Notes from the Past

Spain's First Stamps

The Spanish Home Secretary, Count San Luis, suggested to Queen Isabella II, on October 24, 1849, that Spain adopt the method of franking invented in England and recently introduced in France.  The proposition was well received and Royal Approval was given an implementing decree on December 1, 1849.

Prepayment was not yet made mandatory, but prepaid letters were carried at lower rates.  Single weight prepaid letters were 6 cuartos, double weight letters not exceeding ½ oz. were 8 cuartos, letters up to 1 oz. were 12 cuartos.  Rates above one oz. increased at 6 cuartos per ½ oz.  Registration and newspaper rates were also available.

Gazeta de Madrid published a notice on December 13, 1849, that use of stamps would be compulsory starting January 1, 1850, at a rate of 6 cuartos per ½ oz. for inland letters.  Letters abroad could not be sent prepaid except for those addressed to Italy which had to prepaid in cash.  Stamps were to be placed in the upper left hand corner of the envelope if room was available.

A portrait of Queen Isabella II was used for the five stamps issued. Her portrait faced left on the 6 cuartos black, and right on the 12 cuartos lilac, 5 reales dull red, 6 reales blue, and 10 reales blue green.  The stamps were lithographed.  It is likely the images were transferred from engraved copper dies.  The engraver was Bartolomé Coromina at Fabrica Nacional de Papel Sellado where the stamps were printed.  The paper was white or yellowish and unwatermarked.  The stamps were issued imperforate.

The 6 and 12 cuartos were printed in sheets of 255 (seventeen horizontal rows of 15); the 5 and 10 reales in sheets of 180 (six groups of 30 in five rows of six stamps); and the 6 reales in sheets of 150 (six groups of 25 in five rows of five).

The stamps were issued January 1, 1850, and remained in use for 1 year.

Posted August 3, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

Note:  If the link isn't returned the first try, try again.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.