First Issue of Jamaica Stamps

In 1854 the Board of the Inland Revenue engaged Jean Francois Joubert de la Ferte to engrave a design of the Queen's head from a drawing by Henry Corbould which was based on the Wyon medal. The 1855 GB 4d stamp was the first to utilise the design. From this master die a number of variants were known as the Diadem Heads. The Diadem IV was adopted as the master for Jamaica.

With regard to the issue of these stamps, no notice appeared in the Jamaica Gazette, nor was there any Post Office notification to the Public, but Postmaster  General Pierce, many years afterwards, affirmed that these stamps were first issued to the public on 23rd November 1860, and this date has the strong support of the following letter:

24th November 1860.

I have the honor to enclose for the information of the Postmaster General, samples of the Postage stamps now in use in this Colony, of the following denominations-viz.:
Shilling Fourpenny.
Sixpenny Twopenny.
One Penny.

I have the honour to be
Your most obedient servant
Postmaster for Jamaica.
Sir Rowland Hill, K.C.B.'

The Falmouth Post alone of the Island newspapers made any allusion to the introduction of these stamps, by reporting in its issue of 27 November 1860:
"We are informed that the Postmaster of Jamaica has received a large number of postage stamps, and that they will be distributed amongst his deputies ...".

Outside of Kingston and the larger towns, the shilling was not a popular stamp. The planters, remembering their distance from a Post Office, and that a shilling stamp was ordinarily only of service for packet letters, preferred to lay in a stock of sixpenny and lower values, and accordingly collectors are provided with a considerable number of covers franked by two sixpenny stamps, prepaying packet postage, or more rarely three four-pennies, or other requisite values. Whereas the shilling stamp had a great vogue in Kingston, the sixpenny stamp was the maid of all work throughout the island, and this probably accounts for the diversity of shade.[EJP]

Jamaica Watermark Pineapple: 1d, 2d, 4d, 6d, 1s

"The first issue of Jamaica postage stamps was handled by Thomson Hankey & Co. for the Government of Jamaica. A Board of Inland Revenue Minute of May 3, 1860 authorised De La Rue to go ahead under the supervision of Edwin Hill. The design was clearly defined in the letter to Thomson Hankey from the Jamaica Executive Committee, a copy of which is in the Inland Revenue Records: 'Her Majesty's Head as previously engraved, with the words "Jamaica Postage" at the top of the head, and at foot the words "One Shilling" or "Sixpence" etc., as the case may be, expressive of the value of each denomination'. There is no mention of a pineapple watermark on the paper.

The Board on May 3rd asked Thomson Hankey 'upon what kind of paper these stamps are to be printed, and by whom it is to be supplied'. In their acknowledgment of May 15th Thomson Hankey said that they were 'not yet in possession of their (the Executive Committee's) decision about the quality of the paper.' They followed this up on May 30, 1860 when they said: 'Messrs De La Rue inform us that the makers of the Water Paper (sic) will be Mr Richard Turner of Chafford Mills'. It is possible that this correspondence caused the Inland Revenue to realise that for some little time postage stamps printed on unwatermarked paper had been going out to the Colonies. Ormond Hill's next note, dated May 31, 1860, has a reference to 'similar cases' which may have that interpretation. As the watermark is one of the securities against fraudulent imitation, the preparation of the watermarked paper is carried on under the inspection of Officers of the Board who check the number of sheets made.

The fact that there was a watermark in the first place was clearly not due to the Jamaica Government or their London Agents: similarly there is nothing to show why a pineapple was chosen, and who chose it. The stamps were invoiced on October 17, 1860 so that the production was put through quickly. Strangely enough one multiple in the printing plate of the One Shilling was damaged and not repaired, and the well-known 'dollar variety' persisted until 1912. The invoice gives a full description of the processes used, except that it does not refer to perforation. The fact that moulds were charged indicates that the pineapple paper was hand made.

From the invoice for preparing this first postage issue (17 October 1860):

  • Making from the original die of H.M. head used for the Jamaica Receipt Stamps a counter die and altering it in part, so as to adapt it for the postage stamp. Transferring the counter die on five dies to be used as master dies for the postage rates id. 2d. 4d. 6d. & 1/-. Working up the Queen's head on each equal to the original die and engraving a distinctive device on each respective die; fitting and hardening the same five dies - ?30 each, ?150 total.
  • Preparing five Electrotype printing plates each containing 24 duplicates for the several duties of 1d. 2d. 4d. 6d & 1/- postage rates, mounting the Electrotype plates on cast iron plates truly planed - ?85 each, ?425 total.
  • Preparing moulds for the manufacture of the paper with the device of a pineapple repeated 240 times so that each stamp bears the watermark of a pineapple repeated 240 times so that each stamp bears the watermark of a pine - ?48.
  • Supplying watermarked paper for and printing in various fugitive inks soluble in such menstrua as could be used to remove the obliterating mark in order to prevent the possibility of reissue of the stamps after once passing the Post Office - Cementing the Stamps at back - ?61,5s.,9d.
  • Total: ?684,5s.,9d.

The 817,200 stamps of the first printing were divided as follows: One Penny, 270,720; Twopence, 70,320; Fourpence, 325,920; Sixpence, 138,960; One Shilling, 11,280.

An order for a further consignment of these five duties was received by De La Rue in January 1862, who informed Ormond Hill on January 16th of the fact, and raised the point as to whether or not the Board still wished to supervise the stamps, or whether they had 'intimated to Messrs Hankey that the supervision of the production of these stamps lay in future with themselves'. They went on to ask permission for Turner to make a further six reams of pineapple paper, and also requested the immediate delivery of the five reams lying in stock at Somerset House. It was agreed that they should allow a margin of from 10 to 15 per cent for spoilage. De La Rue's hint to the Board was acted upon, and the following excerpt from a letter to Thomson Hankey dated January 20, 1862 marks the end of the Inland Revenue's connection with the printing of stamps by De La Rue for the Colonies.

Jamaica 1860 SG 1b, 1d. blue block of nine with wing-margin at left.
This unused with mainly large part original gum block of nine was sold
at Spink Auction in 2009 for ?350 plus buyer's premium.

I am directed to inform you that the Board will upon the present occasion undertake the supervision of the preparation of the stamps in question upon the usual terms. I have however to state that in consequence of the great augmentation in the demand for adhesive stamps in this Country arising principally from the extension of the application of such stamps to a variety of documents especially by acts of Parliament papers, in the two last Sessions, it is found impracticable for the Officers of this Department to continue any longer to superintend the manufacture of stamps for the Colonies in addition to their ordinary duties.
The Board have therefore directed me to inform you that it will be neccesary to make your own arrangements with Messrs. De La Rue for the supervision of the manufacture of any future supplies of such camps as may be required for the Government of Jamaica.

The quantities of this second order, invoiced on March 22, 1962, were: One Penny, 540,720; Twopence, 411,120; Fourpence, 140,640; Sixpence, 173,280; One Shilling, 12,000. [Easton]

After preparing the dies for the 1d, 2d, 4d, and 1/- it seems clear that the printers were conscious of the design deficiencies of the laureated head. Consequently the 6d die was to some extent recut. For instance, the two leaves protruding above the Queen's forehead - and which, as John Easton wrote, gave the Queen "a slightly dissipated, if not faunish, air" - were cut back, and the forehead made more rounded. [EJP]

Jamaica  1860 2d., SG 2 rose wing-margin block of four. Sold at
Spink Auction in 2005 for ?450 plus buyer's premium.

6d. block of four, marginal from the left of the sheet with part inscription.
This mint block (the lower pair unmounted) was sold at Grosvenor Auction
in 2009 for ?350 plus buyer's premium.

Jamaica 6d. deep purple, SG 5b. This unused with large part original gum stamp
was sold at Spink Auction in 2005 for ?580 plus buyer's premium.

Jamaica  1 Shilling, SG 6, yellow-brown block of thirty comprising
the upper five rows of the pane showing part inscription. Sold at
Spink Auction in 2005 for ?6500 plus buyer's premium.

Jamaica Watermark Pineapple: 3d

A threepenny stamp was not issued until 10 September 1863.

September 10, 1863.
For the convenience of the public, Postage stamps of the denomination of three pence have been imported and can be obtained at this office.
These stamps are well adapted for Ship Letters.
(Signed) ALEX. J. BRYMER,
Postmaster for Jamaica.

The original die for the Jamaica Threepence was charged at ?30 and became the original die later on for the One Halfpenny, Two Shillings and Five Shillings which were printed on Crown CC paper. A comparison of this Threepence head with the heads of the original five Jamaica duties reveals that a great deal of retouching by a different hand, and in a more open style, was carried out on the punch of the master die of the Head. This retouching is reproduced exactly in the working dies of the One Halfpenny, Two Shillings and Five Shillings. There are therefore two groups of the Jamaica head showing a laurel instead of a diadem.

The first printing of the Threepence, invoiced on August 11, 1863, amounted to 247,920. The plate was 240 multiples. It is unusual for the daybook entries to indicate the colours of the stamps, but on this occasion they were described as 'printed in green fugitive ink'."[Easton]

1860-70 Watermark Pineapple 3d., green, SG 3.
This mint block of four from the left of the sheet was sold at
Grosvenor Auction in 2012 for ?210 plus buyer's premium


Printings of 1d. Blue

Total 13,673 3,281,520
Date Sheets Stamps Shade SG #
17 Oct 1860 1 128 270 720 Pale Blue 1
22 Mar 1862 2,253 540,720
6 Jul 1863 2,028 486,720
11 Apr 1865 3,012 722,880 Deep Blue 1c
10 Jul 1866 5,252 1,260,480

Printings of 2d.

Total 3,127 750,480
Date Sheets Stamps Shade SG #
17 Oct 1860 293 70,320 Rose 2
22 Mar 1862 1,713 411,120
30 Aug 1867 1,121 269,040

Printings of 3d.

Total 2,809 674,160
Date Sheets Stamps Shade SG #
11 Aug 1863 1,033 247,920 green 3
28 Feb 1865 1,776 426,240

Printings of 4d. Brown Orange

Total 1,944 466,560
Date Sheets Stamps Shade SG #
17 Oct 1860 1,358 325,920 Brown-Orange 4
22 Mar 1862 586 140,640

Printings of 6d.

Total 2,082 499,680
Date Sheets Stamps Shade SG #
17 Oct 1860 579 138,960 Dull Lilac 5
22 Mar 1862 722 173,280
28 Feb 1865 395 94,800
30 Aug 1867 386 92,640

Printings of 1s.

Total 1,756 421,440
Date Sheets Stamps Shade SG #
17 Oct 1860 47 11,280 Yellow-Brown 6
22 Mar 1862 50 12,000 Purple-Brown 6a
30 Jun 1863 450 108,000
28 Feb 1865 283 67,920
30 Aug 1867 926 222,240

Die Proofs and Specimens

Jamaica 1860-70 1d. to 1/- stamp-size die proofs, each in black
on glazed card. These scarce die proofs were sold at Spink Auction

in 2005 for ?800 plus buyer's premium.

Jamaica 1d. stamp-size die proof (20x29mm) in black on glazed card
with manuscript initials at foot, was sold at Spink Auction
in 2005 for ?120 plus buyer's premium.

1860 4d. imperf. plate proof on gummed, watermarked paper.
This horizontal pair, both stamps overprinted ''SPECIMEN'' was sold
at Grosvenor Auction in 2007 for ?100 plus buyer's premium.

1860-70 watermark Pineapple, 1/- dull brown, SG 6P. This imperforate
plate proof with large part original gum was sold at Spink Auction
in 2010 for ?110 plus buyer's premium.

Jamaica Postal History: 1860-1870

Jamaica, 1861, Queen Victoria, 1d blue, diagonal bisect, tied by 'A49'
barred oval obliterator on 1863 envelope, with 'Jamaica' double arc d.s.
(12.2; Lilliput?) and 'Kingston Jamaica' c.d.s. (14.2.63) adjacent, SG 1d
Sold at Harmers Auction SA in 2012 for 380 CHF plus buyer's premium

"The diagonal bisection of the 1d. was autorized by a P.O. notice dated 20 November 1861 to pay the 1/2d. rate for newspapers or book post. Examples are only of value when on original envelope or wrapper. The authority was withdrawn as from 1 December 1872. Fakes are frequently met with. Other bisections were unauthorised." [Stanley Gibbons]

No 1/2d stamp was issued, and as the newspaper rate had been fixed at 1/2d per paper in 1843, great inconvenience was caused to the public by this omission. Accordingly, on 20th November, 1861, the following notice was published in the Gazette:

20th November, 1861.
For the greater convenience of persons availing themselves of the facilities afforded by the book post, and also for the pre-payment of newspapers forwarded within the Colony, His Excellency the Governor, in Executive Committee, has been pleased to authorise the recognition of one-half of the present Penny Postage Label in prepayment of the Half Penny Rate of Postage. The label must be divided diagonally so as to render the Half Penny triangular, the only shape in which it will be recognised in pre-payment of postage.
(signed) ALEX. BRYMER
Postmaster for Jamaica.

The stamp was nevertheless occasionally bisected vertically.

By 1862, the public had got accustomed to bisecting this penny stamp and did not see any reason why they should not bisect any other stamp when they required half its value. This caused the following notice to appear in the Gazette:

28th August 1862.
Postage Labels
The attention of the public is requested to the fact that the Penny Stamp is the only one which the Government have permitted to be made use of in a divided state (thus forming the halfpenny label).
All letters, etc., upon which portions only, of Postage Stamps of any other denomination are affixed, will be treated as unpaid.
Postmaster for Jamaica.

The 4d is known bisected in 1872! The 2d is also known quartered.

On 20th March 1872, a Mr George Levy sent to the Postmaster of Jamaica a letter which he had received through the May Pen Post Office bearing half a fourpenny stamp in prepayment of postage. Notwithstanding this, Mr Levy had to pay an additional 4d because "as I was informed" wrote Mr Levy to Mr Sullivan "no one has the right of cutting in halves any other than a penny stamp for postage purposes. Considerable correspondence ensued (ref The Colonial Standard of 3rd May 1872) culminating in endorsement by the Governor of the Postmasters actions, but as a result the production of 1/2d stamps was initiated.
The practice was withdrawn on 30th November 1872.

Over the period of 11 years, the 1d stamp was frequently used for this purpose, but as the majority of newspapers were destroyed and letters bearing bisected stamps were usually official ones, or else odd rates of postage, the bisected 1d on cover is now a scarce item.

Most of the covers were addressed to the Chief Clerk of the Provost Marshal's Office at Spanish Town (Mr. W.A. Feurtado) and these were all handed over to the Supreme Court Office when the Provost Marshal General's Office was abolished in 1872, on Kingston becoming the Capital of Jamaica instead of Spanish Town. They were all destroyed about thirty years later by burning in the railway furnaces at Kingston. Some few, however, appear to have escaped destruction, as this is the address usually found on a cover with a bisected penny stamp on it.

C.E.M.&N. (p52) cites this letter:
...Whilst I was Chief Clerk in the Provost Marshal General's Office in Spanish Town from 1865-69, I used to receive letters from the Deputy Marshalls all over the island. Book post packets were 1/2d postage from 1861 and as there were no postage stamps in use at the time for less than a penny, the Postmaster gave permission to have the 1d stamps cut in two diagonally...
The envelopes and covers bearing my name with stamps on them were delivered over to the Supreme Court Office when the Provost Marshal General's Office was abolished in 1872, and these papers I understand have lately been disturbed by stamp collectors.
Yours truly, (sgd) W.A.FEURTADO
Cottage Grove, Franklin Town, 21 April 1902.

Jamaica-India, 1865 cover, franked with 1 penny blue, two 2d rose, and pair 6d
violet (SG 1,2,5), all canceled by "A42" killers of Golden Spring, and tied by red
LONDON / PAID transit plus red "1d" credit handstamp. Reverse shows
GORDO-TOWN, KINGSTON, red BOMBAY and green AGRA transits,
plus red BAREIILY arrival c.d.s.'s. This cover with rare and colorful franking
to a very unusual destination was sold at Harmers Auction SA
in 2012 for 800 CHF plus buyer's premium.

Jamaica-Italy, 1870 letter from Kingston, 2 shilling 8 pence quadruple rate paid by
1860 First Issue 2d rose + 6d dull lilac + pair 1s yellow brown (S.G. 2, 5, 6), all tied
by "A01 / KINGSTON" duplex cancels, with "2 / 4" credit to England, London transit,
red "60" centesimi British credit to Italy, GENOVA backstamp.
Sold at Harmers Auction SA in 2012 for 540 CHF plus buyer's premium.

1861 (June 24) cover addressed to a Major of H.M. 77th. Regiment at Bengal, India,
with 1860-70 6d. pair, cancelled by ''A 43'' of Gordon Town, on reverse has
Gordon Town, Calcutta, Hazareebaugh transit and receiving marks. Sold
at Grosvenor Auction in 2009 for ?500 plus buyer's premium


  1. “1860 to 1910 QV Laureated Head”, Encyclopaedia of Jamaica Philately (EJP)
  2. “The De La Rue History of British and Foreign Postage Stamps 1855 to 1901”  by John Easton, 1958
  3. "Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue. Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps 1840-1970"