Errors of denomination on Great Britain stamps are few and far between and usually arise when the Post Office has raised postage rates after the printing of a commemorative set and before its release. The 1988 Christmas set of 5 values had been printed by the Post Office and were ready for distribution to the post offices when a rate rise was announced for 2nd class postage, from 13p to 14p. This was just prior to Christmas and the Post Office wanted to profit from the massive increase in usage of 2nd class postage caused by the mailing of Christmas cards. The additional revenue gained from the rate increase would dwarf the cost of reprinting the 2nd class postage stamps. Quickly the Post Office organised the reprinting of the 13p Christmas stamp in the denomination 14p. All of the stock of 13p stamps was destroyed. However, the story goes that they had overlooked the fact that work had started on the insertion into the 1988 yearbooks of the 1988 commemorative issues, including the 1988 Christmas set containing the 13p denomination. A certain number of these yearbooks were subsequently sold containing the 13p stamp, which should not have been issued.
Warwick and Warwick were one of the first auction houses to report this find and auction one of these stamps. This was in August 1989 and the U.M. stamp sold for more than £3,000. Several have surfaced subsequently and it is now catalogued at £12,000 as mint.
Warwick and Warwick’s September 2010 auction contained an interesting Royal Mail first day cover of the full set of 5 1988 Christmas stamps, including the rare 13p denomination rather than the issued 14p denomination. The cover was postmarked at Paddington on November 15th, the official first day of issue. This suggests that not all of the 13p errors came from the 1988 yearbooks, as it is unlikely that a collector would have purchased a yearbook on the day of issue and immediately removed one of the sets of stamps to affix to a first day cover. Currently 10 of these stamps have been recorded in mint condition, 1 used and 3 on first day covers. The cover realised £2,760.
In our February 2011 sale we were privileged to offer another rare error of denomination. This time the error was on the 1979 Rowland Hill miniature sheet. As issued the sheet contained denominations of 10p, 11½p, 13p and 15p. However there had been rate rises prior to the issue of this commemorative set and the sheet in question contained denominations of 9p, 10½p, 11p and 13p. The entire stock should have been pulped of course and how a few escaped the pulping is unknown. Only 3 had been reported at the time. The current catalogue quote is £40,000!
By Colin Such