The First Postage Due Issue of 1906-1928

The First Postage Due Issue of 1906-1928

I had promised last week that my next post would be about the Third Postage Due Issue of 1933-1935. However, shortly after I published my post last week about the Second Postage Due Issue, a regular reader pointed out that I never wrote about the First Postage Due Issue. Surprised, I went back over my posts and realized that he was indeed correct. So I figured that this week, I had better circle back and write about this very beautiful and simple early modern issue.

Like the other Postage Due material, it is not nearly as popular with collectors as it ought to be, most likely because of where it is located in people's albums. My hope is that this post will demonstrate that this is a fantastic candidate for a specialized collection, as it offers so many opportunities for the specialist, while at the same time featuring some very scarce material. One of the factors that makes it so interesting is its long period of use: 25 years, from mid 1906 until 1930, when the Second Issue replaced it. Because of this it exhibits all the variations that resulted from the technical innovations of the time, such as the switch from wet to dry printings, the use of the experimental "thin" paper in 1924, the use of lathework, and finally a large range of different shades. On this last point, Unitrade's colour names of violet and reddish violet are somewhat misleading, as most of the shades are really blackish purples and blackish lilacs.

This issue was printed by the American Bank Note Company of Ottawa (ABN), in sheets of 400, which were split into post office panes of 100.

The Stamps and Quantities Issued

1c pale blackish lilac.
Issued July 1, 1906.
Replaced in 1930 (exact date uncertain)
18,870,000 issued. 
2c blackish purple.
Issued July 1, 1906.
Replaced in 1930 (exact date unknown).
44,178,000 issued. 
4c blackish purple.
Issued July 3, 1928.
Replaced in 1930 (exact date unknown)
14,487,000 stamps.
5c blackish lilac stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue of Canada
5c deep rose lilac.
Issued July 1, 1906.
Replaced in 1930 (exact date unknown).
13,000,000 stamps.
10c blackish purple.
Issued July 3, 1928.
Replaced in 1930 (exact date unknown)
1,000,000 stamps.
From the issue quantities above, it seems as though some of the prices listed in Unitrade make little sense. For example, after the 10c, which is clearly a very scarce stamp - on a par with the Bluenose, or any of the dollar values from the 1920's & 1930's, the next most expensive stamp is the 4c. This is strange, considering that the quantity printed of the 5c is less than the 4c. The 1c is nearly as scarce as the 4c also, but nowhere near as expensive. In fact, the quantities above are the combined total of all printings made and issued over the life of the set, which is significant, because the 4c and 10c were issued towards the end of the life of the set, whereas the other values were printed, many, many times. What this means is that it is very likely that virtually any single printing of the 1c, 2c, or 5c is quite likely to be scarcer in absolute terms, than the 4c, and yet, the catalogue prices do not reflect this at all. 
Points of Interest
A specialist collector who is interested in these stamps, has many avenues that he or she can pursue:
1. Colour shades.
2. Paper and gum varieties. 
3. Wet and dry printings. 
4. Plate blocks and other multiples.
5. Lathework and lathework pieces. 
6. Imperforate pairs.
7. Re-entries.
8. Pyramid guide blocks and R-Gauge blocks. 
9. Proof material.
10. Cancellations and postal history. 
I will spend the remainder of this post exploring and discussing each of these aspects. 
Colour Shades

Although all the stamps of this issue are shades of lilac and purple, there is quite a range of shades and I have by no means come across all of those that exist, I'm sure. The shades tend to follow a progression, and it appears that they can be used at least to some extent to approximately assign a printing to a range of dates. The printings of these stamps can be thought of as falling into three groups:

1. Printings made during the Edward VII period, from 1906 until late 1911.
2. Wet printings made during the Admiral period from 1911 to late 1922.
3. Dry printings made during the Admiral period from 1922 to 1930.

In looking at the shades, it will prove essential to have a reference source, such as the Stanley Gibbons stamp colour key. Using a colour key properly will enable you to accurately name and classify shades that are very close, but at the same time clearly different. The stamps of this issue have clearly different, but very similar shades. I have written a post some months ago, providing tips on how to correctly use a a colour key, which you can access here:

Generally speaking, the printings from the first group are either dull, or contain a lot of black, as follows:

Canada-J1-1c-Pale-Blackish-Lilac-Postage-Due-Wet-Ptg-Fine-Mesh-VF-84-NH      Canada-J1-1c-Blackish-Lilac-Postage-Due-Wet-Ptg-Fine-Mesh-VF-80-OG-HR

The stamp on the left is the pale blackish lilac, while the one on the right is the blackish lilac. Both of these stamps exhibit paper and gum characteristics which will be discussed next, but which tend to support the notion that these are the early shades. Some of the early printings though are in shades of pure deep lilac, such as this stamp:


The shades during the early part of the Admiral period, when the stamps were printed using the wet process, tended to be deep reddish lilacs like the stamps show below:

Canada-J1-1c-Deep-Reddish-Lilac-Postage-Due-Wet-Ptg-No-Visible-Mesh-F-68-OG  The 1c deep rose lilac stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue of Canada

The stamp on the top is deep lilac, while the stamp below it is deep rose-lilac.

During the later part of the period, when the ABN was experimenting with the so called "thin paper", the shades become much lighter and redder, being shades of plum as follows:

  1c light plum stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue of Canada  1c plum stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue of Canada
2c deep plum stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue of Canada

The stamp on the left is light plum, while the one on the right is plum. The stamp below the first two is deep plum.

The shades found on the later dry printings are all shades of dark purple, plum, or deep reddish lilac, NOT reddish violet, as Unitrade suggests. These shades are shown below:

Canada-J1c-1c-Light-Blackish-Purple-Postage-Due-Dry-Printing-VF-80-OG  Canada-J1c-1c-Deep-Reddish-Lilac-1906-28-Postage-Due-Dry-Printing-VF-75-NH Canada-J1c-1c-Deep-Blackish-Purple-1906-28-Postage-Due-Dry-Printing-F-70-OG-HR

The stamp on the left is light blackish purple, while the stamp at the bottom left is deep reddish lilac. This is very similar to the deep rose lilac shown on the 5c above, but is not quite the same. The stamp on the right is blackish purple. All of these are dry printings, yet you can see very clearly, hopefully, that the colours of the stamps on the left and right are the same basic colour, which it totally different from the stamp in the centre.

Some of the dry printings are also found in shades of plum, such as those shown below:

Canada-J2c-2c-Plum-1906-1928-Postage-Due-Dry-Printing-VF-84-OG-HR  Canada-J2c-2c-Pale-Plum-1906-1928-Postage-Due-Dry-Printing-VG-64-OG  Canada-J4c-5c-Deep-Plum-1906-1928-Postage-Due-Dry-Printing-VF-78-OG

The stamp shown on the left is plum, while the stamp at the bottom left is light plum. The stamp on the right is deep plum.

Finally, some of the dry printings are plain shades of purple:

4d deep purple stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue

This stamp is deep purple.

The above represents a small cross section of the shades that exist. I would emphasize that there most likely are many more shades than I show here. However, I have illustrated all that I have seen with the material that I have handled. However, it would definitely be a worthy endeavour to attempt to study the shades in depth. This can be done relatively inexpensively by looking for accumulations of pen, pencil, or crayon cancelled used stamps, or uncancelled used stamps. These tend to sell for much, much less than the Unitrade prices for used.

Paper and Gum Varieties

The papers and gums used on this issue follow those found on the Edward VII and Admiral issues. I have discussed those in depth in posts dedicated to each of those issues, but to summarize:

1. The paper of the Edward VII period starts off creamy in colour, with very little visible mesh, and a gum that is yellowish, has the appearance of being sponged on, and a satin sheen. Later, the paper becomes toned yellowish and later it goes back to being white, with mesh that is quite visible and coarse. The gum continues to be yellowish, with a sheen that is a bit shinier, but by no means glossy.

2. The paper of the Admiral period starts off with coarse, visible mesh and yellowish gum with a satin sheen. The gum becomes less yellowish and more cream, while acquiring a more glossy sheen. The mesh becomes finer, until it completely disappears with the dry printings. The gum on the dry printings, goes back to having a satin sheen, but being less yellowish than the early Edward VII gum.

I should point out that so far all of the stamps I have seen from this issue are printed on horizontal wove paper. However, that is not to suggest that there are not any examples on vertical wove paper.

The scans below illustrate these varieties:

An example of an Edward VII-era printing on toned wove paper, with barely visible horizontal mesh. 
Another example of a Edward VII-era printing on a creamy wove paper. 
A final example of an Edward VII-era stamp with deeper yellow gum.
A example of a mid-Admiral period wet printing.
1c stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue of Canada on the Thin Paper
A late wet printing on the so called "thin paper". The easiest way to identify this is by the very obvious and very coarse mesh. In actual fact, as I discuss in my posts on the Admiral issue, there is very little actual difference between the measured thickness of this paper, and the regular wove paper. 
An example of a typical dry printing showing the creamier gum, and clear design embossing that is characteristic of the dry printings. 

Wet and Dry Printings

From 1906 until late 1922, the stamps of this issue were printed on dampened paper that shrunk across the grain and after it was dry, the gum was applied. As I have pointed out above, all the stamps I have seen were printed on horizontal wove paper. This means that wet printings would shrink from top to bottom, so that the dry printings will be generally 1/2 mm taller than the wet printings. This will generally be the only way to distinguish the wet from dry printings on the used stamps, for those who are not comfortable relying on differences in shade as shown above.

For the mint stamps, the easiest way, I find to identify the dry printings is to look for embossing of the design on the back of the stamp through the gum. I have not yet come across a dry printing that did not clearly show this embossing effect. The reason why this embossing arises is because pre-gummed paper was used for printing. As printing took place, it was forced into contact with the printing plate under pressure, which produced the embossing that you see in the scan above.

All five values exist as dry printings, with the 4c and 10c only existing as dry printings. The 1c, 2c and 5c exist both wet and dry. The so called "reddish violet" "c" numbers in Unitrade actually refer more to any dry printing than they do to the actual shade in my humble opinion.

Plate blocks and other multiples

All of the values of this issue can be found in plate pairs, strips and blocks. The inscription styles and plate markings that exist on this issue all follow those found on the Edward VII and Admiral issues. This is generally not common material at all, so it is not generally known how many plates, or positions exist for each value, and it would thus make an excellent candidate for detailed study. It is important though to be familiar with the plate inscription and order number system used on each of the Edward VII and Admiral issues, if you are to have any hope of forming a complete collection of what exists on this issue. I have already written about them in the following posts:

Lathework and Lathework Pieces

One of the more beautiful and interesting aspects to collecting the Admirals is seeking out examples of the different lathework that can be found printed in the margins of the stamps. It may surprise collectors to learn that the 2c value is known with either type A or D lathework as shown in the images below:

Image result for Canadian postage due stamps with lathework   Image result for Canadian postage due stamps with lathework

The used block on the left shows the type A lathework in the left hand margin, while the stamp on the right shows the lathework in the left margin.

So far, Unitrade only lists the lathework as occurring on the 2c value, and so far, only lists the A and D lathework. However, as my post on the Admiral lathework indicates, this value should also exist with types B and C at least. You can read my full post about lathwork below, which will explain why this is:

If you scroll through to about half way to the bottom of the post, you will come across the headings that deal with the lathework on the Admiral issue. The upshot basically, is that the lathework design used, depends on when the stamp was printed, with the earliest one being in 1917 (type A), and the last one being type D, which was in use from 1920 to 1924.

One implication to the above, is that the 4c and 10c should definitely not exist with lathework because they were not issued until long after lathework was abandoned. However, the 1c and 5c should definitely exist with lathework. It may simply not have been discovered or reported yet, given that the print quantities of the 1c and 2c values were 25-30% of what the 2c stamps were.

In any event, all the lathework on this issue is very rare, and it is quite possible that used examples could be lurking in bulk used lots and their significance not apparent to those who are unfamiliar with what it is.

Imperforate Pairs

The 1c, 2c and 5c all exist in imperforate pairs, without gum as issued. They are all very rare, with only 100 known pairs in each case. Despite this, their prices in Unitrade are ridiculously low, listing for between $350-$500 in each case, depending on whether they are fine or very fine.


The leading expert in Canadian re-entries, Ralph Trimble, does not list any re-entries on this, or any of the postage due issues, which is surprising, given the prevalence of re-entries during this period. Of course, it is possible that this may reflect two different potential realities:

1. Re-entries do not exist on these issues because the plates used to print the stamps did not need to be re-entered, either because too few stamps were printed, or because the plates were replaced as they wore rather than being re-furbished. While this is plausible in the case of the 10c, where only 1,000,000 stamps were printed on nickel-chromium plated plates, it does not seem likely in the case of the other values, where the print quantities were all over 13 million. This is more than enough stamps to cause a plate to wear to the point that a re-entry is required.


2. Re-entries do exist, but have simply not been discovered yet, due to the fact that finding them usually requires the study of many hundreds or thousands of stamps, and accumulations that large do not generally exist for this issue, or if they do, I haven't seen them on the market.

Pyramid Guide Blocks and R-Gauge Blocks

The 5c value of this series is known with the pyramid guide lines and the R-guage imprints as shown below:
Image result for Canadian postage due stamps with lathework       Image result for Canadian postage due stamps R-gauge imprint

I don't have an image for the R-Gauge imprint on this issue, but it looks more or less like the one shown on the 3c Admiral imperforate block above. Both of these are quite scarce listing in Unitrade for $350-$500 each. Curiously enough, they are not known on either the 1c or 2c values, even though they should exist, at least in theory.

Proof Material

4c black plate proof of the stamp from the 1906-1928 First Postage Due Issue of Canada
A fairly limited range of proof material exists for this issue, as documented in the BNA Proofs website:
The website lists only 14 items, which can be summarized as follows:
1. One large trial colour proof of each value on card in black, of which there are only 3 of each known and all of which are valued at approximately $2,000 each. 
2. One stamp sized die proof of each value on card in black. Again, there are only 3 known of each, and these are generally valued at $1,000 each. 
3. One large hardened die proof of the 4c & 10c values in the issued colour. Again there are only 3 of each known and all of which are valued at approximately $2,000 each. 
4. One large die proof of each of the 4c & 10c values in the issued colour. Again there are only 3 of each known and all of which are valued at approximately $2,000 each. These are both initialed JPV and dated "6 June 28". 
So at these prices, the proof material represents a challenge, but a manageable one, as you can likely acquire a complete set of all items, with patience, for less than $40,000 over a collecting lifetime. 
Cancellations and Postal History
Covers bearing these issues are all scarce, but the more common usages of the 1c and 2c can be had for as little as $20-$30 each. The 5c and 10c had no specific single usage, and are often found in multiples for the higher registered and special delivery rates. The common usages of the other values during this period were as follows:
  • The 1c was used on local city letters that were redirected to an address outside the city. 
  • The 2c was used on shortpaid first class letters or postcards, where the deficiency in postage was 1c. So before 1926, this will be on items bearing only 2c postage or incoming short-paid postcards from foreign countries. 
  • The 4c value would have been used on local unpaid mail where the deficiency in postage was 2c. So that would generally have been letters within the first weight step or postcards that bore no stamp at all. 
I have never seen covers bearing the 5c or 10c values, even though they most likely do exist where special delivery covers or registered covers were shortpaid. The rate for registration remained at 10c throughout the period of this issue, so we would expect short-paid covers to be quite rare, as the general public would have been well aware that the rate for this service is 10c. The special delivery rate however, did double in 1922, from 10c to 20c. So I would expect that there would have been several instances in 1922 when people attached a 10c stamp, when a 20c stamp was required. In these instances, the 10c deficiency would be rated as 20c. This could then be covered with a block of 4 of the 5c value, or a pair of the 10c.
Most of the stamps of this issue were either not cancelled, or were pen, pencil or crayon cancelled. So one very rewarding challenge would be to collect these stamps either as singles or multiples with CDS town cancellations or split rings. There are tens of thousands of different post offices across the country, but I highly doubt that it is possible to find an example of every post office on even 1 stamp from the 5 in this issue. However, it would be a lot of fun, and not very expensive to try. 
Previous article The 2c Pacific Coast Totem Pole Stamp of the 1967-73 Centennial Issue Part Two


Charles Steacy - March 9, 2021

Hi Chris.
Thank you again for a thorough and well researched piece of philatelic writing.
I am starting to collect and study this issue and the information in your article provides me with a solid basis. I greatly appreciate the connection between characteristics such as gum and paper mesh and colour to era; it makes placing the various examples in the proper chronological order.
I am focusing only on the one cent (J1) at the moment and I have made a couple of observations. There is a constant frame line break on the left vertical frame line about 1/3 from the top. I have seen this on all stamps without exception. It does vary in strength/weakness however but it is always present. There are also frame line weakness points at the lower corners. I notice a great weakness on the right side as some copies look like there might have been some strengthening of the right vertical at some point. I have a couple of lighter shades and I understand that they are an earlier printing. I have seen what I believe to be a position dot in the centre of the stamp in the space above the “N A” of CANADA. I did not see these dots on darker shades. I have two examples of blocks of four of the lighter shade and on each stamp there is a position dot. One last thing, I have a copy of a 4-cent stamp that has what appears to be vertical hairlines on the left side at the top.
Thank you once again for your insightful article.

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