The Watermarks Found In Victoria

Watermarks were used by many postal authorities around the world during the 19th century, in an effort to thwart the forgery of postal stamps. Victoria was no exception. While the earliest issues were all printed on unwatermarked paper, by the time the Emblems were issued in 1857, printing on watermarked paper became the usual practice. While there were exceptions, by the 1860s the use of watermarked paper became the standard for all stamp printings right through to the end of colonial times and beyond.

A number of watermark types are met. As with much else, the early years were marked by experimentation, and emergency usages, with standardized practices evolving by the 1870s.

The first watermark used was a large star found on paper supplied by Perkins, Bacon & Co. . Calvert used this paper for the first printings of the Emblems, and it is also found, appropriately, on the 1d and 6d Queen-on-Throne issues supplied by Perkins, Bacon &Co.

By 1859, the decision was made to order paper with uniquely different watermarks for each denomination of stamp printed. Six different watermark designs were ordered, which have become known to collectors as the WORDS of VALUE watermarks. Paper with the respective watermark imprints ONE PENNY, TWO PENCE, THREE PENCE, FOUR PENCE, SIX PENCE and FIVE SHILLING were ordered. These are found on later Emblem issues, Netted Corners, Beaded Ovals and the 6d Adapted issues.

By the time the Laureates were issued in 1863 there had been a change of mind. The stamp printers found that the words of value watermarks were too overpowering and affected the print quality of the stamps. Instead of the full wording, it was decided to simplify the watermarks to the numeral value - so the ONE PENNY watermark was replaced with a simple and clean 1.

Paper shortages required the postal authorities in the mid and late 1860s to order emergency supplies of paper from Tasmania on more than once occasion, with the result that some Victoria stamps were issued with the double lined numerals normally associated with Tasmania's stamps.

During the 1860's it became abundantly clear to postal officials that they could not predict the volumes of stamps needed for each denomination. There had been many instances where watermark values had been substituted to meet paper requirements. Each of these instances created philatelic varieties, some of which are exceedingly rare.

Finally, in 1865, a decision was made to standardize the watermark used for all stamp denominations. The design that was adopted had a V over a crown. The V over Crown papers were used continuously from the 1860s until 1905. During that span, 5 different designs were used. These have become known as watermark types V1, V2, V3, V4 and V5. The differences can be subtle and distinguishing them can often be a challenge, with some examples being impossible to catalogue with absolute certainty.

In 1905 a final replacement took place as authorities tried to standardize the papers used in preparation for the first issues of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The watermarks form an interesting study with many examples that can challenge even experienced collectors. Among them are a number of very rare usages, including some catalogued examples that are represented by a single known copy

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