Philatelic Features

The First Stamp Dealers

Whitfield King & Co.

One of the earliest stamp dealers in the UK. Charles Whitfield King established the business in 1869, whilst he also worked as a clerk for a shipping firm. By 1876 Charles was able to set up an office on Lacey Street, Ipswich. He produced catalogues and imported and exported all over the world, growing to become one of the UK’s largest stamp dealers at that time. The business later passed to his sons, Charles and James, but slowly disappeared in the 1960’s.

Here is an example of postal history going to Whitfield King & Co.

SG172 1891 1d. Fiscal plus 2x 1d. lilacs on registered cover London to Whitfield King (SG forerunner) in Ipswich.

This is a registered cover to Whitfield King & Co with an 1891 1d. Fiscal and 2x 1d. lilacs. It was sent from London and is dated AP.13.91. The Fiscal was allowed on mail paying postage, as long as there was no inscription to a particular duty. Find out more about this item here.

Alfred Smith & Co.

Alfred William Smith began his stamp dealing career by partnering with his brother in 1862. Their company was based in Bath and called “Stafford Smith & Smith”, but it broke down in 1866, by mutual consent.

Alfred remained in Bath and continued the business importing foreign stamps. He produced printed envelopes depicting his premises. These envelopes varied in colour, going from red to green to grey/ black through the years to 1896.

SG172 1881 1d. Lilac. Die II.

A ½d. Vermilion Stationery envelope, advertising “ALFRED SMITH & Co., BATH. Foreign Stamp Importers” with a pair of 1881 1d. Lilac stamps. Sent to Belgium and cancelled by neat “53” duplex handstamps for JA. 17. 93. Find out more about this item here.

Alfred has a son, Bertrand, who moved the business to London in 1896, where they dealt in stamps for collections. Business slowed until it eventually stopped around 1923.

Stanley Gibbons

Edward Stanley Gibbons founded his company in 1856 by setting up a counter in his fathers shop in Plymouth. Edward was fortunate to purchase stamps from the sailors there and by 1876 he had a shop premises on Gower Street in Bloomsbury, London, very close to the British Museum.

SG172a + SG165 1882 1d. Bluish Lilac, plus 1/2d. Pale green on 2d. Blue envelope to Stanley Gibbons when at Gower Street, London.

Here is an 1882  2d. Blue envelope to Stanley Gibbons at “8 Gower Street, London W.C.”, with 1d. bluish lilac, and a 1/2d. pale green. The stamps have been cancelled by a “096” Colwyn Bay duplex, dated 17.Feb.82. Find out more about this item here.

Stanley Gibbons grew to become the UK’s largest and most long established stamp merchants. By 1890 the business was sold to Charles Phillips and continuing growth meant a second shop was able to open in 1891 at 435 Strand in London.

In 1893, both the Gower Street shop and 435 Strand were amalgamated and moved to 391 Strand, where it remained for nearly 90 years.

Here are some records going from these early addresses:

1907 2d. Brown Registered envelope from Stanley Gibbons, London, going to Berlin.

1907 2d. Brown Registered envelope going from Stanley Gibbons, London, to Berlin. A 1s. green and carmine stamp has been used with other EDVII definitives, along with a single wax seal of Stanley Gibbons and London W.C Registration label. There are registered cancellations for W.C.O.O and circular date stamps of Strand Southampton Row, dated 1.JU.07. Find out more about this item here.

SG413a 1918 2s.6d. Olive-brown. Bradbury "Sea Horse".1918 2s.6d. Olive-brown. Bradbury “Sea Horse” Registered Air Mail envelope sent from “STANLEY GIBBONS Ltd., 391, Strand LONDON” and going to Perth, Australia. Postage was made up to the 4s. rate by a 1s. Block Cypher and 2x 3d. Photogravure stamps. Cancelled by Strand Registered ovals for 3. MAY. 35. Find out more about this item here.

In the early 1980’s the premises moved to its current home of 399 Strand, London. Have you seen correspondence from this address?


More information about Whitfield King & Co and Alfred Smith & Co can be found on the GBPS website here

There is also more information regarding Stanley Gibbons on their website, here.