There are some remarkable stamps out there, but there is one special stamp that many GB collectors aspire to own – the £5 Orange. The first £5 Orange was not a postage stamp at all but was issued to cover the cost of sending lengthy telegrams.
When the Post Office issued its first telegraph stamps in 1876, the highest value was 5 shillings, but large telegrams could cost several pounds to send (one is recorded which was over £32!) and the forms were just not large enough to take all the stamps required.
As a result, higher values, including the £5 Orange ‘Telegraphs’ were added to the series in 1877. At the time of issue, this was equivalent to over a month’s wages of a farm labourer.
Lasting only around five years, in October 1881 it was decided to abandon telegraph stamps, the fees in future to be paid using postage stamps. As the highest value postage stamp at the time was only £1, a £5 postage stamp was needed. The printing plate of the £5 Telegraphs was adapted by simply removing the word ‘Telegraphs’ and inserting the word ‘Postage’ in the space created in a separate operation, hence the similarity of the stamps.
• The £5 Orange is actually two stamps: the £5 Orange ‘Postage’ stamp and the £5 Orange ‘TELEGRAPHS’ stamp.
• Contemporary fraud took place, probably in the Accountant’s Office, by
bleaching out the initial cancellation, and reusing the stamps.
• Very few £5 Oranges were used for postage. They were used for other
purposes as well as telegraphs, including the receipt of payment of excise duty
on tobacco and whisky.
• Only 246,759 stamps were issued to post offices for use over its life of 21 years. Only around 8,000 are still in existence today.
• The £5 Orange stamp was the highest value pre-decimal stamp ever to be issued
• The telegraph stamp is much rare, both unused and used, than the £5 postage stamp