Western Australia - Colonial period: 1861-1900.
The special telegraph stamps.

The Telegraph stamps of WA are described as follows:

  1. Background to the issues;
  2. Production;
  3. Use for postage.


In July 1878, an order was placed with the Crown Agents to supply Telegraph forms and Telegraph stamps. No legislation to authorise the use of stamps to pre-pay telegraph charges had been passed although the pre-stamped form had been issued in Victoria in 1873 and New South Wales had issued its Telegraph Stamps in 1871. It may therefore have felt like the "proper thing to have".

The Crown Agents had to have designs for the images on the form and for the stamps prepared and plates made. Pope (1979) gives details of these developments (p. 256-7). The Telegraph form with the pink indicium is discussed elsewhere.

The Government Gazette for 22 April 1879 included the following announcement:

Notice is hereby given that impressed stamp telegraph message forms and adhesive telegraph stamps, which may be used in payment for telegraphic messages, have been obtained from England and may be procured at the General Post Office and the Post and Telegraph Offices throughout the Colony.

The critical words in this announcement are "may be used". There was no requirement for the use of the stamps. Consequently people decided it was simply more straightforward to pay the costs in cash and Telegraph Officers were also satisfied with that type of transaction. There was also no place on the later transmission forms (without the embossed image) to place the stamps and there does not appear to have been any requirement for the public or for the Telegraph Officer to place any stamp purchased on the telegraph transmission form.

The denominations for the two stamps are interesting when interpreted against the scale of charges for telegrams. The 1d is understandable - it was used to pay the cost of words additional to the basic 10 words. There would have been little reason to have a 6d denomination. Possibly a 1/- denomination for Telegraphs but in these still early days of telegraphic communication in Western Australia, a higher rate 2/- telegram, at least from the public, would have been a rare occurrence - even allowing for a double rate for the telegram being sent out of hours or on a Sunday.


De La Rue took a transfer from the original design of the Queen's head to form the die. It was deemed to be necessary to distinguish stamps used for Telegraph revenue from those featuring the swan which were used for postal revenue.

The space for the value was left blank so that a forme with either denomination could be inserted for the printing.

Die proofs were taken on glazed card. The earliest recorded before hardening the dies was taken on 21 December 1878 - there being two known examples. Another master die proof is dated 23 December.

die proof
Die proof dated 21 December 1878.
Status Auctions 2008 Sale 249 Lot 1649.

A second example is distinguished by a faint comma after "21", an incomplete right upright for the "N" and a more complete "G".
Spink, 19 May 2015, Lot 661 and ACE Auctions April 2018, Lot 561.

After the Master die was completed on 24 December, a single proof was taken - printed in black on glazed card (60 × 90 mm) and marked accordingly. It was also initialled. After hardening
Provenance: Lord Vestey.
Spink 19 May 2015 (Sale 15024), Lot 662.
There is one example of the finished die proof mounted on card.

Prestige Philately 2006.

Die proof

Printing was on sheets of 60 (10 rows of 6 stamps).

A single imprimatur sheet was printed on paper with the Crown over CC watermark and gummed but left imperforate.

From this single sheet of 60 plate proofs, the multiples recorded are:

  • a block of 8 from the top right corner with the plate number;
  • a block of 6 from the lower right corner with the plate number;
  • three pairs - two horizontal and one vertical.
Blk 8
Provenance: Lord Vestey.
Spink 19 May 2015, Lot 663.
Block of 8 from the top right corner showing the plate number and the alignment mark in the top margin.
Blk 6 LLC
Spink 20 May 2015 (15023), Lot 2182.
Block of 6 from the lower left corner showing the plate number, the alignment mark and part of the papermaker's watermark in the lower margin.
horiz pair
Horizontal pair of 1d bistre from the right side of the sheet showing
the watermark in the margin.

Prestige Philately 2006.


Vert imp Vertical pair of
1d bistre.

Status August 2008 Lot 1651.

Another vertical pair was offered in the Spink Sale 4028 Lot 1857 (Provenance: Ron Butler).

There were two printings of the 1d stamp - both being made on Crown CC watermarked paper in sheets of 60.

The first printing - possibly in January 1879 (invoiced
on 1 February) - produced 120,000 stamps and these were perforated 12½.

A second printing - in February 1879 - produced
230,040 stamps and these were perforated 14.

Hence the 1d perf 12½ stamps are more difficult to find.


1d perf 12.5
Unused 1d bistre perf 12½
There was only one printing of the 6d lilac - of 25,200 stamps also on Crown CC paper and perforated 14. 6d violet
Unused 6d lilac.


Almost all of the known telegraph stamps are singles.

The only recorded multiples are:

  • an amazing block of 20 MNH of the 1d. from the lower left corner of the sheet;
  • a block of 6 from the left side of the sheet;
  • blocks of four of each denomination from the Vesty collection.
  • a block of three from plate 2 above.
  • a couple of pairs of each denomination.

1879 1d bistre lower left corner Plate 1 block of 20 of 4 rows of 5 stamps.
Complete selvedge on the two sides.
Perf. 14

Incorporates the horizontal guideline and printers reference No. "2" in rectangular frame.

Provenance: the Australia Post archival sale, February 1987 Lot 100.
Ng Collection, Johnstone Collection.

Marginal block of 6 of the 1d.
Perf 14.

Provenance: the Australia Post archival sale, February 1987 Lot 100.
Ng Collection.

Ace Auctions, March 2021, Lot 835.

Blocks of 4 of the three perforation formats.

Spink May 2015 Lot 664.

Provenance: Vestey Collection.

Blks 4

Plate 2 block of three
Perf 14.

The stamp at the top left has a slight hinge mark otherwise MUH.

1d block


Use for postage.

The question soon arose as to whether postage stamps could be used to pay telegraph charges as was the case in Victoria. Postmaster-General Helmich could see no reason why not. So, with the approval of the Governor, a gazette announcement of 7 February 1882 simply added the line "1/- adhesive telegraph message stamps" to the previous (February 1979) announcement for Telegraph stamps being used "in payment for telegraphic charges". There were, of course, no 1/- Telegraph adhesive stamps and so, by a de facto arrangement, the 1/- postage stamps were legitimised for telegraphic payments.

The Telegraph stamps were not selling and Helmich pointed out to the Governor that the 1879 introduction of the scheme to use Telegraph stamps to pay charges was not really working: "it has proved to be wholly inoperative in consequence of the public declining to avail themselves of the charge".

On 18 January 1886, the possibility of requiring telegram charges having to be paid for with stamps began to be discussed. One argument in favour of this approach was that the system "is in force in England and in some neighbouring colonies". Public resistance was however a significant factor to be recognised and so that idea was quickly abandoned.

Some members of the public capitalised on the reverse strategy and, from about early 1886, began to use the Telegraph stamps for postage. This was officially allowed by a decree from the Postmaster on 25 October 1886 authorising the 1d stamps being able to be used for postage.


1d 1887
21 January 1887 at Perth.
Early usage - less than 3 months after the decree.
Perf 14 - 1st printing.
1d perf 1
Perf 14 - 1st printing.
Perf 12½ (2nd printing). Used pair
Very scarce pair - used at the GPO.
1d perf 2
Single used at the GPO.
Without authorisation, the 6d was also used postally. The earliest know example has an Albany postmark for November 1885. 6d    

There may also be another reason for the October decree apart from the public's innovation. In that month, there were simply no 1d adhesive postage stamps in stock - although there was a sufficient supply of 6d postage stamps. This situation would therefore explain why the 1d Telegraph stamp was mentioned in Helmich's announcement and not the 6d Telegraph stamp.

Stamps are known with date stamps ranging from 1886 to 1888 although later dates are possible as the stamps were never withdrawn.

The Stamp Collector issue No. 25 of 1933 also gives a review of the Telegraph Stamps of WA.