All Prince Edward Island (PEI) stamps bear the image of Queen Victoria, some resembling the artists’ original depictions, others not so much. Early British colonial postage often slumps toward the dowdy. A. A. Bartlett, an early advocate of PEI stamps, penned the improbable hope “that these wretched little things, though far removed from being ‘things of beauty,’ may still become ‘a joy forever’ to many a philatelic album.”(1) In 1895, catalog values for his PEI collection fell far short of those enjoyed by New Brunswick and Newfoundland fanciers.
As with other colonies, PEI relied on the familiar profile on the British “penny black” for its first stamps. This can be traced to a sketch drawn by Henry Corbould based on medal of Princess Victoria designed by William Wyon. The medal commemorates Victoria’s first visit to London after becoming Queen (1837).
PEI added a curious burelage to this design. It appears to the naked eye as wavy chain links, but magnification shows a network of lines and dots (on Scott #s 1-8 only, although others have similar). Most colonies use fine parallel lines or solid backgrounds, as did PEI for some later issues.
A more stunning image resulted from Samuel Cousin’s engraving of Alfred Chalon’s portrait, which was printed and distributed on the day of Victoria’s coronation.
Queen Victoria in coronation robes by Alfred Chalon
This full-faced image, used in several colonies, is to me more attractive than the alternatives. Sadly, PEI tried it only once (Scott #10). The “Stg” and “Cy” denominations at the bottom of the stamp refer to respectively to British sterling and PEI’s considerably devalued currency – two prices, depending on whatever cash was in the purchaser’s pocket.
When the currency changed from pence to cents (1872), the queen’s philatelic visage became less flattering, although she gains a ribbon for her hair. This final PEI image is based on the British 1860 “bun penny,” a bronze coin, also designed by William Wyon. BB provides five spaces for these last PEI stamps under the rubric “1861-68”, which should read “1861-72”.
The “bun penny” image was adapted, unsuccessfully in my opinion, for many colonial stamps – note the pouting lips and bulging eye not obvious on the coin.
Scott #14, green
PEI joined the Canadian Confederation in 1873, thereby ending its philatelic history as well as its options of it becoming a discrete British-related dominion or a state within the USA.
Four more brief comments.
Over a century after A. A. Bartlett worried about poor catalog values for PEI stamps, collectors of his “wretched little things” now find their PEIs have CVs that compare favorably with those of other maritime colonial stamps. Bartlett would feel vindicated.
In her day, Queen Victoria’s image appeared on more stamps than anyone else’s. BB provides the evidence, should you care to make a count. Now her great-great granddaughter holds that record.
All my PEIs showing below are mint, owing probably to the large number of unused stamps remaindered after PEI joined the Dominion of Canada. At the time, they were sold at a small fraction of their face value and the more common of them took years to deplete.
A final comment. The best lobster meal, perhaps the best meal of any sort, we ever had away from home was thanks to PEI lobsters. We went to the wharf to pick them out when the dory returned. Husky critters, snapping fresh from the traps. Then our B&B host prepared them and served them with fresh asparagus and lettuce, and an excellent chardonnay. Absolute serendipity. Unfortunately, no PEI stamps commemorate these famous residents.
Census: nine in BB spaces, three tip-ins.
(1) A. A. Bartlett, “Prince Edward Island Stamps”. The Stamp News (October 1895).
The 40s BB editions have the same coverage, but the page is located before Persia.
The coverage cannot be faulted, as any missing spaces are more expensive.
There are three stamp spaces in BB with CV $10+-$20+.
But the prices are right for these unused specimens- so I am not complaining much.
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