A rare Gibraltar item was included in an auction of the first postage stamp issue of Spain, recently held in Barcelona.
It was an example of the ‘seis cuartos’ stamp used on an envelope posted in Gibraltar on 4 July 1850 and addressed to Cadiz.
At the time, there was a special arrangement in place under which Spanish stamps could be used in Gibraltar on letters addressed to Spain.
This meant that persons in Gibraltar writing to Spain could enjoy the internal Spanish postal rate of the equivalent of one and a half pence instead of the foreign rate of six pence in the case of a prepaid letter.
The use of postage stamps at this time was optional: letters could be sent unpaid and were charged a higher postal rate.
Only one envelope has been reported to date bearing a ‘seis cuartos’ stamp of the first Spanish issue
and posted in Gibraltar and this was the item that was under the auctioneer’s hammer.
It sold for 5,000 Euros (plus 20% commission).
The buyer thus paid 6,000 Euros, which was described by experts as a remarkable price.
One other example of this stamp is known used in Gibraltar, but it is a loose stamp and not on an
The first Spanish stamps were issued on 1 January 1850, ten years after the first postage stamp in the world, the British “Penny Black” of Queen Victoria.
The design of Spanish stamps was changed every year, because forgeries were made.
Three examples of the 1851 seis cuartos stamp are known used on envelopes that were posted in Gibraltar.
Local historian Richard Garcia has one of the 1851 ‘seis cuartos’ stamps.
The 1851 letter from J Martinez of Gibraltar was addressed to Almeria. The letter that was sent on 2 December 1851 arrived in Almeria just four days later on December 6.
On top right of the letter a three-line red instructional mark applied in San Roque, which reads De Gibr / S. Roque / Anda Baxa which is an abbreviation for De Gibraltar / San Roque / Andalucia Baja. ‘Baja’ was written as ‘Baxa’ at the time. This mark was applied to all letters from Gibraltar entering the Spanish postal service at San Roque, which was the Office of Exchange for Gibraltar mails.
The use of Spanish stamps in Gibraltar ceased when the General Postal Union (later the Universal
Postal Union or UPU) was created in 1874, and when the Union came into effect in 1875.