Queen Victoria stamps

For the stamps of Queen Victoria there are two major aspects to The Postal Museum's public record collections - the R M Phillips Collection and unique registration (imprimatur) sheets.

R M Phillips Collection

The Phillips Collection is an essential resource for the understanding of postage stamps and philatelic research. It contains the world’s very first, first day cover – that of the Penny Black.

Penny Black proof sheet

Penny Black proof sheet

It also includes 1839 Treasury Essays for pre-paid postage, Rowland Hill letters and unique proofs and studies of stamps such as the Twopenny Blue and the Penny Red.

The R M Phillips Collection comprises of 2,000 album pages, which have been digitised and are available here.

Registration Sheets

During the 19th Century a number of stamps were officially removed from each sheet as gifts to important people. Collectors describe these as “imprimaturs” and sometimes the sheets are called “imprimatur sheets”.

There are some 850 in the Archive including overprints for British Bechuanaland, Oil Rivers, Levant and Zululand and also departmental overprints such as Army and Inland Revenue.

Oil Rivers registration sheet

Oil Rivers registration sheet

Despite this practice, we hold a complete proof sheet of the Penny Black where the different check letters had not yet been inserted into each stamp. This is the most important Victorian item in our collection.

View the Queen Victoria registration sheets


No printing plates survive from the Victorian period. However, there are a small number of line-engraved (recess) steel dies including the “Old Original” for the Penny Black.

Old Original Die (Penny Black)

Old Original Die (Penny Black)

Submissions for the 1879 printing contract

Also included in the collection are all the submissions by various printers for the new 1879 printing contract. This changed the printing method for all stamps from recess (sometimes known as intaglio printing) to letterpress.


If you have a question about the collection or would like to see material in person please send your enquiries to [email protected]