Online Resources and Exhibits

Censuses of Early Covers and Cancels

Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith has compiled the following:

This page provides a link to the latest version of each census. The Censuses will be updated periodically as new information becomes available. The author invites comments, corrections, and updates. His email address is:

Canada Pence Issue 1851 – 1859 Cover Census

This census encompasses over 4,500 Pence Issue covers. It is presented in two ways:

  • By stamp/paper variety – lists the number of covers known for each rate paid by the stamp.
  • By rate – lists the number of covers known for each way to pay the rate.

January 2022 update

  • Added about 40 covers to the previous census, February 2021.

1851 3 pence wove paper times 2 on cover from Pembina to Ottawa

Courtesy Eastern Auctions Ltd.

1859 Cents Issue Used on Cover after April 1, 1868

This is a census of covers with 1859 Cents Issue stamps used after the Large Queen stamps were issued on April 1, 1868.

May 2022 update

  • One cover added.

1859 5 cent Beaver on cover dated 10 April 1868

Courtesy Ron Majors

Census of Large Queen Covers by Rates

This is a census of 1868 Large Queen covers, over 8,000 of them, sorted by postal rate and destination. It begins with domestic mail (over 5,000 covers), and then lists foreign mail to Newfoundland and PEI (almost 100 covers), United States (over 1,500 covers), Great Britain (over 1,000 covers), and other foreign destinations broken down by country (over 250 covers).

End-of-2023 update

  • 175 covers added since the end-of-2021 update.

1868 Large Queen cover franked with 1, 2, and 3 cent stamps paying the rate to the
                         United States

Author's collection

Canada Four Ring Numeral Cancel Census

In March 1857, 50 four-ring cancellers with a numeral inside the rings were distributed to post offices in Canada East and Canada West. In May 1860, several of the post offices were issued a duplex hammer consisting of both a dater and canceller, which they favoured over the four-ring hammer because it made processing mail much faster. During the last week of March 1869, about half the four-ring hammers were replaced by new two-ring hammers.

This census catalogues the four-ring numeral cancels found both on and off cover. It lists the number of cancels by the numeral in the cancel (1 to 52, 6 and 9 not issued) and by the stamp issue it occurs on (Pence, Cents, Large Queen, Small Queen) as well as stampless covers. For each numeral, the earliest and latest recorded dates are given. Over 3,200 covers are recorded, not including Small Queen covers.

May 2022 update

  • 24 covers added.

Four-ring numeral cancel 2 issued to Belleville, Canada West
Four-ring numeral cancel 39 issued to Saint Johns, Canada East

Early Use of Two-ring Numeral Cancels on the Large Queen Issue

The Large Queen definitives were issued on 1 April 1868. Two-ring numeral cancels began appearing almost a year later in late March 1869, and continued into the Small Queen period. The obliterators were issued to 60 post offices.

This list of the earliest recorded dates updates Table IV-14 in the book by H. E. and H. W. Duckworth, The Large Queen Stamps of Canada and Their Use.

May 2022 update

  • New ERDs for #23, Woodstock, ON, and #57, Paris, ON.

3 cent Large Queen with two-ring numeral cancel 15 issued to Brantford, Ontario

British Columbia Numeral Grid Cancel Census

In 1860, the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island received a set of hammers with a grid design numbered from 1 to 36. The earliest recorded use is New Westminster’s “1” in bars in blue ink used on cover mailed about 1 Sept 1860. The cover has no dispatch date but has a SEP 10/60 receiver in San Francisco.

There is no known official documentation on the distribution of the hammers. The post offices to which some were sent are still unknown today. For four hammers, 6, 11, 17, and 25, not a single strike is known.

This is a census of the known use of these grid hammers. It includes cancels on and off cover.

January 2024 update

  • 407 covers listed
  • 9 covers added since the initial census release in September 2020
  • One the 9 covers added is the only one reported with grid 34
  • 2,981 off-cover cancels recorded, an increase of 208
  • More details added to cover descriptions

British Columbia numeral grid cancels 1 and 26
British Columbia numeral grid cancel 35

New Brunswick Numeral Grid Cancel Census

Wayne Smith and Charles Verge

The New Brunswick numeral grid cancels were in use from 1853 to the Edwardian period. The cancel consists of 14 thin, vertical lines enclosed in an oval. Several lines at the right end are broken to allow for a one- or two-digit number.

The grid numerals go from 1 to 39, although one of them, 36, is currently unknown, and another, 37, is known only off cover. On cover, the quantities range from close to 300 for grid 1 (Saint John) to just one known example for several post offices.

This census provides a detailed list of the 1,066 known covers with numeral grid cancels. It also compiles the known off-cover cancels. The authors found 2,367 examples, but admit that there are undoubtedly many more. Besides the census itself, the document provides background information about the postal rates of the time and the origin and use of the hammers. It also lists the source material (auction catalogues, price lists, and articles by previous researchers) used to compile the census.

January 2024 update

  • 73 new covers added since the initial census release in April 2021
  • 243 off-cover cancels added
  • More information added to the description of many covers

New Brunswick numeral grid cancel 13

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This page was last modified on 2024-01-23