Queen Isabella II

January 1, 1856




1-Real Plata Fuerte. Issued for single weight overseas letter rate to Spain. Stamp quantities are unkown. Printed in green on bluish paper. The stamps remained in use until January 1864, with later usage also known.  (Scott #8; Edifil #6a)

2-Reales Plata Fuerte. Issued for double weight overseas letter rate to Spain, and also to pay the registration fee on mail. Stamp quantities are unknown. Printed in shades of carmine and red, on bluish paper. The stamps remained in use until January 1864, with later usage also known. (Scott #9; Edifil #6b)

Stamps were printed and issued in the Philippines about a year before they were provided for in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Due to the fact that the early Philippine designs and workmanship did not meet with favour in the eyes of the Spanish Authorities, they appear to have been determined to produce beauty as well as uniformity for all island possessions by having the stamps printed in and provided from Spain, for foreign use, at least. This issue was, therefore, the same as the 1855 issues for Cuba and Puerto Rico; and as a result can only be linked to the Philippines by an identifiable postmark or cancellation, tying them to the Philippine Archipelago.

A circular dated September 27, 1854 from the Postmaster-General in Madrid specified overseas postage rates of 1-real for either a single or double weight letter and a rate of 2-reales for registered letters of any weight. A Royal Order from Madrid dated December 18, 1854 restated these rates and indicated that they were to take effect in June 1855. Before they could be implemented, however, these rates were modified by a Royal Order of June 22, 1855 making the use of stamps compulsory on correspondence with Spain. A General Post Office circular from Madrid dated June 26, 1855 stated that rates from the Philippines to the Peninsula were 1-real for a single-weight letter, 2-reales for a double-weight letter, and so on proportionately. An additional set charge of 2-reales was required as a registration fee on letters, regardless of weight.

The currency was changed to 1-real plata fuerte and 2-reales plata fuerte, and the stamps were issued specifically for overseas mail. They were engraved by Jose Perez Varela and printed on rough, medium to thick bluish wove paper. The stamps are watermarked "loops", and have the distinction of being the first and only officially watermarked stamps of the whole Spanish era. They were typographed by the Fabrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre, Madrid, in sheets of 170 stamps, (10 horizontal rows of 17 stamps), and issued imperforate. Exact numbers of these two values, which were printed and sent to the Philippines, are not known, but they appear to have been in quite plentiful supply for a good number of years.

The use of these stamps was officially discontinued as a result of a Royal Order issued in November 1864, authorising the withdrawal of all old stamp issues. However, later usage is known, probably through use of supplies in remote offices in the interior or in the possessions of private individuals. From January 1856 to January 1864, these were the only stamps accepted on mail leaving the Islands for abroad except in 1863, when, for a short period, the provisional use of the 1863 1-real issues, (Scott #s 18 and 20), was required due to the temporary exhaustion of their supply.


As the 1 real and 2 reales stamps were in simultaneous use in the Philippines, Porto Rico and Cuba, the only way to validate that the stamps were actually used in the Philippines is obtain used copies showing an identifiable postmark linking them to the Philippines. Alternatively, stamps tied to cover emanating from the Philippines, with appropriate postal markings, is another option. Below is a list of postal cancellations used in the Philippines:



The Small Baeza (left) and Large Baeza (right) cancellations were applied in either blue or black. Both values are known with this cancel directly applied on the stamp. Covers also exist where the stamp is tied with a Parrilla cancel, and the Baeza departure cancellation applied adjacent on the cover.


A very scarce cancellation, and until recently, not recorded used on this issue. This cancel was not in use in Cuba or Puerto Rico, hence ties it uniquely to the Philippines. Exists directly applied to stamps of both values. No covers are known with this cancellation. It was possibly applied as the departure cancel on mail originating from smaller towns, where a Baeza or Circular Date Stamp may have been applied in Manila as the departure cancellation adjacent on the cover prior to overseas mailing.


The most commonly applied cancellation on cover for this issue. Found on covers where stamps are tied with a Parrilla cancellation, and the ‘Manila – Filipinas’ circular date stamp appears adjacent on the cover. This cancel is known directly applied to both values of this issue, which are however quite scarce. Known on covers between October 1859 and late 1863.


Not known to exist tied directly to the stamps, but probably exists. Known on covers, with the date stamp applied adjacent to the stamps which are tied with a Parrilla cancellation. A scarce cancel used from 1860.




Applied as departure cancellations in Cavite (left) and Iloilo (right). The Cavite cancel is only known to exist on the 1-real value, applied directly on the stamp (at least one cover with this cancel is known to exist). The Iloilo cancel is also only known to exist applied directly on the 1-real value (no covers recorded). Very scarce cancels.


Although the Parrilla is the most commonly applied cancel on this issue, it does not uniquely tie the use of these stamps to the Philippines as it was simultaneously in use in Cuba and Porto Rico. The only way to confirm that stamps cancelled with the Parrilla were used in the Philippines is in combination with any of the cancellations above, on piece or on cover, which are unique to the Philippines.


The Loops watermark, which is a continuous design throughout the paper, is known to exist in two varieties on stamps sent to the Philippines. The variation occurs with the vertical alignment of the loops in relation to each other. Type I shows the loops positioned to alternate with each other. Type II shows the loops vertically in line with each other. The Type I variety is the more common of the two.

There is a further watermark type known on stamps sent to Cuba wherein the complete loop design is centred on the stamp (Type III). To date, no Philippine issues are known with this type of watermark position.

Type I

Type II

Type III



A Royal Decree was issued in Madrid on February 15, 1856 making prepayment of public correspondence compulsory from July 1, 1856 and establishing rules to ensure compliance with this Decree.

Your Majesty:


Simplifying administration introduces morality into it, and centralizing its funds introduces sound and prudent management into it. Based on these principles, the undersigned Minister of Your Majesty has the honour to submit to your wise judgment the draft of a significant and radical reform in the postal service.


When prepayment of correspondence by means of stamps was established, with the issuance of the said stamps being entrusted to the Ministry of Finance, Your Majesty's purpose was to simplify accounting procedures, to centralize funds and to eliminate deplorable abuses completely, some of which existed, while others were merely assumed, either as a result of plain malice or of misconceptions born of ignorance. Those important objectives were partially fulfilled, but it is now time that they are achieved completely by making prepayment compulsory instead of voluntary, as is the case today.


That public opinion is prepared for such a notable reform is clearly proven by the fact that today no more than one in five letters circulate without having prepaid postage; the figure is only one out of twenty in centres of commerce and of industrial production.


Thus, the undersigned does not see any reasonable obstacle that should make him abandon an idea that, if brought to fruition, would enable him to propose shortly to Your Majesty and reform of great moment with respect to the method and the personnel of the postal service.


The truth is that in practice this reform, as is the case with all innovations, presents difficulties rather than positive disadvantages; but it is also true that any administration that takes fright when faced with obstacles, condemns itself to immobility, which ultimately amounts to death.


It is objected to the project submitted for Your Majesty's approval firstly that in two enlightened and advanced countries - England and France - the Government has not ventured to go so far; and secondly since it is difficult to supply small towns and isolated villages with stamps, considerable confusion in public correspondence will result from the reform.


The first argument, assuming it deserves such a term, Your Majesty, is of little importance, in the opinion of the undersigned, if the measure is in itself desirable and beneficial to all. What does it matter if in other countries, no matter how advanced they may be, such a reform has not been implemented? In those places there may be, and there will certainly be, reasons why something is not done; in other countries, the very thing proposed to Your Majesty is being done, as this is what the public good and morality in administration obviously demand.


As regards the supply of stamps, the response is even more obvious. Tobacco, a commodity that is the object of a state monopoly and yet is widely consumed, is available everywhere. Thus, stamps can be made available in the same manner and by the same agents. But this is not all, Your Majesty. Your Majesty’s Government stimulates the zeal of those who sell tobacco by means of a reasonable premium, as well the interest of individuals through a discount that is offered to all when they purchase a certain number of stamps. Criminal sanctions imposed on the negligent seller, and the possibility given to individuals to send their letters whenever no stamps are available at the point of origin, round out the system, and triumph over all objections. Some other minor difficulties are resolved by the draft decree, to which the undersigned refers Your Majesty, in order not to weary Your Majesty's attention unnecessarily.


Nevertheless, the request is ventured here that Your Majesty deem fit to turn her attention for a moment to the part referring to the circulation of printed matter, newspapers, and delivery of all kinds of works.


The broad and constant protection that Your Majesty and Her Government grant to the free expression of ideas and the propagation of culture have created for the Spanish printing industry a privilege, if one may call privilege something that ultimately redounds to the benefit of all. However, portage by weight, in the present state of affairs, creates serious vexations, for businesses as well as for the Administration.


The undersigned Minister believes that he has found a way of preventing such difficulties, while preserving the printing industry's privilege and freeing the administration of a burden. This can be done simply by replacing portage in Post Offices with the use of seals that indicate price according to weight and that are to be stamped on packets of letters.


In this manner, a newspaper with a seal affixed to it will enter the letter-box as an ordinary letter, and reach the public, since it can circulate anywhere and can travel any distance without fulfilling any requirement other than that of bearing the seal.


By virtue of these considerations the undersigned has the honour to request reverently that Your Majesty deem fit to give her Royal approval to the following draft decree.


Madrid, February 15, 1856. Your Majesty’s most obedient servant, Patricio de la Escosura


Royal Decree:


Taking into account the considerations that the Minister of the Interior has presented to me in accordance with the Council of Ministers, I hereby decree the following:


Article 1. Public correspondence shall be prepaid by means of stamps in the Peninsula and the adjacent islands as from 1st June of this year, and in the Overseas Territories from 1st January of 1857.


Article 2. From the said dates, letters that are mailed without postage stamps shall not circulate. However, the postal office in which they originate shall make them known to the public by means of lists of notices in the Gazette and in official newspapers, and shall inform the interested parties by means of printed letters if their destination is known.


Article 3. The right to sell stamps officially shall be extended to all points of sale of tobacco and salt, including those points of sale that are established in uninhabited places; to all offices of the Postal service and letter distribution centers; and in general to any person who wishes to take charge of their sale. As from 1 July, there shall be premium for sale of up to 6 per cent, with a lower premium in major towns and a higher premium in less populated towns, according to the following schedule: 1% to district administrators who are distributors, and 3 per cent of their sales; 2 per cent for sellers in Madrid and 3 per cent for sellers in provincial capitals; 4 per cent in the district capitals and 3 per cent in the other district towns and other points of sale.


Article 4. When stamps are not available at the point of sale, the sender shall present himself to the Mayor of the town, or to his representative, and in the absence of either, the Secretary of the town, who shall write on the reverse NO STAMPS AVAILABLE and then sign it. The name of the town and the province to which the town belongs shall be put on the date. Letters endorsed in this manner shall circulate free of charge, and the seller shall pay two points of the value of the postage. When the lack of stamps is attributable to the fault of the provincial or district administrators, they shall pay four points of the value of the postage.


Article 5. As from the said 1 July, seals shall be established and used for newspapers at the rate of 30 reales per 25 pounds, and the newspapers stamped in this manner may circulate free of charge through all postal routes. A newspaper that does not comply with this requirement shall not be allowed to circulate.


Article 6. Delivery of printed matter shall be subject to the present rate of postage, at the rate of 40 reales per 25 pounds [arroba]. The exact amount shall be paid in postage stamps and not in cash.


Article 7. When the number of packets of letters on which a seal has to be stamped does not exceed one thousand per 25 pounds, the postal office shall charge a fee of 30 reales vellon. From one thousand one to two thousand packets per 25 pounds, 4 reales shall be added to the 30 reales. The same amount of 4 reales shall be charged for costs for every one thousand packets or less.


Article 8. Stamping by means of seals shall be established in Madrid and in provincial capitals at offices of the Ministry of Finance. Paper shall be presented to these offices for stamping and payment. The government shall establish in other towns offices for stamping of the seal whenever experience demonstrates the need for it. The seal to be used for stamping shall have the size of half a duro; in the centre there shall be the arms of Spain, and around it, a caption indicating: Seal, 30 reales per 25 pounds.


Article 9. The seal shall be stamped in a corner of the paper, and firms shall ensure that the seal is visible after the newspaper has been closed when it is presented to the Post Office.


Article 10. The Ministers of Finance and of the Interior shall be responsible for implementing the present Decree in matters that are within their competence; to this end they shall issue the appropriate instructions.


Done at the Palace and initialed by her Majesty. Madrid, February 15, 1856. The Minister of the Interior, Patricio de la Escosura.

A Royal Order dated March 5, 1856 was issued, approving the adopted measurements and penalties imposed in connection with the sale of postage stamps.

Your Excellency:


Her Majesty the Queen has deemed fit to approve the measures adopted and penalties imposed by Your Excellency, the former aimed at preventing, and the latter at punishing, offences in connection with the sale of prepaid postage stamps, on which Your Excellency submitted a report in your letter of 3 June of last year.


By Royal Order. Madrid, March 5, 1856. His Excellency, the Governor and Captain-General of the Philippines

A Royal Decree dated May 6, 1856 was issued, establishing compulsory prepayment in the Overseas Territory in accordance with the proposal submitted by the Minister of State in charge of the affairs of Overseas Territories.

I hereby declare the following:


 Article 1. All public correspondence shall be prepaid by means of stamps in Overseas Territories as from January 1, 1857.


Article 2. From the said date, letters that are mailed without postage stamps shall not circulate. However, the postal office in which they originate shall make them known to the public by means of lists and inform the interested parties if their destination is known.


Done at the Palace and initialled by her Majesty. Madrid, May 6, 1856. The Minister of State, Leopoldo O'Donnell.

A Circular dated June 27, 1856 was issued establishing regulations with respect to prepayment of letters and newspapers from and bound for overseas and letters and newspapers bound for the Overseas Territories.

General Post Office


On this date I issue the following order to the Director General of the Post Office:


Letters and newspapers from and bound for overseas and letters and newspapers bound for the Overseas Territories are not included in Article 5 of the Royal Decree of 15 February establishing prepayment of correspondence and stamping of seals on newspapers, because the former are subject to the provisions of postal agreements concluded for purposes of reciprocal portage, which shall continue to be charged as in the past; as for the latter, the provisions of the said Royal Decree shall only be applied beginning 1 January 1857, from which time they shall also bear a seal whose value is proportional to the prevailing rate. Meanwhile the Post Office shall continue to collect the cost of prepayment in the form of stamps and not in cash.


For your information and appropriate action. May God keep you many years.


Madrid, June 27, 1856. The Director-General of the Post Office, Angel Iznardi.

A Circular dated November 12, 1856 was issued detailing the regulations with respect to eligibility for use of official mail.

Superior Government of the Philippine Islands


Seeing the different complaints addressed to the Superior Government arising from different authorities, corporations and employees of all public Administration, requesting franchisement of the official mails which are addressed to one another; and considering that it is not possible by this time to assign enough sum of money to each authority, corporation or offices in order to meet the expenses of the Post Office, there is no other recourse than to forward the official correspondence by means of franchisement so that the service will not suffer the least delay; I agree with the opinion of the Assessor General of the Government in extending and amplifying Article 8 of the Superior Decree of December 7, 1853, to persons in the manner expressed in the following:


It is declared free of charge ay official correspondence of the Very Reverend Fathers of the Religious Orders, foreign vicars, and parish curates who are to annotate on the envelope that the correspondence is official by attesting to it their signatures in conformity with Article 10 of the decree; in the same manner franchisement is given to official mails of the Commander of Public Security; those of the Reserve; those of the Guard of Finance and those official mails addressed among themselves as well as those addressed to their respective chiefs, except those forwarded to them from said chiefs as is declared in the decree of the General Captaincy of November 28, of last year; franchisement of official correspondence is also given to the Auditor of the Division of Lotteries, the Administrators of the Custom House of Manila, Iloilo, Zamboanga and Sual; the Minister Superiors of Zamboanga, Cavite and Pollok; the Warehouse keeper of the Monopoly shops and the Warehouse keeper of the same Revenue Offices with the Trustee of the province; the General Commander of the Navy with the Captains of the Port and officials on official business as well as those of the Artillery. Franchisement is also accorded to the correspondence of the Court on properties of deceased persons as decreed by the Superior Authority of December 14, 1853, and on the condition that in regulating the expense of each business transaction, payment of the required fees be made in postage of the Post Office by affixing on the papers the corresponding stamps to be cancelled by the Court under the care of t he Clerk of Court.


The Court of Commerce, which also enjoys franchisement, as decreed on October 23 of last year, does so provided that in their transactions, all parties concerned pay their fees in postage stamps in the same manner as required by the Court in cases involving properties of deceased persons.


As the Postal Administration cannot verity the authenticity of all the signatures, these will be authorised by means of stamps which must be affixed on the document of the sender by the Chief of the province where it originated as no course will be given to any document lacking this annotation or certificate in form, nor even to those authorised but are addressed to a person lacking the legitimate right or position to be addressed with official correspondence.


In view of these amplifications, in case an unexpected incident may occur in which a person defrauds the Finance of the amount of stamps to be affixed to the private correspondence, a heavy penalty will be imposed upon the defrauder. Let this matter be known to all those concerned by giving the same wide publicity and to have it published in the Official Bulletin and later adhered to the corresponding previous record.


Manila, November 12, 1856



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