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


Many people collect perfins for their own sake.
For the purposes of this website however, I will confine myself to no more than is needed.

For more information, visit the website of The Perfin Society.

The purpose of perfins was to identify ownership and thus to discourage petty-theft.
Before the days of the 'Public' precancels, there were only three companies in the U.K. that used both perfins and precancels.

This is a three-halfpence stamp (plate 3) with precancel and perfin for Henry S. King & Co.

HSK Precancel and perfin
Perfin Soc. reference H 6670.01


The single letter 'K' was later used by Henry S. King & Co. (Perfin Soc. ref: K 0010.03), and is often associated with an 'FB' (Foreign Branch) postmark.
However the same perfin die was also supplied by the manufacturers to J C King Ltd, Stationers, London EC1 according to the Perfin Society.

JCK Perfin



William Dawson & Sons used a variety of perfins over the seven or more years that they used precancels.

There seems to be four or five basic types with some overlap of the times used. I will give them type numbers on the understanding that this might not represent strict chronology.

Type 1: Large 'PAID' in oval across several stamps:

DSF Precancel and perfin 3
The one at top-left is a 3d plate 21, so 15/7/80 to 1/1/83.
At top-right is another of the same and below is a 6d plate 17 (Crown - 1/1/81 to 1/1/83) and I also have it on a 1s plate 14 (21/10/81 to 1/4/84).
The other two stamps have 'FB' postmarks (4d plate 18 and 3d on 3d plate 21).


Type 2: This has 'D & S' (Perfin Soc. reference D 4390.07M):
Note that this has 11 holes making up the 'S'. There is a similar perfin with 12 holes used on Telegraph stamps which may or may not be Dawson & Sons.

DSF Perfin comparison
A 4d plate 17 (15/8/80 to 8/12/80).

DSF perfin 4
On the left is a 1s brown plate 13 (Spray - 14/10.80 to 24/5/81) with DS/F precancel. Centre is a 6d plate 17 with a 'FB' postmark.
On the right is the 1s green plate 13 with the 1879 type TO2 postmark (22/7/79 to 14/10/80).
To me they look fairly similar, though the loop of the '&' is different.
These are Perfin Soc. reference D 4390.07M where the 'M' indicates 'Multi-headed'.
This implies that the die had a number of (slightly different) heads to punch more stamps at a time.


Type 3: This is the commonest and simplest, having 'D . S .' (Perfin Soc Ref: D 4370.01M)

DSF perfin 5
On the left is one of the 1884 'lilac & green' series on which they are common, and on the right is with the 1890 type precancel (honest).
Notice that the holes became larger (as a result of re-pinning at some time). I will call the one with small holes Type 3a and the later one with large holes Type 3b.


Type 4: This is the newest with 'W D / & S', Perfin Soc. Ref: W 2040.03M (used from 1890 till 1940)

DSF perfin 6
This is on the a 4d 'Jubilee' with the 1890 type precancel.

Though these followed a definite sequence, it is not easy to assign definite dates because of the lack of dated copies.
All the examples I have are cancelled with either a pre-cancel, a T.O.2 or a Foreign Branch/Section of some type.

If Dawson and Sons had used 'Public Precancels' for inland mailings in combination with perfins it would have provided dated examples,
but the list provided by the Perfin Society suggests that they didn't.


This shows a 1937 wrapper of W. H. Smith & Son bearing a KEVIII stamp with a 'WHS' perfin.

WHS perfin on wrapper

and a King Edward 7th stamp for comparison, with WHS perfin (Perfin Soc. Ref: W3800.03M) and indistinct 'FS' (Foreign Section) postmark

WHS perfin closeup WHS perfin on KE7   DSF perfin 7

and 2 examples of King Edward VII WHS perfins used to uprate postal stationery.

WHS perfin 3
WHS perfin 4


Later, many companies using perfins also used the 'Public precancels'.
More perfin examples are shown there.


The perfins replaced an earlier security measure called underprinting.

As with the advertising collars, there were official versions dating from 1867, and unofficial versions.

The official underprints were printed on the back before gumming. the unofficial ones were done privately by printing over the gum.
Only 5 firms/organisations arranged for official underprints, whereas about 60 firms/organisations had unofficial underprints.
Because of this, the Post Office withdrew the concession in 1882.

The underprints were generally done in the colour of the stamps, though private ones were often done in black.
Some companies overprinted their stamps on the front, a practice that was suppressed by the Post Office in 1870.

Only two companies concern us here.

WHS underprint

W. H. Smith & Son used an official underprint on the 1d (in red) and 2d (as shown) stamps from 1867.

Smith, Elder & Co used an unofficial underprint in RED (not black as Stanley Gibbons say) from 1864 on the 1d and 4d, they are very scarce.



Comments, criticisms, information or suggestions are always welcome.


Please include the word 'Precancels' in the subject.


Last updated 25th March 2014

©Copyright Steve Panting 2010/11/12/13/14 except where stated.
Permission is hereby granted to copy material for which the copyright is owned by myself, on condition that any data is not altered and this website is given credit.


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