The Canadian “Pence” issues of 1851 to 1859 and the following “Cents” issues of 1859 to 1862 broke new ground in stamp design & production and have been held in high regard by generations of philatelists.
It is no surprise that the Beaver appears on her first stamp, the animal was one of the driving forces behind the opening up of the great Canadian wilderness and the Royal Charter granting the Hudson’s Bay Company rights to all land draining into that vast body of water (almost one tenth of the world's land mass!) was made in exchange for two sets of Beaver skin clothes! (A deal never closed, the Monarch merely had to visit the area to claim his prize. He never did.)
Produced by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson of New York, the full set of designs depicted the Beaver (3d), Prince Albert (6d, the first time the Prince Consort appeared on a stamp), Jacques Cartier (10d, the first non-head of state or politician to appear on a stamp), Queen Victoria by celebrated artist Alfred Edward Chalon (7½d and 12d, the first occasion his famous portrait was used for a postage stamp), and the side face Queen (½d).
In 1858 the firm amalgamated with eight other companies to form the American Bank Note Co, and the previously used designs were again employed for the 1859 change of currency to “Cents”, this time comprising side face Queen (1c and 2c), Beaver (5c), Prince Albert (10c), Queen by Chalon (12½c) & Jacques Cartier (17c).
These issues give the collector a wonderful range of re-entries, papers, plate flaws, shades plus much else, but without doubt the most eye-catching items available are the colourful PLATE PROOFS & COLOUR TRIALS printed on India paper in various stunning colours, which are known with or without “SPECIMEN” overprints. The archive of the American Bank Note Co. was auctioned off in 1990, allowing collectors to see & obtain many of these delightful items for the first time.