Gibraltar Stamps: Queen Victoria Spanish Currency Centimos Overprints 1889

The next issue in July 1889 was made in Spanish currency. The authorities decided on this course of action for reasons of its convenience to traders in Gibraltar. Spanish currency was still the basis of local trade, and a decimal system of coinage more familiar to the majority of the inhabitants. The Spanish exchange was erratic about this time, and as the peseta was standing at about 91/2d., it proved most inconvenient to purchasers of Gibraltar stamps in English values. This was a further reason for the change in currency in this issue. New duty plates were required as it was decided that no change in design was necessary, and in the meantime the remaining stock of the current issue was surcharged with fresh values in centimos. This was carried out by Messrs. De La Rue & Co., in London, the stock being returned there for that purpose. The issue is commoner than the preceding issue, although it was only on sale between July and November 1889. Perhaps this may be due to the fact that certain errors in the surcharge attracted the attention of stamp collectors at a time when philately became very popular.

Gibraltar SG 17 25 centimos overprint stamps in part sheet with plate No. 1.
With varieties ''5'' with short foot (SG. 17a) - all stamps in second vertical row,
one short ''I'' (SG. 17ab) and one with broken ''N'' (SG. 17b)
Sold at Grosvenor Auction in 2008 for ?240 plus buyer's premium

In the surcharges there are two major and two minor varieties, all constant; and a very minor variety, which is not constant.

The figure “ 5 ” in each of the four surcharged values in which it occurs, is not always of the same font; the lower end of the downstroke is closer to the top of the lower curl in the first type than in the second. This is easy to see when a close comparison is made with the examples side by side.

Types of 5

The normal “ 5 ” is of Type I: Type II, with the open figure, is to be found on the panes of stamps as follows:

  • 5 centimos—on every stamp in the first, fifth, and sixth vertical rows.
  • 25 centimos—on every stamp in the second and fifth vertical rows.
  • 50 and 75 centimos—on every stamp in the second vertical rows.

It would seem from the above that the stamps were surcharged in panes of sixty, and from Mr. Westcott’s article in which he alludes to a block of four 5c. on the Jd., on which all the fives are of Type II, a different arrangement of type must have existed for this value. A block of four of Type I are in my own collection. It will be noted in connection with the minor varieties mentioned later on — the broken “ I ” and “ N ”—that the 5c. was the last of all the values to be surcharged and these varieties are absent in this value. It may have been so worn and battered that it was rearranged or practically reset for this purpose.

The errors in the surcharge as set out by Gibbons are as follows : in the 25c. on 2d., a small “ I ” is found on the thirty- second stamp of the pane, and this is also met with in the same position in the sheet on the 25c. on 21/2d. Captain Higham states there were 912 printed on the 2d. and 4,012 of the 21/2d. The other error is the broken “ N ” and is found on the 25c. on 2d. and on the 25c. on 21/2d. It seems to occur on No. 59 of each pane. Captain Higham also points out that 456 and 2,006 respectively were printed with control. The printing was of two panes of 60 stamps divided by a strip of paper. Plates I and II were used for some values, but with no variation in the design of the stamp, and are only distin­guishable by the coloured Jubilee line on the margin of Plate II. Another variety met with is a dot after the “ C ” of Centimos. This is sometimes described as a broken “ C ” and is found on the 25c. on 2d. and the 25c. on the 21/2d. It has been noted on the fourth stamp of the eighth row. Mr. Westcott, in his paper on the Stamps of Gibraltar and the Morocco Agencies published in the “ Stamp Collector’s Fortnightly ” of June 2nd, 1906, mentions that he has a copy of it on a 21/2d. and says he has heard of it on the 2d. In my collection I have a complete sheet of the surcharged 2d., but there is no example of this dot or broken “ C.”

There are also the following other errors; 25c. on 1/2d. “ G ” for “ C ” in centimos. Small dot between “E” and “N” and broken “I”. All these are probably due to slight flaws in the plate or abrasions due to wear. The 50c. on 6d. of July 1889 exists with a distinct offset above the surcharge.

Gibbons gives the 50c. on 6d. having been bisected diagonally for use as 25c., No. 20a in their catalogue. Mr. Westcott in the “ Stamp Collector’s Fortnightly,” June 2nd, 1906, says that he believes the bisection to have been unauthorized and in all proba­bility the work of a “ zealous ” philatelist. Captain F. D. Higham, in his “Postage Stamps of Gibraltar”, states that he has never seen one himself but presumably Gibbons had authority for listing it, and he adds that he had never been able to find any decree authorizing the issue of this bisected 6d. on 50c.