Telegraph stamp
Telegraph stamps are stamps
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

 intended solely for the prepayment of telegraph fees. The customer completed a telegraph form before handing it with payment to the clerk who applied a telegraph stamp and cancelled it to show that payment had been made. If the stamp was an imprinted stamp
Imprinted stamp
In philately an imprinted stamp is a stamp printed on to a piece of postal stationery such as a stamped envelope, postal card, letter sheet, letter card, aerogram or wrapper. The printing is flat upon the surface of the paper, as opposed to an embossed stamp which has a raised relief...

, it formed part of the message form.


The majority of telegrams were paid for using normal postage stamps. These can often be identified by their distinctive telegraphic cancels or punched holes. Specific telegraph stamps were issued in most countries but in some regular postage stamps were overprinted (eg. Nicaragua, Ecuador). Private companies issued telegraph stamps in countries where the telegraph network was of private ownership.

The first telegraph stamps issued might be those of the English and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Co., released in 1853.
The first government-issued telegraph stamps were produced by Spain and went into use on July 1, 1864.

Occasionally postage stamps ran out and telegraph stamps were used for letter postage as an emergency measure, for example in Spain in 1879.


Telegraph stamps are regarded by many philatelists as desirable and collectable, either as part of the (back of the book) country collection or cinderella
"Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper" is a folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune...

Collection or Collections may refer to:* Collection , the abstract concept of collections in computer science* Collection , the actions of a creditor seeking to recoup a debt...

. They are listed in most country specific catalogues. General stamp catalogues
Stamp catalog
A stamp catalog is a catalog of postage stamp types with descriptions and prices.The stamp catalog is an essential tool of philately and stamp collecting...

 do not list these stamps, except the French Yvert & Tellier. 'Telegraph and Telephone Stamps of the World' by S.E.R. Hiscocks, published in 1982, is the only general catalog. American telegraph stamps are also listed and described in detail in United States Telegraph Stamps and Franks by George Jay Kramer. The first American telegraph stamps were issued by the New York City and Suburban Printing Telegraph Co., probably in 1859.

The Royal Philatelic Collection
Royal Philatelic Collection
The Royal Philatelic Collection is the postage stamp collection of the British Royal Family. It is the most comprehensive collection of items related to the philately of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, with many unique pieces.- Early history :...

 of Queen Elizabeth II has many telegraph stamps as George V was an enthusiastic collector. It includes examples of British and Commonwealth stamps as well as private companies such as Bonelli's Electric Telegram Company, the Electric Telegraph Company
Electric Telegraph Company
The Electric Telegraph Company was the world's first public telegraph company founded in the United Kingdom in 1846 by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and John Lewis Ricardo, MP for Stoke-on-Trent....

 and the British and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company.

The Stock Exchange forgery

One sideline to the story of telegraph stamps is the Stock Exchange Forgery of 1872-73
Stock Exchange Forgery 1872-73
The Stock Exchange Forgery was a fraud perpetrated at the London Stock Exchange during the years 1872 to 1873.-Description of the fraud:In 1870 the telegraph systems of the United Kingdom were nationalised and run by the Post Office. The development of the telegraph systems had been of great...

which was discovered in 1898 by Charles Nissen
Charles Nissen
Charles Nissen was a philatelist, and stamp dealer who discovered the famous stock exchange forgery and wrote, with Bertram McGowan, the definitive book on the plating of the Penny Black.-The Royal Philatelic Collection:...

 when examining used stamps from telegraph forms. The stamps were found to be forged due to the absence of a watermark
A watermark is a recognizable image or pattern in paper that appears as various shades of lightness/darkness when viewed by transmitted light , caused by thickness or density variations in the paper...

 and because they had impossible corner lettering. It is believed that a clerk in the Stock Exchange
Stock exchange
A stock exchange is an entity that provides services for stock brokers and traders to trade stocks, bonds, and other securities. Stock exchanges also provide facilities for issue and redemption of securities and other financial instruments, and capital events including the payment of income and...

 Post Office, London had been using forged one shilling green stamps on the forms instead of genuine stamps and keeping the fees. The culprit was never identified, but examples of the forgery are now sold for many times the price of the genuine stamps.


The telegraph was superseded by the fax
Fax , sometimes called telecopying, is the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material , normally to a telephone number connected to a printer or other output device...

, email
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

, and mobile telephone text messages, and the last telegraph stamps are thought to have been issued in the early 1990s by Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

 or The Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...


Further reading

  • Catalogue of the Telegraph Stamps of the World by Walter Morley
    Walter Morley
    Walter Morley was a pioneering English philatelist, stamp dealer and philatelic author.The first address known for Morley is 186 West Green Road, Tottenham, London N. In 1898 his address is given as 15 Brownhill Gardens, Hither Green, Catford, London S.E...

    , London, 1900.
  • Catalogue de Timbres-Fiscaux by A. Forbin
    Alfred Forbin
    Alfred J. Forbin was a pioneering French stamp dealer who wrote an all-world catalogue of revenue stamps that has never been surpassed.- Stamp dealing :...

    , Yvert & Tellier, France, 1915.
  • Indian Telegraphs, 1851-1914 by Ilyas Patel and Dhananjay Desai, India, 1995.
  • Telegraph Seals: A World Catalogue by S.E.R. Hiscocks, Woking, 2007. ISBN 0950830135
  • Telegraph & Telephone Stamps of the World: A priced and annotated catalogue by S.E.R. Hiscocks
    Steve Hiscocks
    Dr. Steve E.R. Hiscocks was an expert on telephone and telegraph stamps who in 1982 wrote the first catalogue on the subject since Walter Morley's work of 1900....

    , Woking, 1982. ISBN 0950830100
  • The Telegraph Stamps and Stationery of Great Britain, 1851-1954, by Alan K. Huggins & Peter Langmead, Great Britain Philatelic Society, United Kingdom, 2003. ISBN 0907630146
  • United States Telegraph Issues by Joseph and Stephen Rich, United States, 1947.
  • U.S. Telegraph Stamps and Franks by George Jay Kramer, United States, 1992.

External links

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