Smith Elder & Co Precancel

Precancels of Great Britain

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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


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Stationery Dates

Henry S. King & Co Precancel

In 1853 Henry Samuel King (formerly a bookseller of Brighton) became a partner of Smith, Elder & Co. (Alexander Elder having announced his retirement around 1846).
He took part in the general supervision of the business in return for a quarter-share.
At the end of 1868, this partnership was dissolved and H.S.King took over the Indian, Export, Banking and other Departments under the name Henry S. King & Co.,
leaving George Smith to continue the Publishing business under the old name of Smith, Elder & Co.

Surprisingly, Henry S. King & Co., did not obtain their own precancel until 20th September 1875 (according to H.C.Westley, for distributing the official Stock Exchange lists),
but it does fit the data. Examples show that the Milled Edge cancellation was used by other companies for foreign mail as well as domestic mail and Henry S. King & Co. was
using Milled Edge precancels themselves for domestic mail in 1871 so it is unclear why they bothered to get their own precancel in 1875 unless it was applied for many
years earlier and the process took a long time!

Use of the Smith, Elder precancel on 'Home News' wrappers until at least November 1869 to be replaced by the H.S.King precancel later may indicate that the Smith Elder & Co.
precancel was actually being used by Henry S. King & Co until the advent of the Milled Edge cancellations.
See under the 'Milled Edge' cancellations for an example of the pre-cancellation that Henry S. King & Co. was using for domestic use in 1871.
However they were using the 'K' precancel from 1875 until at least late 1881 since I have an example on the 1881 1s plate 13, crown watermark.


Examples of some values that I have this precancel on:

Henry S. King & Co Precancel  Henry S. King & Co Precancel 1d  Henry S. King & Co Precancel 1½d  Henry S. King & Co Precancel 2d
  Henry S. King & Co Precancel 3d  Henry S. King & Co Precancel 4d  Henry S. King & Co Precancel 1s
Henry S. King & Co Precancel 1½d  HSK-K-perfin-1

I have also seen these:

The 4d plate 14 was withdrawn from press 16 November 1875, less than two months after H.S.King got their precancel.
I have not seen this or the 6d plate 15 with any other precancel.

These last four come courtesy of Michael Driver. The 1½d (plate 3) is the only one of these I have seen without a perfin.
The shilling is plate 12, and the 2/- is the highest denomination I have seen of these.


The GB precancels are generally adaptations of similar GB types around at the time. Interestingly the most similar mark I have seen to this precancel is Spanish!

Gibraltar piece

Here you can see a piece from Gibraltar to Spain courtesy of Mark Bloxham Stamps with the Gibraltar cancel 'A26' on Queen Victoria and a Spanish cancel on
the Isabel II of Spain. Sorry it is a bit indistinct, but this type is known as 'Ruedas de carreta' (Wagon Wheels) and were around from about 1860.

I have tried to show what they were like below, the early type on the left and later types on the right (I think)
The number indicated the place of use, for examples see

WagonWheel-1     WagonWheel-2

Examples of Wagon-Wheels
Two more Wagon-Wheel examples.

It seems to me to be likely that the inspiration for the H. S. King precancel came from Spanish Wagon Wheels like these.


It has been suggested that there are actually two different types of this cancel.
One with a double outer circle and one with a thick single circle.

To me, this looks like simply a matter of the degree of clogging and/or over-inking.
King Precancel Types
These seem to be a progression.




The book Collect British Postal Stationery lists the 4d Smith, Elder
overprinted 'Henry S. King & Co.' in black but it is VERY rare.


Here though is some pictures of H.S.King precancels on a Grindlay & Co., 'Home News' embossed stamps.


King Precancel on Home-News 1d K on Home-News 1½d K on Home-News 1½d K on Home-News 3d
K on Home-News 1d
15/10/79 ? courtesy of Tim Burgess
K on Home-News 1½d
K on Home-News 1½d
K on Home-News 3d
25/11/75 courtesy of Stephen Teuma

The example of the 1d above is one of the things that started me on this website. It took 5 years before I was shown the middle two (2015), and another 6 years before the last.
From an article by A. K. Huggins I know that the dates on the 1½d examples are the first two known for them. Comparing the 1d with the list of known dates, makes me think it is 15/10/79.
I am puzzled by what looks like wear to the collar on the second stamp on the first use of it, followed a month later by good printing. Was it badly adjusted or perhaps later repaired ?
The third one is interesting because of the back of it:
K on Home-News 1½d
It has an amazingly clear impression. The paper is not transparent, the cancel does not show through clearly.
The last is a very clear impression of the cancel, reflecting the early date of November 1875, only about 2 months after it was put into use.


More information on Embossed Stationery




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

Henry S. King & Co.,     'K' Precancel from 29th September 1875

The ones shown above are the only ones I have ever seen !

'K' on loose stamps
Denom.NotePlateQty.Approx. Date Range
1d 174120/4/74 to 8/4/80
1d 18514/12/75 to 8/3/78
1d 19915/2/77 to 3/4/79
1½dall perfinned3 5 10/8/74 to 30/12/79
2d only 3 perfinned, HSK&Co. 15 16 14/3/76 to 26/10/80
3d 18 5 13/7/75 to 8/3/76
3d 1918/3/76 to 29/11/78
3dWmk spray, perfinned20129/11/78 to 15/7/80
3d All perfinned, two K, one HSK 21 3 15/7/80 to 1/1/83
4d vermilion 14 1 8/5/73 to 1/3/76
4dsage-green15112/3/77 to August 1880 ?
4dsage-green 16 1 23/10/77 to August 1880 ?
1s green 12 1 24/6/75 to 20/6/79
1sOrg-brown (crown wmk)13121/10/81 to 1/4/84
1½d 1880 issue (4 perfinned HSK, 1 K)   6 14/10/80 to 1/4/84

This gives a minimum date range of about 1/3/76 to 21/10/81.


Henry S. King & Co later used the milled-edge type precancels.



Comments, criticisms, information or suggestions are always welcome.


Please include the word 'Precancels' in the subject.


Last updated 6th. July 2023

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