What is a revenue stamp?


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02 April 2019
A revenue stamp is used to collect taxes or fees. Revenue stamps are added to products or relevant documents to signify payment of a fee and they often very similar in appearance to postage stamps. Just like postage stamps they are popular with collectors.

Revenue stamps have been produced and used in relation to the tax of many different products, including:

  • Tobacco
  • Hats
  • Newspapers
  • Medicine
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Playing cards
  • Hunting licenses
  • Vinyl records

The stamps, also known as tax stamps, duty stamps or fiscal stamps, are often affixed to the individual product (such as a box of cigarettes or a bottle of whisky). They have been issued by a wide range of countries around the world.

What are the similarities between postage and revenue stamps?

Just like postage stamps, revenue stamps are often gummed, allowing users to affix them to the relevant product, and perforated, so sheets of the stamps can be easily separated. 

Indeed, some stamps have been issued for both postage and revenue purposes, allowing the user to choose how the stamp will be used. This explains the high value stamps that are sometimes seen at stamp auctions. Such stamps, many of which were issued by Britain or for use within the British Commonwealth, often include the words 'Postage & Revenue' on them to signify their intended dual use.

The designs of revenue stamps are often similar to postage stamps, and whilst many revenue stamps were created for use on a range of different products, some were issued for specific goods and taxes and so feature designs relating to the particular product.

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Are revenue stamps collectable?

In the early days of stamp collecting (or 'philately'), revenue stamps were just as popular as postage stamps and collectors pursued both. However, the rising number of postage stamps being issued meant that the popularity of revenue stamps waned, as some collectors and philatelic publishers encouraged the two different types of stamp to be treated differently.

Today the study and collection of revenue stamps is regarded as an important part of the overall hobby of philately. The American Revenue Association website states: 

'Revenues are endlessly fascinating. Most are quite affordable. Yet some are as rare as an Inverted Jenny, but cost much less. Many are still waiting to be discovered and recorded.'

The international organisation Federation Internationale de Philatelie (FIP) include 'Revenues' as a recognised exhibition class, allowing collectors to competitively exhibit revenue stamps. The FIP regulations state:

'A revenue exhibit comprises embossed, imprinted or adhesive tax, fee or credit stamps issued by or under the origination authority of a state or municipal or intermediate governmental authority. Such exhibits will display one or more such type of stamp, and where appropriate will explain, and in any event will make suitable reference to, the reasons for and where necessary the regulations relating to the services, transactions of other matter being considered.'

Where can I find out more about revenue stamps?

Browse and buy - click here to see revenue stamps currently for sale on eBay…

Based in the UK, the Revenue Society promotes the research and display of revenue stamps and associated documents and has over 350 members from forty countries. Find out more on the Society website.

The American Revenue Association serves 'fiscal philatelists' and was founded in 1947. 

The British Library Philatelic Collections has a wide range of stamps for collecting tax.

There are a number of revenue stamp catalogues, giving collectors comprehensive listings and valuations of stamps. In Britain, the Barefoot catalogues are one of the most well known series of revenues catalogues.

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