An Unusual 'Deficient Postage Colony's Share of Fine' cover


A member reported that this 1868 cover was sold in a well-known Internet auction recently for U.S.$2,375. He further remarked that it attracted over 70 bids from 12 bidders. The description of this item is as follows: -

"Fascinating historical letter by John Morison, the old China hand, written on board P&O ship Delhi sailing along the Red Sea on his way to India and HK. The recipient was his sister Christian. The two page fascinating letter was enclosed in an official P&O envelope. The letter was posted in HK on arrival without a stamp (?British 1 shilling) which was removed either prior or after posting and signed in red by the HK post office who also applied the Deficient postage cachet. 1 shilling was the correct rate via Southampton to UK at that time plus 6d fine. So the letter seems to be posted without a stamp. An envelope bearing this cachet was sold in 1995 in HK for over US$5,000."

Little doubt that the cover bears a scarce Webb type N "Deficient Postage Colony's Share of Fine" marking; possibly one of the two or three known. However, would the sender simply rip the 1s stamp off because he was told by the post office that it was not valid? Alternatively, the 1s stamp could have been removed subsequently, possibly by the sender's sister on arrival and writing in red was put in by the dealer trying to sell a blemished item. Caveat Emptor especially an item bought on the internet.

Our member Richard Gurevitch of Australia wrote:-

"I was always under the impression that the 'DEFICIENT POSTAGE' cachet was at the delivery end. I was unaware that the HK Post Office used it on receipt of an underpaid letter. I believe the same cachet (or similar ed.) appears on other mail from the British Colonies to the UK, not just from HK. If I am correct, then there is a possibility that the missing stamp was pilfered in HK and the letter sent on: on receipt at the GPO in London, the cachet denoting the postage due was then applied. The stamp could have been a 24 Cents HK stamp. The signature in red is unlikely to have been applied in HK and it is probably an inspection mark at the GPO London - letters for dispatch in HK were received over-the-counter and checked for sufficient postage, so there is little possibility that the letter was sent without a stamp or insufficient postage. (There were no post-boxes in HK at that time)."