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As a stamp-issuing entity, Ireland is relatively young, having only been in existence since 1922. Prior to this Ireland used the stamps of Great Britain (being a part of the United Kingdom) and these early British stamps are avidly sought by specialist collectors. They are generally worth a small premium over the same stamps used in Great Britain.

The 1922 Provisional Government overprints look, at first glance, a fairly complex group, however, this is not strictly the case as the different overprint types have enough differing features to make identification fairly straightforward with a little practice. The 1922 Dollard overprints (SG 1/9) are somewhat scarcer used than they are mint. Look out for the 2½d. (4) and 5d. (7) in particular – they are much less common than was previously the case. The 10d. (9) is the key value to this set and is consequently in strong demand. Five other low values were overprinted by Thom (10/15) and the 6d. (14) is the key value in both mint and used condition. Coil stamps were overprinted by Harrison (26/29a) and these are all quite scarce in used condition.

The second Thom overprints (SG30/43 and 44/46) appeared between June and November 1922. The 9d. olive-green (41) and 10d. (42) are the key stamps to this set, particularly in used condition. Look out also for the 5d. (38) in used condition, I feel this is somewhat undervalued at the moment. A slightly wider overprint appeared in late 1922 on  ve different values (47/51). The 1s. (51) is the key stamp here but the 1½d. is a tricky stamp in used condition as it was only on general sale for a few weeks. The declaration of the Irish Free State on 6 December 1922 necessitated a new overprint to replace the Provisional Government type.

Complete sets are not too difficult to obtain in mint condition, many found their way into investment portfolios of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but used are much more difficult. The 2½d. (56) and 3d. (57) will prove frustrating to track down but it is the 10d. (62) that is the key to a used set; it’s very difficult to obtain in ne condition, possibly more so than the much higher priced 10s.!

A new pictorial issue (71/82) was issued to replace the overprinted British stamps but only the 2d. was ready to be issued on 6 December. Most of the other values appeared at varying times during 1923. The basic set is readily available in both mint and used conditions, but demand for unmounted mint sets has been increasing over the last few years and such stamps now rate at least a 50 per cent premium over mounted.

The first pictorials were reissued between 1940 and 1945 with a new watermark and a couple of new values appeared in 1949 (111/25). Original printings of the three high values (123/25) are not easy to come by unmounted mint, most complete sets that are offered include the cheaper chalk surfaced paper versions issued 1967-68. The originals are fairly easy to distinguish as the chalk-surfaced stamps were printed on very bright, thick white paper. Several of the commemorative sets issued in the 1950s and early 1960s are becoming hard to find in fine used condition.

Look out for the 1950 Holy Year set of three (149/51), 1953 Emmet set of two (156/57), 1954 Cardinal Newman set of two (160/61), 1960 Europa set of two (182/83) and 1961 Aer Lingus set of two (184/85). Finally a look at the postage dues. The 1925 first issue (D1/4) has the 2d. (D3) as the key stamp in mint condition while it is the ½d. (D1) that will prove the biggest stumbling block to building up a used set. For the second issue (D5/14) the ½d. (D5) is again a difficult stamp in used condition along with the 8d. (D12), while the 1s mint with sideways watermark (D14a) is remarkably difficult to obtain for such a modern stamp.