Smith Elder & Co Precancel

Precancels of Great Britain

This part of the web site is to consolidate information on GB precancels.

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Henry S. King & Co Precancel
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Smith Elder & Co Precancel Henry S. King & Co Precancel William Dawson & Sons 1st Precancel W. H. Smith & Son 1st Precancel Public-Precancel Frank-Precancel Times-Precancel Railway-Precancel Army-Precancel
Smith Elder & Co H. S. King & Co W.Dawson & Sons W. H. Smith & Son 'Public Precancels' Precancel Franking Newspapers Railway Precancels Army Telegraphs
Private Telegraphs Booklets T.O.6 obliteration ENT.O.1 Cancel Calendar Embossed Perfin Sloper Contributions
Private Telegraphs Booklets T.O.1 to T.O.6 Anomalies Time frame Embossed Perfins Sloper punch Contributions


Remaining Dates:


I have a somewhat modest collection of these so far, but it may be helpful to list the examples I have:


'ENT.O.1'   on   W. H. Smith & Son, Stationery
IndiciaDate Plugs
2d 10/6/63


T1 ?

'T1' on loose stamps
Denom.ColourPlateQty.Approx. Date Range
4d vermilion 11 1 late 1868 to 21/3/70



W. H. Smith & Son Postal Stationery postmarked 'FB' for comparison:
The 'FB' postmark was available from 1859

Large 'FB' on W. H. Smith & Son, Stationery
IndiciaDate Plugs
1d 6/11/74, 26/11/77, 20/4/78, 4/7/78, 7/5/79, 20/12/79, 19/2/80, 8/5/80, 22/9/81, 7/10/82, 19/1/83, 23/7/83
1d 2 x Undated (curl in bunch, 1883 onwards)
1½d 7/1/84
2d 23/5/74, 21/1/80, 24/4/80, 31/3/81
3d 22/2/79, 31/1/81, 3/2/85, 21/7/85, 17/10/87
6d 9/1/79

This gives a minimum range of 23/5/74 to 17/10/87
W. H. Smith & Son were granted their precancel in Feb. 1880 so why 'FB' cancellations so late ?


W. H. Smith & Son Postal Stationery with various London, Provincial & TPO postmarks for comparison:

Misc. on W. H. Smith & Son, Stationery
IndiciaDate Plugs
1d 15/7/63, 19/7/64, 21/2/66, 3/8/66, 16/3/67, 8/10/67, 8/12/82
1d 1 x Undated (curl in bunch, 1883 onwards)
1½d 30/7/88
2d 19/3/62, 17/3/68, 20/4/68, 20/7/68, 2/10/71, 11/12/83, 6/12/84, 21/12/85
3d 22/6/67, 13/3/71, 23/2/74, 9/3/74, 10/12/79, 11/7/87
4d 6/9/64, 25/3/67, 16/5/71, 15/7/71
6d 28/9/68, 8/6/74
1s 13/5/76

This gives a minimum range of 19/3/62 to 30/7/88


W. H. Smith & Son perfinned stamps postmarked 'FS' for comparison:
According to Mackay, the 'FS' postmark was available from the early 1900's

'FS' on loose stamps
Denom.NotesSeriesQty.Approx. Date Range
10d De La Rue KE7 1 3/7/1902 to 9/10/1911

Again, why 'FS' cancellations rather than Precancel ?




This is a table, in a sortable form, of items I have seen. There is also a chart of the same items shown below.

<- - - - -                                 The side arrows adjust the length of the table (click or double-click).                                 - - - - ->
Columns can be sorted by clicking the buttons at the top. Click again to reverse the order.


Pink highlighting indicates a possible date conflict.
You can mark a row by clicking on it and 'un-mark' it by clicking on it again.



A word or two about the chart below.

It is impossible to give precise dates except in the very rare case of having a dated piece. The dates used are taken from date plugs on embossed stationery
or dated precancels, but in the case of loose stamps, only the centre of the date range for the type can be used.
Where I have several examples, I use a spread across the centre of the range. The one exception is on the 'Jubilee issues which were around for about 15 years.
Here I have put them in the early years since I have relatively few of these which suggests that precancel use ceased early in the 15 year period.
Despite these limitations and the rather limited data-set, patterns do emerge.

The dark blue-green 'blips' indicate items with dated date-plugs or postmarks.
The translucent yellowish 'blips' indicate dates estimated from the stamps used.

The Red bar is the official start date when known. Blue is the end date (often guesstimated).
For the Times and the Mercury, All I can do is show the Official Start and End (Blue) Dates, so a bit pointless.


Tables showing usage range of the different cancellations.

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Comments on Chart:
  1. FB postmarks on WHS start about the same time as the T.O. series stops (mid 1874), although I might just need more examples. It may be relevant that the GPU was formed 1874 and Great Britain joined the GPU as a charter member on 1st July 1875.
    The GPU (General Postal Union) was renamed the UPU on 1 January 1879.
  2. The Smith, Elder precancel use stopped about the same time as the T.O. series. Coincidence? Lack of data?
  3. I have no Inland WHS Precancel examples from 16/5/71 until the 1880 precancels!
  4. My handling of the data for the 1887 series of DSF is probably skewing the data compared to SSF, but there seems no way to choose appropriate dates from a 15 year span!
    On the other hand, since I have data for 14 stamps from the 1884-7 set (3 years) maybe it's reasonable to suppose the 7 stamps from the 1887 set covers about the first 2 years assuming the same rate of use.
    This suggests that they stopped using it when they were issued with the new upright type on 13/5/90.
  5. The small WHS precancel is very scarce compared to the large and the same is true for the DS/F mark. It could be that the small version of the precancel fell out of favour because it didn't obliterate in the manner of the 'Victorian Obliterator' tradition that makes getting fine-used Victorian stamps so difficult.
  6. I have few examples of the 'Public precancels' between 1881 and 1894, and a big gap fro 1930 to 1948.


Other Comments:
  1. The only precancels I have seen on surface printed 1d stamps are of the 'Milled Edge' type.
  2. I started out with a plan to investigate the 'Precancels of Great Britain' but naturally wondered what happened to them and why they disappeared. Looking into this has taken me some distance from the 'Early' days.
    There are some precancels that seemed to disappear at an unknown date for an unknown reason like Smith, Elder, but generally the use of precancels did not simply stop, rather the usage evolved.
    The availability of the 'Public Precancels' made it unnecessary for companies to apply for their own (which may no longer be forthcoming anyway).
    Later the use of franking had a large impact, then the PPI system (Printed Postage Impressions) fulfilled most needs.
    According to Dagnall & Chandler in an article for 'Stamp Collecting' 14 Jan.1982 the 'Post Office Guide' lays down that "Where an item is to be franked 'PAID' by the Post Office the envelopes or wrappers must, if required, be handed in for postmarking before being filled." I need to get an up to date copy.


Tentative Conclusions:

  1. The T.O. series were not precancels. Their use related to 'Foreign mail' and finished with the introduction of the UPU.
  2. Companies with precancels sometimes offered a 'Precancelling Service' to others.


Comments, criticisms, information or suggestions are always welcome.


Please include the word 'Precancels' in the subject.


Last updated 26th February 2024

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