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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

07 APR 2011

Bankruptcy Revenue Stamps - A Cinderella Item?

The world famous Muir Hunter Museum of Bankruptcy holds a number of Bankruptcy Revenue stamps (a small sample of the collection is pictured on the right). What are these fascinating items for you may ask?  In 1869 the Debtors Act was introduced. This statute effectively abolished imprisonment for debt. The effect of this statute was, inter alia, to open the bankruptcy jurisdiction up to many more people, i.e. debtors other than traders. This expansion had to be financed.


Bankruptcy Petition documents required the attachment of special revenue stamps for the payment of judicial fees. This payment was evidenced with revenue stamps, repeated use of which was not allowed (for obvious reasons!). Section 68 of the Bankruptcy Act 1869 notes, "every officer of the Court who shall receive any document to which an adhesive stamp shall be affixed, shall immediately upon the receipt of such document deface the stamp thereon, by writing, partly on the stamp and partly on the document the name of the debtor; and no such document shall be filed or delivered until the stamp thereon shall have been defaced in manner aforesaid, and it shall be the duty of the party presenting or receiving such document to see that such defacement has been duly made."


There is a large array of bankruptcy revenue stamps. The first were issued in 1869. The last set came out in 1959. 'Insolvency Stamps' were introduced in 1971. All of the issued bankruptcy revenue stamps were adhesive embossed stamps. Although, Barefoot opines that, "a couple of essays of directly embossed stamps are known...and a bankruptcy designating band was used on directly embossed Royal Courts of Justice stamps." Bankruptcy revenue stamps were issued in 1869, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1889, 1894, 1895, 1902, 1909, 1915 (war time printing which included a planned colour change), 1917, 1947, and 1959. In 1930 embossed bankruptcy stamps were withdrawn and replaced by Judicature Fees issues. Bankruptcy key types continued in use. This species of 'cinderella' revenue stamp can be acquired fairly cheaply. Don't delay - start collecting today!

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