Stamp collecting guide: the Victorian 1900 halfpenny blue-green


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01 October 2020
victorian_halfpenny_1900_bluegreen-41376.png Queen Victoria 1900 ½d blue-green
In this stamp guide we take a look at the Victorian 1900 halfpenny blue-green stamp which was in use towards the end of Queen Victoria's long reign.

Your introduction to the Queen Victoria 1900 ½d blue-green

Issued at a date when the long and eventful reign had but a year to run, the Queen Victoria 1900 ½d blue-green inevitably had only a short working life, unlike the Penny Lilac of 1881, but it seems to have attracted the attention of many dealers who stocked up on mint pairs, small blocks, even whole sheets, in anticipation of future collector interest.

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What’s so special about the Queen Victoria 1900 ½d blue-green?

What ought to make it very special to all stamp collectors is the relationship in which it stands alongside the Penny Black, being the last Victoria issue, with sixty years separating the two.

Remarkably its ageless profile image of the Queen differs very little from the icon on the Penny Black.

When first unveiled in 1887, the ½d value was part of what soon became popularly known as the Jubilee Set, though the stamps were not official commemoratives. At that time its colour was vermilion.

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Why was this stamp issued in 1900?

The ½d’s vermilion colour remained unaltered down to the end of the century, but in 1900 the Postmaster-General consented to introduce blue-green in order to conform to the wishes of the International Postal Union, which decreed that stamps of similar value used by its member nations must also be of similar shade.

When the British press encountered the new colour for the first time comments ranged from amused surprise to charges of pandering to Irish Nationalists and the green flag around which they rallied. Protest shortly gave way to acceptance until a rumour swept the country that the chemicals used to manufacture the printing ink contained lead.

A change to safer zinc based ink was ordered.

Not long afterwards, however, it was discovered (probably by collectors soaking stamps to remove them from covers) that the new ink was soluble in water which caused the stamp to change colour to bright blue when dampened.

The ink had to be changed yet again to an insoluble formula.

How many varieties are there?

  • Leaving aside the blue changelings, the 1900 blue-green is occasionally found with an inverted watermark that pushes prices into the low tens of pounds.
  • Gibbons includes an imperforate variety priced at several thousands pounds.  
  • The 1887 vermilion also offers inverted watermarks in the same price bands as the blue-green.
  • There are also rare imperforate vermilions (£2,000+)
  • A variety printed on the gummed side (£1,000 - £2,000 price range)
  • In a recent Grosvenor auction a ½d vermilion printed on the gummed side, and with an inverted watermark; a superb unmounted mint lower margin example, sold for £1,500.

Discover more about Victorian stamps…