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



Smith Elder & Co Precancel

I do not know who instigated things, but in 1865, Smith, Elder & Co., East India agents, bankers and publishers, became the first company in Britain to use a precancel.
Parmenter lists this as a Foreign Branch Newspaper Precancel which could well be the case, though I have not seen any other explicit reference to it being for foreign mail.

Here it is used on embossed stamps with 'Advertising Collars' of Smith Elder & Co. and Grindlay & Co. !?

Grindlay & Co., were the publishers of Home News which was posted to India (from 7/1/47) and Australia (from 1852) until issue 2370 on 30/12/98.
Their circulation peaked at around 15,000 in 1862

In addition to this, Tim Burgess shows a picture of a H.S.King precancel on a 1d Grindlay & Co., embossed stamp! This is reproduced below with kind permission.

This usage needs explanation, did Smith Elder & Co., do the printing for Grindlay & Co. ? and why King who was out of the publishing business other than distributing stock-exchange listings?).
It may be relevant that Grindlay had two books published by Smith Elder & Co in the 1830's.

Smith Elder & Co Precancel NPB-N cancellation.
Smith, Elder Precancel A similar NPB cancellation.
Parmenter attributed to Stitt Dibden
1d Smith Elder & Co Precancel 2d Smith Elder & Co Precancel 3d Smith Elder & Co Precancel 4d Smith Elder & Co Precancel
'S' on 1d Smith,Elder 25/4/66 'S' on 2d Smith,Elder 24/4/66 'S' on 3d Smith,Elder 19/4/66 'S' on 4d Smith,Elder 6/10/68

2d Smith Elder & Co Precancel on Home-News 3d Smith Elder & Co Precancel on Home-News King Precancel on Home-News
'S' on 2d Home News 9/12/65 'S' on 3d Home News 16/11/69 'K' on 1d Home News 16/7/76 ?

A weekly periodical for English readers containing Indian news entitled 'Homeward Mail' was started In 1855 by George Smith (founder of Smith, Elder & Co.).
By 1871 this was being distributed in England by H.S.King & Co

The 4d above is interesting as it appears to have the name of "Smith, Elder & Co" crossed out !

More information on Embossed Stationery

On adhesive stamps, this precancel is most commonly found on 3d stamps, but others are known.

A range of values used:

Smith Elder & Co Precancel range
Smith Elder & Co Precancel on 2d   Smith Elder & Co Precancel on 3d   Smith Elder & Co Precancel on 6d   Smith Elder & Co Precancel on 10d   Smith Elder & Co Precancel on 10d
The 10d is courtesy of Michael Driver. The 2/- is courtesy of


More can be seen on Tim Burgess' website, including some 6d values.

High values do exist, the one on the right is plate 2.
The one on the left is interesting.
It has a Dawson & Sons perfin. Perhaps Smith, Elder produced and distributed advertising materials for Dawson & Sons.

Smith Elder & Co Precancel on Five Shilling  Smith Elder & Co Precancel on Five Shilling  Smith Elder & Co Precancel on Five Shilling  Smith Elder & Co Precancel on Five Shilling plate 2


There is an interesting letter from Charles Darwin to Smith Elder & Co dated 1863 that among other things, requested some copies of their stamps.




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

Smith, Elder & Co.,   'S' Precancel, from 1865

'S' on Smith, Elder & Co., Stationery
IndiciaDate Plugs
2d02/3/66, 24/4/66
'S' on Grindlay & Co., (Home News) Stationery
IndiciaDate Plugs
'S' on loose stamps
Denom.NotePlateQty.Approx. Date Range
1d 11819/6/68 to 4/5/72
1d 123118/1/69 to 5/11/72
1d 155120/7/72 to 15/5/75
1d 160117/8/72 to 28/5/77
1d 169121/6/73 to 6/9/76
2dLC II 9 2 14/3/61 to 28/10/68
2d 12228/10/68 to 28/03/70
3dspray4 3 13/7/67 to 18/12/67
3d 5 5 18/12/67 to 22/6/69
3d 6 2 22/6/69 to 19/10/71
3d 7 1 19/10/71 to 29/2/72
3d 9231/7/72 to 1/1/73 ?
3d 1021/1/73 to 5/7/73 ?
3d 11117/4/73 to 3/9/73 ?
3d 1214/9/73 to 11/12/73 ?
3d 14212/1/74 to 8/6/74
3d 15 2 9/6/74 to 29/10/74
3d 16229/10/74 to 20/2/75
4d 12421/3/70 to 11/10/72 ?
6d lilac(spray) 6 1 1867 to 21/11/68
6d brown 11119/10/72 to 24/4/73
6d grey 14 1 16/10/74 to 10/9/75
10d spray 1 1 1/7/67 to 20/12/76
1sspray4113/7/67 to 20/2/71
1sspray9121/11/73 to 14/7/74
2s blue(spray) 1 1 10/4/67 to 27/2/80
5sMX1 4 18/4/67 to 28/3/74
5sMX2125/3/74 to 1/12/82

This gives a minimum date range of
09/12/65 to 16/11/69 for stationery.
18/12/67 to 29/10/74 for loose stamps.



From the data, these precancels stopped and the 'King Precancel' started
about the same time as the GPU came into effect in Britain. How much of this is coincidence?



Comments, criticisms, information or suggestions are always welcome.


Please include the word 'Precancels' in the subject.


Last updated 20th April 2019

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