An Introduction to Canadian Revenue Stamps

The first revenue stamps of 1765 were mostly used in what’s now the province of Quebec. They were in use only briefly to 1 May 1766. These first stamps were actually colourless British embossed revenue stamps with the word ‘AMERICA’ added to the design. All are very rare. In 1864 The Federal Government of Canada introduced the First Issue Bill stamps, featuring a central design with Queen Victoria, for use on promissory notes and other financial instruments. In 1865 this issue was replaced with a second attractive issue featuring Queen Victoria, followed in 1868 by the Third Bill issue featuring the Widow Queen.

Gas Inspection stamps were used on Gas meter inspection documents and were first issued in 1875 with a large Crown as part of an intricate design, followed by the beautifully engraved 1897 issue showing the Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria and a 1915 design showing King George V. 1895 saw the introduction of Electric Light Inspection stamps for use on electricity meter inspection documents. They were very similar to the Crown design used on the Gas Inspection stamps. The 1900 Electric Light design showed a lady with lightbulbs in her hair. The final issue featuring King George V appeared in 1930.

Weights and Measures stamps were used on weighing scale inspection documents. The first issue appeared in 1876. The Crown design was again used, along with various sizes and colours of control numbers. In 1897 the beautiful ‘Widow Queen’ issue appeared, followed by the 1906 issue showing King Edward VII and, in 1915, by the King George V issue. In 1930 the final issue featuring King George V appeared.

Canadian Stamps


The spectacular large-size Supreme Court Law stamps were used on documents pertaining to cases filed in Federal and Supreme Courts. The 1876 issue features a Young Queen Victoria design. To me this is one of the most beautiful revenue sets. The Widow Queen issues followed in 1897, followed by the large size 1915 King George V issue. The King George VI issue appeared in 1938. The much sought after and rare 1916 ‘In Prize’ overprints were used in cases having to do with enemy ships captured by the Canadian Navy.

Customs Duty stamps were used on foreign advertising mail coming into Canada and the first issue with a crown design appeared in 1912. In the same year a scarce provisionally overprinted stamp was issued. In 1935 a new bilingual numeral issue appeared. War Tax stamps were used on various types of documents, on alcohol and on mail. This was supposed to have been a temporary tax to help pay for the war effort, but it soon  became permanent and the name was changed to Excise Tax.

Tea Tax was used on packages of tea and first appeared in around 1914. These are very rare and only a few are known.

Canadian Stamps


Excise Tax stamps were used on commercial banking paper and also to denote payment of customs duty and the tax on matches. The first issue featuring King George V appeared in 1915. A new two-leaf numeral issue appeared in the same year, followed by the three-leaf issue in 1934. These were interesting issues as they came with many different overprints. Some were perforated, while others were imperforate. The imperforate stamps, generally pre-cancelled with a date and factory code, were mostly used to seal packs of cigarettes.

Embossed Cheque stamps were used on cheques, money orders, receipts, etc. starting in 1915. The 1947 Playing Card stamps were used on decks of playing cards. Medicine stamps were used on medicine bottles and packages.

Postal Note and Script stamps were used on money orders. There were three distinct issues starting in 1932.

Unemployment Insurance stamps, used in the unemployment insurance scheme, recorded the number of days worked. Lock labels were used on excise warehouses to hold alcohol in bond until needed. War Savings stamps were used during World War I and World War II on War Savings cards and helped raise money for the war effort. One of the rarest Canadian revenue stamps is the $5 green in French—one copy is known on document. Visa fee stamps were used on passports and travel documents. Consular Fee stamps were issued in 1949 and were used on passports and consular documents.


Alberta issued its first Law stamps in 1906, later they also issued Prosperity stamps, Telephone Franks, Vacation Pay stamps, used to keep track of days worked and Hunting stamps, used on various types of hunting licence.

British Columbia first issued Law stamps in 1879 and there have been many different issues since then. In 1933 a special Hospital Aid tax was introduced on restaurant and club meals. Other issues include Search Fees, Police Inspection stamps, Poll Tax stamps, Real Estate licence stamps and Telephone Franks.

Manitoba started issuing Law stamps in 1877, followed by some very rare provisionals. The provisionals are among the scarcest of all Canadian revenue stamps and this is about the only area where forgeries exist. The forgeries were probably made in the early 1900s and are not very well done. A variety of Search Fee stamps were issued as well. Telephone Franks, Vacation Pay stamps and various rare local Inspection stamps make this a very interesting area to collect.

New Brunswick issued its first Law stamps in 1884 and a little later issued Probate stamps. Vacation Pay stamps as well as a Telephone Frank and Tobacco Tax stamps were also issued. Newfoundland fi rst issued very attractive large size Inland Revenue stamps, used on all sorts of legal documents, showing Queen Victoria in 1898, later issues feature Edward VII, George V and the very popular Caribou issues. Newfoundland was the only province to issue a revenue stamp specifically to collect Money Order tax. Customs Duty stamps were used on incoming foreign advertising mail. The great Transportation Tax stamp rarities were used on steamship tickets. Also issued were stamps for War Savings and Beer Tax.

Canadian stamp


Nova Scotia overprinted the Federal 1868 third bill issue stamps with ‘N.S.’ to allow for a small currency exchange difference between the value of the Canadian dollar and the Nova Scotia dollar. Special revenue stamps were issued to collect tax on all legal documents with the proceeds going to the Halifax Law library and Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. Vacation Pay stamps were also used. Cape Breton, the beautiful rugged Northern part of Nova Scotia issued its own Provisional Law stamps in 1903, these are among the rarest of all Canadian revenue stamps.

The province of Ontario issued its first Law stamps in 1864, followed by various issues in different designs. 1924 was the first year for Stock Transfer Tax stamps used on the transfer of stock and shares. In 1926 Luxury Tax stamps were first used on related documents. Ontario also used Vacation Pay stamps. Prince Edward Island issued Tobacco Tax stamps in 1942 for use on receipts of tobacco purchases.

Quebec first issued Law stamps in 1864 and later on also issued overprinted Law stamps for use under the Bankruptcy Act. Registration stamps for use on deeds were first issued in 1866, the second issue in 1870 has a beautiful beaver as its central design. Stock Transfer stamps were first issued in 1907 in the English language only, followed by a bilingual issue in 1913. Starting in 1919 Prohibition stamps were used on liquor labels and packaging. Unemployment Relief Tax stamps were first introduced in 1934 and were affixed to liquor bottle labels and packaging, the proceeds being used for unemployed relief. Vacation Pay and temporary vacation pay stamps  were in use from 1950. Savings stamps were used by Caisse Populaire or Credit Union for many years. The only local stamp from Quebec to have shown up so far is the Montreal plumbing inspection stamp.

Saskatchewan first issued law stamps in 1907. The 5c. value of this issue is one of the few Canadian revenue stamps with an inverted centre. City of Saskatoon Electrical inspection stamps were first issued in 1911 and all are rare. The Saskatchewan Electrical inspection stamps came into use in 1929. The Saskatchewan Telephone Company  issued an interesting variety of Telephone Franks starting around 1900 and include some of the rarest of all Canadian Telephone Frank stamps.


Yukon territory issued its famous Dawson Mining Court stamps and Territorial Court stamps in 1902. These were used on all kinds of legal

documents including mining disputes and offer a fascinating insight into the rich history of this territory. Canada has also issued a great variety of Tobacco, cigarette, cigar, snuff and liquor stamps, including some spectacular large-size stamps that look like currency.

Canada and several of the provinces have issued a great variety of hunting and fishing stamps and licences. Many of these areas have not been well researched and interesting discoveries can easily be made. Documents showing the use of the various revenue issues are slowly beginning to attract more attention and are the ‘postal history’ of revenues.

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