OTD: Province of Canada issues ‘Black Empress’

On today’s date in 1851, the Province of Canada released its third postage stamp, a 12-pence black stamp (Scott #3) featuring a portrait of Queen Victoria.

Similar in design to the Province of Canada’s second issue—a six-pence slate violet stamp (SC #2) featuring a portrait of Prince Albert—the 12-pence black was produced on laid paper without perforations as was customary at this early point in the history of postage stamps. Both stamps, as well as Canada’s first issue, the three-penny beaver (SC #1), are part of the Pence Issue.


The 12-pence black—also known as the “Black Empress”—is an extremely rare issue with only 50,000 stamps printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, of New York. The stamp’s paper was disliked by postal workers and the general public alike, and as the stamp failed to gain popularity, it was believed there was little demand for a 12-pence stamp.

Both the aforementioned three- and six-pence stamps were later re-issued on wove paper; however, the Black Empress was not re-issued in any form, and only 1,450 examples were issued throughout its six years in use, according to the Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps. The remaining examples were destroyed, and it’s estimated only about 150 12-pence blacks exist today.

Unitrade lists an imperforate example at $250,000.

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