Shire Catalogue

Being a compendium of information about Postage Stamps of the Early Classical Period of The Shire

Many postal historians have found the classical period of The Shire to be one of the most intriguing epochs in the history of writen communication. Due to the preservation of postal records, we have an unusually complete description of the stamps and postal stationery items of the period. This booklet is considered as an introduction only, and serious students are advised to obtain a copy of the excellent and exhaustively complete work by the inestimable Gonzo B. Bracegirdle.
Values and scarcity ratings:

Since the values of scarce items will vary directly with the interest and depth of pockets of the most ardent collectors, we will give only very general guidelines to value. Scarcity however, is a matter of simple mathematics. We will use a scarcity rating of 1-10 based on the following criteria, and following the example set by Bracegirdle, (1520).

Scarcity Rating  Description   Appx .Value ( Shire currency, circa S.R. 1684)
0   still available at P.O.          face value
1    very common                        less than 1 farthing over face
2    common                                 about a farthing over face
3    less common                         1/2p to 1 penny over face
4    easily obtained                     1 penny to 5 pence over face
5    moderately difficult            5 pence to 1 shilling over face
6    scarce                                       1 shilling to 4 shillings over face
7    very scarce                              4 shillings to 2 crowns
8    rare                                           2 crowns to 20 crowns
9    extremely rare                       20 crowns to 200 crowns
10    only one or two known    200 crowns to 10,000 crowns.

*  We will refer to Shire Catalogue numbers by custom…..
*  We will make no effort to catalogue the various paper and watermark varieties, though we will try to cover some of the more obvious ink color variations. This is a subject for more detailed philatelic research.
*  We apologize for the the lack of illustrations of the rarest items. As soon as we have access to such rarities, illustrations will be provided.

Stamp Production in the classic period:

All the early issues covered in this catalogue were printed by hand, one at a time, using a simple wooden press. Dies were handmade of local poplar wood, inks made from various natural dyes. The handmade papers upon which these stamps were printed is an entire specialty in itself, which we will not attempt to address herein.  All printing before about 1398 was done at the central Post Office in Waymoot. Records kept by Will Whitfoot during these years are spotty, and though the authors have done the best they can, it is likely that future researchers with better access to information will discover unintended errors. Every effort has been made to use only primary sources for data compilation, but some sec0ndary sources have been used out of desperation.

It is now known that the same dies were used to produce stamps as well as postal stationery. Cut squares are thus indistinguishable from regular stamps except for the paper varieties and watermarks. Postal Stationery entires are always preferable to cut squares for collecting  and historical purposes. It appears that postal stationery never really caught on in the Shire, and therefore such entires tend to be quite rare. Especially interesting is the use of special deckles to create sheets of paper which may be folded without cutting to form the envelopes. This practice is apparently unique to the Shire, having been observed in no other postal culture. As best we can surmise, Will Whitfoot himself ordered the paper made for the postal stationery we know of, and almost all used examples were used in official correspondence of the offices of Postmaster or Mayor. Postal Stationery bearing origination postmarks other than Waymoot or Michel Delving are therefore extremely scarce and demand premium prices at auction.

Stamps of the SR1400 Animal series were not printed from woodblocks, but jobbed out to professional printing in a land with the uncouth name of USA.  Various perforation varieties are known on all stamps, grills have been used experimentally on certain issues.


Postmarks are known from almost all of the fifty five offices of the Shire, and surrounding districts, though of course, some are more common than others. Postmark scarcity and the changes in routing over the years is a subject that we hope will be covered in a future volume. In general, older postmarks are carved into wooden dies rather similar to those used to print the stamps. Most newer ones are made of a southern imported material they’re calling “ruber”.Dating and rating information is added by hand in most instances, though occasionally some of the larger offices have been known to use dating inserts for large volumes. The most ardent scholars of this highly specialized field generally focus on a particular geographical area and catalogue the die wear and recuts as well as changes to new postmark dies.

A word about collecting:

Shire Philately has boomed in recent years, with prices soaring well above our estimates for certain choice items. Disturbingly,  some forgeries have been noted in recent auctions. Thankfully, the forgers are generally poor craftspeople looking for a quick few shillings, and an astute collector will quickly learn to spot these poor imitations, generally because of the use of modern factory  papers and off-coloured inks.

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