The Revenue Stamps of Mauritius

by John Wilson

Stamps Printed by Thomas de la Rue Ltd in Great Britain from 1869 Onwards

Bills of Exchange Stamps

Why both the locally-designed and printed stamps were issued in 1869 is a matter of conjecture as, to my knowledge, no official explanation is available. As previously mentioned, it could be that there were only limited numbers available locally. It is possible, of course, that there could have been some controversy surrounding the local issues, as they were hardly comparable with what was produced by order of the Crown Agents, but I simply do not know whether any truth exists in this surmise. There could be a very straightforward explanation!

My personal view is that, because the stamps did not contain a portrait of the Monarch's head, they contravened regulations.

The De La Rue printings were for the same values as the local stamps, and therefore the scale of duty remained the same. All Bill of Exchange stamps were printed in sheets of ninety comprising thirty strips of three (first, second and third of exchange) with the single exception of the 1876 1d value which was printed in sheets of 120.

Plates 11 and 12 display in triptych imperforate proofs form, mounted on card of the nine values issued in 1869. Both the Barefoot and Forbin catalogues state that all eleven values were issued at the same time, but it would appear that the 3s4d and the 16s8d stamps were not issued until January 1872. The charge for the “overprint formes” (a phrase used by the printers to describe the plate used to print the value on the stamp) was shown on the De La Rue invoice in 1872, it is reasonable conclusive evidence that they did not exist at the time of the 1869 printings.

Plate 12

Plate 12 (click to enlarge)

Plates 13 and 14 contain a further set of the 1869 issues, again as imperforate proofs, but not on card this time. They are also overprinted “CANCELLED” (type D7 from the Samuel catalogue).

We then come to Plates 15 and 16, which show the 1869 and 1872 stamps in their final issued state in mint sets of three, perforated 14 with a Crown CC (sideways) watermark. Missing, however, is a strip of the 2d value.Used examples are shown in Plates 17, 18, 19 and 20 with sundry bank and commercial cancels.

With the new currency change in 1878 from pounds, shillings and pence to rupees and cents, new stamps were required. The colours used were the same as the old sterling issues i.e. green and purple for the four lower values and brown and blue for the remaining seven. The value was expressed in figures and words, the perforation remained at fourteen, but the watermark was changed to Crown CA (narrow or wide). A new table of values and duty had to be produced, which was:

Bill Value Type A Type B Type C
Under 500 rupees 25c 15c 5c
Over 500 to 1000 rupees 50c 25c 10c
Over 1000 to 2000 rupees 1r 50c 15c
Over 2000 to 3000 rupees 1r50c 75c 25c
Over 3000 to 4000 rupees 2r 1r 35c
Over 4000 to 5000 rupees 2r50c 1r25c 40c
Over 5000 to 7500 rupees 3r75c 1r65c# 65c
Over 7500 to 10000 rupees 5r 2r50c 85c
Over 10000 to 15000 rupees 7r50c 3r75c 1r25c
Over 15000 to 20000 rupees 10r 5r 1r65c
Over 20000 to 30000 rupees 15r 7r50c 2r50c
Over 30000 to 40000 rupees 20r 10r 3r35c
Each additional 10000 rupees 5r 2r50c 85c

Type A: Certain types of inland bills and promissory notes, except cheques and money orders.
Type B: Foreign Bills of Exchange drawn in, but payable out, of Mauritius, not being payable on demand, if drawn singly, or otherwise than in a set of three.
Type C: Foreign Bills as above but drawn in sets of three, a duty on every bill of each set. This was by far the most common form to be used, and the only type shown here.
Currency Change. In 1878 the Mauritian currency changed to Rupees and Cents. A separate table is shown later in this book which shows the revised duty payable.

# This is the nearest stamp value to meet the equivalent of one-half of the Type A stamp but is not necessarily correct. It should be noted that one half of Type A comes to an imprecise number of cents.

In other instances the stamps printed do not reconcile with the duty table, and more than one stamp is needed on occasions to cover the precise duty payable.

No mint copies of these stamps are illustrated in this book, but Plates 21, 22 and 23 give a good variety of used copies including many different cancels. It should be noted that the values of this issue were all in words and figures, such as “15 cents”.

In 1878, Colonial Regulation No. 260 ordered a new scheme of colours for the Insurance, Bills of Exchange and Revenue stamps of Mauritius. De La Rue produced a number of suggestions, the colours being printed on their standard colour sample stamps which were originally designed for use by the United Kingdom Telegraph Company Limited to be used as payment for telegraphing messages. The scheme was originally displayed by De La Rue on one large sheet of paper which has been halved for display purposes, and comprises Plates 24 and 25.

As will be seen from this De La Rue archive material, only three of the samples shown relate to the Bills of Exchange issues, the 35 cents, the 40 cents and the 1 rupee 25 cents which were asked for in blue, pink and lilac respectively. Apart from the fact that these were new colours, they also represented new values additional to the 1878 set. This archive will be referred to again in other parts of the book on Insurance and Internal Revenue stamps.

The original requisition number 4413 in 1878, also from the De La Rue archives, is displayed in Plate 26. There are some interesting features on this requisition. It is headed “Foreign Bills of Exchange” which is correct, but further down it describes the stamps as those for “Internal Revenue” which is incorrect as these were entirely different issues. The new colours are still described as blue, pink and lilac, despite De La Rue’s more elaborate titles.

Plate 27 shows these three new stamps in their requested colours, which match very well with the De La Rue scheme on Plates 24 and 25. These, together with all the original 1878 values, were issued for use in 1880. This issue underwent other changes from the 1878 stamps. The watermark became Crown CA and the values were printed in words only, such as “fifteen cents” as opposed to the earlier “15 cents”. Perforations remained at 14.

A number of imperforate proofs were issued in triptych form by De La Rue, and a selection of the higher values ( all in brown and blue) are shown in Plate 28. Large selvedges remain on these, with Plate No 1 shown on the one rupee sixty five cents issue.

Although no mint perforated stamps are shown on the plates, there is a substantial collection of the 1880 issue shown on Plates 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34 in used form. This collection is not complete in that it lacks the entire sequences of “1, 2, 3” in some of the values; nevertheless, there are a good range of cancels, some of which have quite carefully applied, and some shade variations which may be due to differing degrees of exposure to the elements.

Plate 33

Plate 33 (click to enlarge)

The 1880 issue remained unchanged for ten years, after which there was a complete change of colours, except for those which had already had colour changes shown on Plate 27. The changes took place between 1890 and 1903. As regards the higher values one rupee sixty five cents, two rupees fifty cents and three rupees thirty five cents, these are shown in their used form on Plate 35. there were no changes to the perforation or watermark from the earlier issue.

The De La Rue Appendix dated 25th September 1901 records three lower values with colour changes. As can be seen on Plate 36, all three colours were printed with the ten cents value. However, only two colours were approved with the initials “WHM” being Sir William Mercer, Chief Crown Agent. The ten cents blue was approved “as is”, the ten cents yellow was approved, but for the sixty five cents value, the orange stamp was not approved. Used copies of the two approved stamps are shown alongside.

At the turn of the century, it was decided to dispense with stamps specifically designed separately for postage and for revenue purposes. Thus, the rather attractive Victorian Bills of Exchange were merged with postage stamps. The first ones to contain the words “postage and revenue” were the three high value Arms issues of 1902.These are listed in Gibbons as 153, 154 and 155 They could be used for all purposes, whether it be postage, bills of exchange, insurance or internal revenue items. All the lower values in this set, from SG 138 to SG 152 were in the smaller Arms format and issued between 1900 and 1905 at various times.

However, the higher values do not appear to have been used on Bills of Exchange. Instead, on 13th November 1902, the Mauritian authorities asked for 30,000 stamps in the doubly fugitive green shade together with 30,000 in doubly fugitive purple, all in the larger Arms size, and both with the value tablets left blank. The green stamps were overprinted on the island in black with the words “BILLS ONLY”, in the usual sequence of first, second or third of exchange. The value tablet was also added in black, and covered all eight values issued locally in 1904.. Perforation 14 was again used, as was the Crown CA watermark, although it was sideways.The purple stamps requisitioned were not used for Bills of Exchange, but you will see that they are referred to later on the section covering the Insurance fiscals.

The Mauritian administration was unhappy with the fugitive nature of both colours, but did nothing about it after complaining to the printers and receiving a reply that this was probably due to extremes of climate on the island. It is very hot and humid for most of the year.

These overprints seem to be more difficult to find than the earlier, more attractive, Queen’s head issues, and a small selection of them is shown of only three of the total of eight values used. These are all contained on Plate 37, and the fugitive nature of the green colour is clearly shown. There is such an immense difference between the first four and the last three stamps that one could be forgiven for thinking that a different colour had been used in the original printing. De La Rue used these colours on quite a few of their printings.

Great Britain collectors will have experience of these with some of the green and purple Victorian productions which, of course, were not necessarily affected by the same climatic conditions that existed in Mauritius. One can only conclude that it was poorly produced ink and obviously had not been tested as rigorously as one would have expected.

The final illustration in this section on Bills of Exchange stamps is shown on Plate 38. As you will see this is a Bill drawn on The Bank of Mauritius Ltd, dated 28th April 1899, for the comparatively small value of £10. As indicated in the Plate dialogue box, this is an unstamped bill and, because of its date, it should have a second of exchange stamp affixed.

Plate 38

PLate 38 (click to enlarge)

But the vertical purple handstamp just over one inch from the left side states “First Duly Stamped”, implying - I think - that no further stamp needs to be used. Was the first Bill affixed with a different type of stamp which exonerated the use of further stamps on the second and third Bills? I am unsure of the answer.

In coming to the conclusion of this section, I list below brief details of all the Bill stamps issued, catalogued as in Barefoot, together with issue dates and quantities issued where this is known. I have not included values. My own views on these differ quite markedly from Barefoot, as I know what I have had to pay for some of the more difficult stamps. I believe it is more useful for an indication of rarity to be included, if this were possible. Dr George Wren in his booklet “The Revenue Stamps of Mauritius” written in Ohio, USA in 1978 makes a creditable attempt at this but, again, I have to differ with some of his conclusions. There is little doubt that the collection of revenue stamps generally throughout the world has become more popular in the last thirty years or so.

For these reasons, I am going to refrain from even attempting to venture into the value and rarity fields in any great detail and to rely on the old economic law of supply and demand; and to say that a fair price will undoubtedly be achieved between a willing seller and a willing buyer! I will have more to say about comparative rarity later on.

Schedule of Bills of Exchange Stamps Issued

Cat No
Stamp Value and Colour Date and Quantity of Sheets Issued
1869 issue (locally printed)
1 1d blue Not known
2 2d red Not known
3 4d orange Not known
4 6d green Not known
5 1s.3d brown Not known
6 1s.8d green Not known
7 3s.4d purple Not known
8 5s orange Not known
9 6s.8d olive-yellow Not known
10 8s.4d blue Not known
11 16s.8d lilac Not known
  1869 issue (De La Rue printing)  
12 1d green and purple Not known
13 2d green and purple Not known
14 4d green and purple Not known
15 6d green and purple Not known
16 1s.3d brown and blue Not known
17 1s.8d brown and blue Not known
18 3s.4d brown and blue Not known
19 5s brown and blue Not known
20 6s.8d brown and blue  Not known
21 8s.4d brown and blue Not known
22 16s.8d brown and blue Not known
  Note: The only despatch date known is 29 January
1872 when 256 sheets of 1d, 259 of 2d, 257 of 3s4d
and 110 of 16s8d were issued
  1878 issue (new currency)
Figures and words
23 5c green and purple 17.10.1877 : 251
24 10c green and purple 17.10.1877 : 254
25 15c green and purple 17.10.1877 : 249
26 25c green and purple 17.10.1877 : 156
27 65c brown and blue 17.10.1877 : 100
28 85c brown and blue 17.10.1877 : 105
29 1r65c brown and blue 17.10.1877 : 28
30 2r50c brown and blue 17.10.1877 : 28
31 3r35c brown and blue 17.10.1877 : 27
32 4r15c brown and blue 17.10.1877 : 26
33 8r35c brown and blue 17.10.1877 : 18
  1880 issue
All words
34 5c green and purple 20.03.1878 : 258
03.10.1884 : 200
03.10.1885 : 250
24.07.1888 : 200
35 10c green and purple 20.03.1878 : 245
03.10.1884 : 149
36 15c green and purple 20.03.1878 : 259
03.12.1895 : 305
37 25c green and purple 20.03.1878 : 156
03.10.1884 : 150
38 35c blue and black 06.11.1878 : 150
39 40c red and black 06.11.1878 : 208
40 65c green and purple 20.03.1878 : 106
41 85c green and purple 20.03.1878 : 105
10.10.1889 : 41
14.03.1990 : 98
42 1r25c lilac and black 06.11 1878 : 76
10.10.1889 : 56
14.03.1890 : 102
43 1r65c orange and blue 20.03.1878 : 27
03.10.1884 : 25
10.10.1889 : 52
44 2r50c orange and blue 20.03.1878 : 27
03.10.1884 : 25
10.10.1889 : 43
45 3r35c brown and blue 20.03.1878 : 27
03.10.1884 : 10
10.10.1889 : 40
46 4r15c brown and blue 20.03.1878 : 28
47 8r35 brown and blue 20.03.1878 : 19
  1890/1903 issue  
48 5c green and red 04.04.1894 : 47
06.11.1894 : 200
18.09.1901 : 40
49 10c green and red 06.11.1894 : 102
18.09.1901 : 40
50 10c blue and black 14.07.1897 : 103
51 25c green and red 06.08.1901 : 40
52 65c buff and black
30.04.1900 : 16
18.09.1901 : 20
53 1r65c brown and black 14.03.1990 : 102
54 2r50c lilac and black 14.03.1890 : 83
55 3r.35cgrey and black 14.03.1890 : 82

Generally speaking, although not entirely correct throughout, the higher the value the more expensive the stamp. This is reinforced by the smaller number of stamps printed on the higher values. For example, in the 1890/1903 issues, 203 sheets of the 5 cents were produced, whereas there were only 36 of the sixty five cents. Barefoot lists in the 2008 catalogue values for the above two stamps of £1 and £5 respectively, which is roughly not a bad comparison with print quantities. Yet the 1r65c is catalogued at £2.50 and the 2r50c at £3.50, although the print quantities are 102 and 83 sheets respectively.

I was well outbid recently on a fairly ordinary Bill of Exchange stamp, and I believe this was because it was franked with an unusual cancel in an unusual colour. Values are not easily assessed.

It is appropriate to conclude this section by listing below the names of the cancels I have seen in several albums of Bill Stamps. These cancels are worthy of collection, in addition to the stamps themselves in mint, used and ex-archive form:

Several of the above may have misspelling as, in some cases, the cancels are partially indistinct. Where decipherable, the name is shown below the stamp on the relevant plates at the back of this book.