Currency: Dutch gulden (100 cents = 1 gulden)

First issued: 1st January 1852
Production: Royal Mint, Utrecht

First issued: 1864
Production: Royal Mint, Utrecht; later J. Enschedé & Sons, Haarlem

The Netherlands are not a country I will ever collect, for the simple reason that I think most of their stamps are damnably ugly. But I managed to acquire a small assortment of their early issues for free and so uh, here we find ourselves. Two very neat, simple issues with three values in each — I assume the values covered local, inter-city and foreign letters respectively but that's only a guess. Aesthetically the second issue is actually very good (presumably that's why they suppressed it after only a few years): we have an attractive, relatively natural-looking portrait which is framed sensibly and the remainder of the stamp is tastefully subdued, with minimal ornamentation. Meanwhile the first issue is much less successful: the portrait is unflattering and the frame is incoherent and over-complicated, not to mention the confusing detailing on the sides. Both designs of course depict King William III of the Netherlands, who seems to have been quite a dull, unremarkable character.

Both issues are however extremely well engraved, in that fine, slightly scratchy way one sees a lot of in the early classic era. My very ancient Gibbons credits a Mr J. Wiener of Brussels with engraving the first design, and a Mr J. W. Kaiser of Amsterdam with the second. The first issue was printed at the Royal Mint in Utrecht, as was the second until the 1st October 1866 when operations were taken over by the firm of J. Enschedé & Sons in Haarlem, which is still printing stamps to this very day. Enschedé printed the second issue for another year until the horrible third issue was released on the 1st October 1867.