Specimen Stamps

SPECIMEN overprints were first used within the post office to officially remove stamps from inventory, in order to use them for various archival purposes. As with many things in Victoria, the field is large and complex and filled with many rarities.

SPECIMEN Stamps occasionally got into public hands as a result of the retirement of a postal official. It was the practice to present obsolete Specimen sets to retirees as a record of their work and these few examples often later found their way into the philatelic markets.

Collector sets overprinted SPECIMEN were issued to the public from September 1900 until July 1902 containing the stamps currently on issue at that time. Specimens from these collector sets are scarce, but not nearly as rare as earlier examples.

This SPECIMEN overprint measures 18mm by 2mm, in black upper case letters and is seen on a range of issues including the Laureates.

This SPECIMEN overprint is always black, upper case letters, measuring 16mm by 2mm with a stop after the word. A range of values is known including Beaded Ovals and Laureate designs.

View Early Issue Specimens

View Laureate Specimens

A larger format SPECIMEN measuring 23mm by 2.75mm in black upper case letters. Typically, these are handstamped diagonally to fit the entire handstamp onto the stamp design. Examples I've recorded are on Naish designs that were on issue during the early 1890's.

This SPECIMEN overprint is upper case, without serifs, measuring about 13mm by 1.5mm and is found in black, red, bronze and blue for various respective denominations. It is beleived this overprint was applied in 1879 to a range of 25 different stamps which included some obsolete issues.

Perhaps only 5 sets were prepared

This SPECIMEN overprint is italicized upper case letters measuring 24mm by 3mm with plain letters. It is seen on Stamp Duty issues, and possibly others.

An interesting SPECIMEN type measuring 12.5mm by 1.5mm in upper case serifed letters, making it distinct form overprint type 4. This is the only example I have recorded to date and have not seen references to any others.

Please let me know if you have information on additional examples of this overprint.

An italicized SPECIMEN overprint, measuring 19mm by 1.75mm in black upper case letters. Examples seen are on Laureates, the DeLaRue issue and the 2 shilling Woodblock.

Other Examples

A script Specimen overprint in black, with upper and lower case letteres, measuring 20.25mm by 4.5mm usually applied diagonally to fit onto the stamp design. Examples noted are on the 1880 Bell issues, Laureate issues and Naish designs.

A spectacular script Specimen overprint in black, upper and lower case letters measuring 26mm by 11mm. This is seen on the Stamp Statutes and the Stamp Duty issues.

A rare SPECIMEN overprint recorded by Bill McCredie on this Two Pence Queen-on-Throne proof measuring 15.5mm by 2.5mm in red. No other examples are recorded of this overprint type.

This SPECIMEN overprint is found in black with italicized upper case block letters measuring 16mm by 2.75mm. It is thought these were applied circa 1885 on the contemporary issues. It would appear to be a rare overprint type.

This Specimen overprint is upper and lower case letters, in black, and measuring only 11mm by 1.5mm. Stamps found with this overprint include some Laureate and Bell designs.

This SPECIMEN overprint measures 21.5mm by 4mm in black upper case letters. It is found on Stamp Duty issues, and perhaps others.

This SPECIMEN is upper case letters, measuring 13mm by 1.5mm It is found in black and red, and on a wide range of issues including Laureates, Bell design stamps, Naish design and Stamp Duty, and maybe others. Individual copies, however are rare.

View Examples

The examples above were on issue during 1886, however, the example below was replaced by the three shilling drab in October 1885 suggesting an earlier overprint may have been made, or that a set was made up using the obsolete three shilling issue.

Exceptional Example

This SPECIMEN type appears in black upper case letters measuring 15.5mm by 2.5mm and is seen on a range of Naish designs from about 1885 until 1890 or later. The overprints appear on different issues suggesting they were made on different occasions. This style seems to be somewhat more common than earlier types and may have been used for limited presentation sets or other proscribed distribution that found their way into the public marketplace.

The evidence also suggests that sets may have been made up using this overprint on the smaller low-denomination issues in combination with Specimen14 applied on the larger high denomination issues, however, the rarity of the larger format overprint further suggests this may not have been the practice on all occasions.

This SPECIMEN overprint is italicized upper case letters, measuring 21mm by 2.5 mm. All examples seen are black, found on Naish designs of the early 1880s and Stamp Duty copies of the higher denominations.

This type of SPECIMEN overprint is similar to type 5, but with a larger format. This overprint measures 29mm by 5.5mm in upper case italicized block letters.

This Specimen overprint is found only on the 1897 Charity issue measuring 11mm by 2.5mm. The overprint is red on the One Penny stamp and black on the Two Pence Halfpenny.

This Specimen overprint is handwritten in red or black ink, always appearing in the same handwriting style, presumably by the same official. These are rare, but appear on a wide range of Duty stamps, Beer Duty stamps, Frank stamps and possibly others.

The most common type of Specimen overprint first appeared in 1889. During the 1890's the usage was restricted to archival purposes and limited numbers of presentation sets. The early examples are characterized by a weak S, in which the top half of the S does not register in the overprint.

The same Specimen overprint was used for the collector sets that were offered to the public in 1901-1902. Collector sets were offered cancelled to order, or with the Specimen overprint (the latter being the scarcer). The handstamp was fixed by this time, insuring a full S in the Specimen overprint.

The ULTRAMAR overprint was applied to stamps sent to various Portuguese colonies. Members of the UPU were required to send copies of contemporary issues to other participating countries. Typically, the Victoria issues were sent without any overprint - the Portuguese authorities overprinted them before distribution to their colonial states. Available copies have been liberated from those Portuguese colonies in the ensuing years and all examples are very rare.

Starting in 1901, the Victoria post office sent UPU members stamps which were cancelled to order. The Potuguese authorities continued their practice of overprinting these with ULTRAMAR. These are all quite rare, with only a few liberated examples recorded for each issue.

The Natal government appled a SPECIMEN overprint to all stamps received from fellow UPU memebers. Victoria distributed sets of the official stamps perforated OS to UPU members in 1906. At least one set received in England was overprinted by the Crown agents with the Natal handstamp. A representative example is shown here.

The information provided here was designed to illustrate the range of Specimen overprints found in Victoria, but it is quite possible that other overprint types may be found.

The Specimen stamps of Victoria is a large and complex field and no complete catalog or chronology of this field has ever been published.

If you can contribute information that would assist in the development a comprehensive catalog of these fascinating issues, please CONTACT ME, using the email link provided in this website.


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

Special acknowledgement and thanks to Bill McCredie for making notes from his exhibit on the The Specimen Stamps of Victoria available for review.

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