Issued in 1882, the stamp started out as a telegraph stamp. The highest-value stamp available at the time was worth no more than £1 so a higher value was needed to transport telegrams, bulk mail payments and other internal accounting documentation.
Its design was straightforward. The plates of the orange stamp saw the word "TELEGRAPHS” simply changed to “POSTAGE.”
The stamps were so expensive, however, that they were rarely used by individuals on parcels. A single stamp was equivalent to a farmer labourer’s monthly wages. In its 21 year circulation, it was mainly used by the Inland Revenue and Excise offices of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast. These were likely excise duty payments from distilleries.
Its unique high-value use meant that postal services revenue could now be distinguished from telegraph services revenue.
As only 246,000 stamps were printed, the Five-Pound Orange is a rare issue. The stamp owes its place as an icon to collectors because of its limited use and circulation. Its size and dimensions make it an unusual and attractive addition to any collection.