Cancellation types on the first Norwegian stamp

From 1855 to 1860s

When the norwegian postal government finally decided to print and distribute their first stamp, they also explained to all postal employees the way the stamps should be handled and cancelled. This was all new to them, and clear instructions were of key importance, since they feared a situation where stamps could be reused.

This is the first instructions given (translated):


“When posted, every stamp is to be cancelled in ink by means of a handstamp. The post office at the place of destination or sorting must check carefully that this has been done and if it has not, must itelf cancel the stamp before the letter is delivered or sent on further. If a letter bears two or more stamps, the cancellation must be applied to each one of them. The receiving and sorting post offices should report any irregularities in cancelling. Stamps on letters handled by local offices not furnished with cancellers should be crosses through with ink and cancelled later in the prescribed manner by the sorting or receiving post office.”

Only main post offices and branch post offices, around 56 in total, possessed dated cancellers when the stamp was issued. The order was to obliterate the stamps with a new grideon type of canceller. This new type came with either 10, 11 or 12 grids, and the 11-grid was the usual one. This was to be used with black ink, while the envelope was as well to be marked with a dated canceller using blue ink. The example above is hence a perfectly obliterated and cancelled letter according to the rules.

This logic was not always so easy to follow, giving us collectors a mix of different cancellations, different ink colours and even some uncancelled stamps, later referred to as “unused” stamps in the catalogs. 

Ink cancellations shown here, was usually used at smaller postal offices who did not receive or have their own cancellers in time to use them on the new stamp. This included several steamships that travelled along the norwegian coastline.

Such stamps with handwritten place and date are quite sought after by collectors of this first issue.

You may notice that the X cancellation to the right, is quite weak. We find fairly often stamps with such cancellation being chemically washed or manipulated to remove this X, since an unused stamp, even without gum, will increase the value ten-fold. So be aware, and check any such stamps carefully.

Just a year later, in 26th of january 1856, the gridiron cancellers were ordered returned to be re-engraved with numbers inside three circles. In July 1856 the first cancellers no. 1 to 354 were issued. During this period of february to june, the postal offices used their date cancellers or pen-cancellation. A few postal offices did not receive their own number-canceller, and hence continued to write in ink instead.

To the left you find a cancellation of 172 from Laurvig, type 2 (Larvik now).

To the right a rare signet cancellation of L-S is shown “Loco Sigili”, an extremely clear strike of the rare cancellation used in Vaagen.

This system continued until 1. of january 1859, when only dated cancellers were to be used. Most of the number-based cancellers were redistributed to new places later, when a need for new cancellers occured. A focus of cutting costs existed in that period, in a country without many finances to use.

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