postage Due Labels, Income Tax, Entertainment Tax, Unemployment Insurance, Health and Pensions, Company Registration, Coffee and Table Water Duty. There are also sections relating to Currency Notes, Savings stamps, Playing card wrappers and sugar coupons.
  • Further albums containing stamps overprinted ‘CANCELLED’ or ‘SPECIMEN’, and includes Civil Service, Bankruptcy, Estate Duty, Foreign Bills, Judicature and Land Registry stamps.
  • British stamps, housed in four albums, overprinted for official use by the Board of Education, Office of Works, Inland Revenue and the Royal Household, may include ‘SPECIMEN’ overprinted items.
  • A selection of copper electros, dies and punches of British postage and revenue stamps.
  • Several albums of proofs and colour trials of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII postage stamps.
  • An album containing postcards, envelopes, printed wrappers and telegram forms for Great Britain, India and several of the Crown Colonies.
  • A very large accumulation of stamps on cards, in payment of income tax, postage and revenue overprints, Coffee Excise labels, National War Savings stamps, sugar coupons, tobacco labels, Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank and essays for National Health Insurance stamps.
  • A collection of die and plate proofs, essays, and imprimatur sheets relating to the Match Tax.
  • A collection of Indian postage and revenue stamps, with various Indian dies and plates.
  • A group of nine albums containing Indian fiscal stamps, Bonded Salt Boat notes, Court Fees, Hundi paper, promissory notes and sundry other duties. Also, copper dies and punches, and proofs and colour trials of stamps for Ceylon, India, Jamaica and Mauritius.
  • Great Britain currency notes, incorporating uncut sheets of 25 in denominations up to £1.

Because of the long period of time that it covers, and the extent of the holdings, this Archive is one of the most important sources of information for researchers interested in Great Britain and some Commonwealth countries postal and revenue material. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Archive, which is still live, contains many unusual and rare items, several of which are illustrated.


Philatelic Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7635
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7780