THE CYPRUS ONE PENNY
The second British stamp valued ONE penny out of the six overprinted with the inscription CYPRUS for exclusive use by the island's post office.
It was introduced on 1st April 1880 and its sale lasted to 30th June 1881 when the 1st edition of stamps printed specifically for Cyprus appeared in the post office.
Because of its method of printing in use during that era, the stamp comes in many varieties depending on the plate number which can be traced lightly engraved in the middle of its two vertical inner frames. Additional varieties or errors exist which have been the result of some disorder during printing and the later application of the CYPRUS overprint on the ready stamp.
It is obvious that the batch of stamp sheets sent to Cyprus by the British Post had been picked up in random from their stocks, thus sheets from many different plate prints were included; this is why so many plate numbers exist in this issue for Cyprus which although had been on sale for 14 months only, it has allowed an extensive array of printing variations that have affected their value as a collector's item.
The plate numbers that appear in the one penny Cyprus overprint are 174 181 184 193 196 201 205 208 215 216 217 218 and 220 . Each plate of the same stamp was actually a different print and some slight color shade variations, noticeable mostly in the unused (mint) stamps do exist.
As these where randomly handpicked up from existing stocks , the amount of sheets that were overprinted for Cyprus from each different plate number varies enormously for each plate.
Each sheet consisted of 240 stamps in 12 columns (vertical, marked A to L) and 20 rows (horizontal, marked from A to T). Each stamp has its own different markings in its four corners to designate its unique position in the sheet of 240 stamps. The pictured plate 216 stamp was originally situated in column H / row Q . It is worth mentioning that only one sheet of stamps from plates 184, 193 and 196 existed in the batch of sheets that were overprinted with CYPRUS, hence their rarity and the high value these stamps represent for a specialized collection of this era. It is even more interesting to mention here that the only one sheet from plate 184 is considered to have been sold stamp by stamp through the Limassol post office; as a result only few pieces(±~20) are estimated to have survived to our date most of them used with the Limassol postmark on them. Only two or three are believed to exist as mint (unused). As regards the sheets from plates 193 and 196 they only exist in mint unused condition as it seems that they were among the remainders that after the date of withdrawal from circulation (30th June 1881) were sold to Stanley Gibbons who were established as a stamp dealer for collectors in London so they had not found their way for use in mail during their lifespan as valid stamps.
The Penny Red : A note on the method these stamps were printed and more.
The technique of printing is called intaglio. The total surface to be printed consisted of successive engraved images of the stamp which were incised using dedicated tools or acid and then transferred in a steel board called the plate. The image itself having grooves is not one flat surface. Ink is applied to the whole plate filling the deeper parts of the images. The excessive ink is removed with a special material so that the ink remains only in the incised areas. Finally the proper paper is pressed firmly against the plate to transfer the images to the paper by absorbing the ink left in the lines. A certain plate can produce several printings, however , through intensive use it deteriorates so at a stage it needs repair or replacement, nevertheless many different plates were used and each had its own number which was incorporated in the image transferred to the paper / stamp.
More information is provided in THIS page.
The penny red used for the Cyprus overprints was initially issued in 1841 (unperforated and from 1854 perforated) to succeed the first postage stamp ever the Penny Black. It stayed in circulation as the main type of stamp in the United Kingdom till 1879. In fact its demise coincided with its short period of adoption in Cyprus. The stamps were printed in sheets of 240 each incorporating 20 rows of twelve stamps. This layout was meant to assist the post office clerks in their work as each row cost one shilling while the total value of the sheet was one pound. This sheet configuration remained the same till 1971 when the decimal currency was introduced in the UK.