I know that many early Liberia stamps were cancelled to order

Does anyone know though why different cancels were used for these?

It seems a lot of work to make and issue different cancels

Also, where did the CTO work take place?
was it actually done in Liberia or elsewhere and then sold on to dealers?


  • edited August 2016
    I'm sure Manfred has a lot on info on the CTO cancels. As far as i know the CTO's were not done in Liberia. CTO's were put on stamps to make them sell for less than mint stamps. Liberia was one of the leaders in selling CTO stamps. 
  • edited August 2016
    Albert is right, the early CTOs were all done in England (according to Cockrill). Although I have no proof I am convinced the first stamps that were canceled to order in Liberia were the ones printed in Berlin. Not by Liberian officials, but by employees of the company that had the contract, J.W. West.

    I have only one explanation for the many different CTO postmarks used on some of the issues: they were still experimenting, trying to figure out what kind of postmark would appeal most to collectors. As far as I know the first CTO stamps were those of North Borneo (1894 ?), canceled with an ugly bar cancel. When the Gibson registration stamps were issued in 1903, some collectors probably already expected this kind of CTO cancel, while others wished for a more postmark like cancel. Also, perhaps the first batch didn't sell well, so they tried something else, and so on...
    Just a guess, but at least that would make sense to me.

  • I've always assumed that CTOs were done to raise extra revenue by selling to collectors but has anyone any information on how much revenue might be raised this way?
    Presumably a very large number of CTOs would be need to make it worthwile

  • edited August 2016
    Not sure how much money was done by selling CTO. I do know that after 45 years of collecting Liberia i see more CTO sets than mint sets. Every collection i see or every stamp set the used is always CTO more than mint or more than postally used. As a kid in the 1950's the first set i got was CTO. Liberia was one of the leaders in selling CTO stamps. Maybe Manfred has more info on this CTO issue.
  • In his Liberia series booklet No. 25, Cockrill quotes from a note Henry Hayman sent to Perkins Bacon regarding an order of stamps of the 1909 definitives "all to be cancelled with the usual obliterations" and to be handed to him personally:
    30000 each 1, 2, 5, 10
    20000 each 15, 20
    10000 each 25, 30, 50, 75
    same quantity as above O.S.
    Total stamps 400000
  • Albert/Manfred

    I wonder what they sold for back then?

    Even today a used CTO set has a catalogue price of maybe $4 so 10000 sets would be $40000 - hardly a fortune

    I also wonder how many Liberia collectors there were in those days - probably more than today!
  • Mik,

    I should have added that the note is dated from December 1912, three years after the stamps were issued. I assume Hayman placed several orders like this over the years (with the early ones probably being even bigger), and the fact that he placed this one means that there was a demand.
    In those days the average stamp collector who had an interest in exotic stamps from overseas would collect everything he could get his hands on. The stamp market just wasn't glutted yet like it is today.
  • Hi guys,
    I always thought that Waterlow & Sons made the first CTOs. And, I had always thought it was all Henry Hayman's idea. I forgot where I picked this up. It all started in the early 1890s. Used-stamp collecting was very difficult at that time as most international mail was addressed to businesses, lawyers or government liaisons. And that's why so many stamps were cut/soaked off covers unfortunately, as no one yet collected postal history. But lawyers etc. saved correspondence. At this time also, stamp dealers got involved and started creating philatelic covers. Postal history buffs want commercial covers because the rates will be correct.

    If Manfred is correct with North Borneo being the first (a Waterlow Issue), then Henry Hayman probably got the idea from Waterlow to make the first Liberian CTOs using the 1892 Pictorial issue, then carried on the practice with Perkins Bacon... Or if it was Hayman's idea, then North Borneo copied him...

    I assume Hayman just sold the CTO sheets to London/European dealers, took 10%, and sent the rest of the proceeds to Liberia. So, by the Perkins Bacon time, this was a very lucrative business for him (and Liberia), but 400,000 stamps was likely a bit much and flooded the market. ($1 was a few days wages for the average Joe... 33c in 1860 was huge. Mail was expensive!)

    It is the massive amount of Liberian CTOs combined with the many (misunderstood) 1910-1920 overprints that really put-off the serious stamp collectors, and gave Liberia a bad name during this time, and Liberia dramatically fell out of collecting favor. Liberia received a lot of bad philatelic press in the mid 19-teens, primarily in Britain if I remember correctly.

    As an aside, I know the Australian PO made CTO cancels in 1914 (I collect Kookaburras) that were sent as specimens to the UPU and those are very scarce and highly collectable!

    I avoid the Liberian CTOs, but have collected some forgery cancels.
  • Hi Manfred,
    In my opinion, the first Liberian-made CTOs were done in 1897-98 on the 1880 Issue extras. All using PO handstamps. I have a ton of these, especially the 12c and 24c stamps. There is no reason for them to be used during this time. Likely, since the Waterlow CTOs were so successful, the Liberia PO wanted-in on some action themselves.

    I did a little study on these a few years back. There are many with the same date, and many within same weeks... all nearly perfectly socked on the nose. I'm sure you've seen these. One stamp has a partial cancellation due to a fold in the sheet across the stamp, almost proving it was CTO. I could paste in a few pictures if you want.
  • Manfred,
    I forgot that I wrote a paper on this in the July/Sept 2010 Journal titled
    "Cancelled-to-order and forgery cancellations on the 1880 first issue fifth transfer printing".
  • Bryant,
    I am afraid I was always trying so hard to find postally used that I neglected the early CTOs. My own stock consists of exactly one 1892 $5 stamp with this typical CTO postmark without date, and one 1880 24c stamp with a SON 12.FEB.98 cancel. And then there is this oddball on piece with a 1902 HARPER SON postmark plus a matching SEEPOST cancel. The things that stamp collectors do...

    Anyway, if the 1897 to '98 cancels on the 1880 issue indicate CTO, the postage due stamps J3/J9 and the registration stamps/labels F6/F9 with '97 dates are probably CTO, too. I had always filed these under favor cancels, but in the case of the registration stamps the CTO character of the postmark is quite obvious: they didn't even use matching town cancels.

  • Yes, these registration stamps are so narrow that when they stamped the sheets this is exactly what I would expect... 4 or so partial cancels.
    I had not seen these or looked for these before.
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