Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

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emason
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Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by emason »

Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations (Part 1)

Introduction
In preparation for the introduction of pre-paid postage stamps in May 1840, standard (or common) Maltese cross obliterators were issued to all post offices in April 1840. Although they were all made to a common pattern, as each one was made by hand no two were exactly alike.

From 1840 to 1844 the One Penny and Two Penny line engraved stamps of Great Britain were cancelled with this common cross obliterator. For the first few months, red ink was used for obliterating and black ink thereafter. It follows that Maltese crosses in red were made with the original obliterators are, almost without exception, common crosses. Red crosses are found mainly on the early One Penny black and Two Penny blue stamps, although there are exceptions to be found on One Penny red stamps.

Instructions for preparing the red ink (or ‘composition’ as it was called at the time) were sent out with the original obliterators for every Post Office to mix their own. (“One pound of printer’s red ink; one pint of linseed oil, and a half pint of the droppings of sweet oil – to be well mixed.”)

As these ingredients would have been purchased locally and mixed by hand, the resulting colour varies considerably in its shade from brown, red-brown and red, to bright red and orange. There are also some other rare coloured crosses, of which blue is the most often found.
Shades of common red crosses
Image
Although these shades of red are not enough to identify the Post Office at which they were stamped, they can narrow down the possibilities. Amongst the well known shades are the brown of Haddington, the ruby red of Aberdeen, the blue of Preston and Truro, and the orange of Liverpool – but only if they are on cover can they be conclusively identified.

Maltese crosses in black are much more common as they were in use for over three years, and are found on Penny blacks (plates 1 to 11), Twopenny blues (plates 1 to 3) and Penny reds (plates 1 to 45).
Common black crosses
Image
Distinctive crosses
Inevitably the need arose, from time to time, for obliterators to be replaced or supplemented, and often a local craftsman was employed to provide a copy of the original. Some were good copies and others not so.

The not so good copies, while following the general pattern, introduced variations which were often unique. The Maltese cross they produced would show a constant variation from the common cross, from which the issuing post office can often be identified - if there were enough on cover examples to establish their identity initially.

If a Maltese cross can be identified off cover and attributed to a particular Post Office, it is referred to as being distinctive. Distinctive crosses are normally black and found mainly on Penny reds and much less often on Penny blacks and Twopenny blues.
Some distinctive crosses
Image
Stamps cancelled with a distinctive cross have a higher CV than those cancelled with a common cross – in some cases up to thirty times. SG specialised catalogue lists ten different off cover distinctive crosses with a CV of over £1,000 each. On cover distinctive crosses have a much higher CV than those off cover – typically two to five times the off cover CV.

There are many crosses with ‘distinctive’ features which cannot be attributed to a particular Post Office – usually because too few examples have been found on cover to confirm if the ‘distinctiveness’ is constant. Often, such apparent distinctiveness can be due to transient inking or striking anomalies.
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Continued . . . .
Last edited by emason on 21 Aug 2018 06:12, edited 1 time in total.
Best wishes,
Bill

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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by emason »

Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations (Part 2)
The Mx components
The Maltese cross is made up from three components - namely, the outer cross, the inner cross and the diamond, the characteristics of which can vary considerably. Common crosses do vary but retain their overall characteristic appearance; but it is when the variation is obvious and constant that the cross ceases to be common and becomes distinctive - if it can be attributed to a single post office.
Maltese cross components
Image
The above illustration is typical of a common cross, and most of those below show the components of distinctive crosses.

The line thickness of each component can vary considerably between different crosses.
Component thickness
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The Outer Cross
Considering that the outer cross comprises only of four sides with a loop between each, there are hundreds of variations and combinations of just these two elements.

The sides can be straight, concave and bulge on the inside.
The variation of the sides
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Loops can vary in their width, depth and shape.
The variation of the loops
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The Inner Cross
The four arms of the inner cross can be short or long, wide or narrow, flared or tapered. It is normal to find the shape of the arms differ within the same cross, and very often one arm is narrower than the other three.
The inner cross variations
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The Diamond
The diamond size and shape can vary from a small square to a large pointed diamond almost filling the inner cross.
Diamond sizes
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The points of the diamond can vary in length, from being non-existent to almost touching the inner cross arms. Also they can vary within the same diamond.
Length of diamond points
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Some crosses have a diamond shaped ‘solid centre’, and examples have been found from over twenty different Post Offices – the best known example being from Welshpool. But a ‘solid centre’ on its own does not make a cross distinctive. It is almost certain that no obliterator was made with a solid centre and that the effect is due to an accumulation of debris in the diamond.
Solid centres
Image
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Continued . . . .
Best wishes,
Bill

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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by emason »

Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations (Part 3)
London numbered crosses
For a period of time, the obliterators used by the London Inland Office were unique. They are characterised by the outer cross having very concave sides and very deep outer cross loops, and the central diamond replaced with a number (1 to 12). Also, each of the twelve crosses had a small cross on the outer cross opposite the top of the number with the exception of no.3.
London numbered crosses
Image
Even without the central number they would be distinctive among Maltese crosses, and each one is slightly different from the other eleven. The inner cross arms of crosses 10 to 12 were very different from the other nine which had their own inner cross variations.

Hollow Centres
A ‘hollow centre’ Mx consists of just the outer and inner cross with the diamond missing - this is most likely due to a combination of inking and striking. The Hollymount Mx is the best known example, but there are others.
Hollow centre crosses
Image
Dots within the cross
Dots in themselves do not make an Mx distinctive as they are usually caused by transient debris in the obliterator. However, a dot in the central diamond can be due to a protruding retaining pin and contribute to an Mx’s distinctive appearance.
Dots in crosses
Image
Double-lined
These crosses have a striking appearance, but there is no evidence to suggest that the obliterators used to produce them were different in some way. The effect is probably due to the amount and consistency of the ink used.
Double-lined crosses
Image
Damaged
It was not unusual for an obliterator to become damaged and produce a slightly different cross, but it is unusual for the damage to be a deliberate act. The best known examples are from Wotton-under-Edge and Mullingar.
Damaged crosses
Image
The Wotton-under-Edge cross shows three parallel cuts in one direction and four parallel cuts at right angles, extending over the whole cross.

The Mullingar cross has ‘V’ shaped notches cut into the centre of each side of the outer cross, and the bottom of each loop is severed. On one loop, the severing cut extends into the inner cross and diamond.
-----“-----
Continued . . . .
Best wishes,
Bill

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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by emason »

Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations (Part 4)

Some more examples
There are many more distinctive crosses than are illustrated here. The following are just a few of the more recognisable distinctive crosses.
English crosses
Image
Image
Irish crosses
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[Note: There are several variations to the Dublin cross.]
Scottish crosses
Image
Image
There are many types of Edinburgh cross.
Image
Image
For illustrations of other distinctive crosses see the SG QV specialised catalogue under the “Cancellations” section; and the 1960 publication “The Maltese Cross Cancellations” by Alcock and Holland (downloadable as a PDF). But by far the most authoritive source is the three volumes of "The Maltese Cross Cancellations of Great Britain and Ireland" by Rockoff and Jackson.
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Best wishes,
Bill

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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by Rog »

Nice article Bill, thank you :D

I have a link I can add, if I may, to my short article on Norwich MXs:

http://thestampbook.co.uk/2012/11/norwich-maltese-crosses/
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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by Ubobo.R.O. »

WHAT A GREAT READ!
Full time horse non-whisperer, post box searcher and lichen covered granite rock percher. Gee I'm handsome !
You gottem birds, butterflies, shells, maps, flags and heads on stamps ? Me wantem !

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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by emason »

Rog wrote:Nice article Bill, thank you :D

I have a link I can add, if I may, to my short article on Norwich MXs:

http://thestampbook.co.uk/2012/11/norwich-maltese-crosses/
Hello Rog,

I had a look at your interesting article on the Norwich MXs. I don't think there is a type 3 Mx. As the mark in the diamond appears to change shape, I also think it is (as you say) just a foreign object stuck in there. For there to be a recognisable 3rd type it would have to be constant.
Stanley Gibbons, Collect British Postmarks, 8th Edition (2011) lists Type II on an 1841 Red as available for £50.00 singly and £100.00 on cover. Note that this is for 3 clear-margins.
SG QV specialised catalogue 16th edition (also 2011) lists the 4 margin Norwich Mx at £550 and on cover £1,800! It might be worth a footnote?
Best wishes,
Bill

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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by emason »

Ubobo.R.O. wrote:WHAT A GREAT READ!
Thank you Ubobo, may your Puffins multiply. :D
Best wishes,
Bill

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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by Rog »

Bill,

Yes I agree, I didn't feel the third type was another version either or at least it wasn't intended to be.
emason wrote: SG QV specialised catalogue 16th edition (also 2011) lists the 4 margin Norwich Mx at £550 and on cover £1,800! It might be worth a footnote?
Certainly is - thanks ! I don't think I had my specialised when I wrote that article.

I have added a link to your article here too :)
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Re: Distinctive Maltese Cross Cancellations of GB 1840-1844

Post by Wentworth »

Great article, thanks! Glad I found this :D

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