CTO Stamps

Cancelled To Order stamps were issued to collectors and dignitaries on a variety of occasions during the late 18th century and early 19th century in Victoria. Based on dates found, it would appear to be a more complex subject  than suggested by the current literature.

Presentation Sets were issued to parliamentarians on several occasions which contained examples of the contemporary postage stamps. Intact sets are essentially non-existent today.

Cancelled to Order sets were sold to collectors by the post office from September 1900 to June 1902.

Stamps sent to the UPU members were cancelled to order until 1911. These included the OS perforated issues.

Additional sets were issued on various dates from the mid-1890s to 1911 that were never documented. The purpose for these sets and the respective lists of  stamps included remains a mystery.  I have attempted to set the stage for future research with random examples I have discovered.

March 1897

Presentation sets were made up in 1897, however, no details are available.

1899 - First Example

Some stamps were cancelled in 1899 with the date slug set for the day at left and month at right. Unfortunately, it is only possible to decipher the numeral 14 on this example, so we cannot determine the month during which it was cancelled.

November 13, 1899

Additional stamps were cancelled on November 13, 1899, having the date slug set for month at left and date at right.  There is just enough of the cancel to show an O as part of the month, verifying this was cancelled in November. I also have a ten-shilling stamp with the same cancellation.

April 10, 1900

This is the only example I have recorded  with this date stamp.  It is the 1870 De La Rue issue, suggesting a group of obsolete stamps may have been cancelled for some dignitary or special purpose at that time. Kellow states 600 sets were made for Parliamentarians dated Feb 5, 1901 that included this stamp, however, no records for this date have been located.

From September 1900 until June 30, 1902, the post office sold CTO sets to collectors with the current denominations from the halfpenny to the five shilling at the price of four shillings.  They were offered in two variations - with the script Specimen overprint, or Cancelled to Order with contemporary dates. It is unknown how many sets were distributed, but they are scarce.

One Penny

The Reading design, printed in olive, was issued June 6, 1901.  It was invalid for postage commencing July 1, 1901, just three weeks after its issue, so its appearance in collector sets must be very limited.  This is the only example I have seen.

One Penny

The Commonwealth design was issued in June 1901, and became the standard issue for the collector set after that date.

Six Pence

The final printing of the six pence Fergusson & Mitchell design was made in July 1900 on paper watermarked V4, and was included in the early collector sets.

Six Pence

The six pence Commonwealth "No-Postage" design was issued in December 1900.  Presumably, it was used in collector sets but I have not yet recorded any examples.  The "Postage" design was issued in July 1901 and it became the standard after that date.

One Shilling

The one shilling Fergusson & Mitchell was still on issue when the collector sets went on sale. This one dated Feb 5, 1901. Kellow records this as the earliest recorded date for any collector sets which is obviously not the case as numerous examples dated in 1900 have been recorded.

One Shilling

The one shilling Commonwealth "No Postage" was issued in December 1900 andwas used in collector sets. The above Fergusson & Mitchell design dated Feb 5, 1901, however, demonstrates that leftover stock was often used to complete sets.

One Shilling

The one shilling Commonwealth "Postage" was issued in June 1901 and became the standard for the collector sets after that date. Only Type A printings with the word POSTAGE being 6mm long, are found.

Two Shilling

The Naish design in apple green was issued in August 1895 but was withdrawn from use shortly thereafter. Kellow suggests these appeared in the 1901 Federal presentation sets, however, he further states those presentation sets were all dated Feb 5, 1901 which is clearly not the case on this example. 

It may be that additional presentation sets were made up in May 1901, or that stray examples of remaining inventory were used up in collector sets? 


Two Shilling

The Naish design in blue green, watermarked V4, remained on issue until the end of 1900 and it was included in collector sets until early 1901.

Two Shilling

The two shilling Commonwealth "No Postage" design was issued in January 1901 and was likely included in sets at that time, however, I have not yet recorded any examples. The "Postage" design was issued in July 1901 and became the standard for this denomination.

Five Shilling

The short sets that were sold to collectors for four shillings only included the denominations to the five shilling stamp. When the collector sets first went on sale, the Stamp Duty design in rose red printed on paper watermarked V4, was the only five shilling in use.

Five Shilling

The Commonwealth "No Postage" design was issued in December 1900, and was used in the collector sets with 1901 dates.

Five Shilling

The official date of issue for the five shilling Commonwealth design was July 5, 1901 and it became the standard for the collector sets as soon as remaining stock of the "No Postage" issue was exhausted.

The post office supplied a complete set of denominations on issue to collectors at the price of One Pound. The set included all the contemporary values from halfpenny to one hundred pounds.  Fewer sets were sold, making the values from six-shillings upwards much scarcer than the lower denominations. 

This distribution is not evident based on today's market. Lower valued denominations were treated as common stamps and many have been consigned to bulk lots and not easily found, while  higher denominations were protected in better collections and are seen periodically for sale.  A rarity table, based on current inventory has not been published, but the evidence suggests that lower denomination CTO stamps are now much harder to locate than the higher values.

One Pound

The only stamp used for this denomination was the electrotype printing, in red orange, watermarked V2. The King Edward VII issue is known with CTO cancel but they were included with presentation sets with later dates

One Pound Five Shilling

The only stamp used for this denomination was the electrotype printing, in pink,  on paper watermarked V2.


While only the digit 3 is apparent for the year slug, it would appear highly unlikely that this could have been made in 1913, thus placing the date in 1903.  By that time, sales had ceased for the collector sets and it has been postulated that its sole remaining purpose was for the overprinting of sets for UPU member countries.  Is it possible that a set was made up and distributed to a UPU member country and later liberated?  More information is required to make any judgments on this matter.


The CTO cancellation was used for stamps distributed to UPU member countries after 1902.  The only issues affected were the OS perforated stamps issued in 1902.  It remains a mystery why these were finally cancelled and forwarded to the UPU members in 1906?  None of the examples I have display a month or date - if anyone can provide this information, please contact me. 

These sets were never offered to the public, so all recorded examples are from the UPU sets that subsequently found their way into private hands.  They are very scarce.

March 1911

Dated March 22, 1911, which contradicts Kellow's claim that the last sets were made for members of the new Federal Parliament in October 1910. 

It is impossible to determine from this single example whether this was part of a set or a stray usage on a random stamp. 

Can anyone supply further examples with this date?

The Stamps of Victoria, by G.Kellow, B&K Publishing, Melbourne, 1990.

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