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British Stamps

Definitives of 1911-1922

The first definitive British stamps of King George V were issued in June 1911, and the designs were a complete departure from those used by his father King Edward VII.

WMK 30
Imperial Crown

WMK 32
Multiple Crown and
Script GvR

WMK 33
Simple Crown and
Script GvR

WMK 34
Large Crown and
Script GvR

WMK 35
Multiple Crown and
Roman GvR


All of the definitive British stamps of King George V have the following technical attributes in common.

The 1/2 P. through the 1 S. denominations:

  • Printing Process:  Typographed (1911-1934), Photogravure (1934-1935).
  • Portrait:  Three-quarter-facing (1911-1912), Left Profile (1912-1935).
  • Perforation:  Perforated 15 x 14 (1911-1934), Perforated 14 1/2 x 14 (1934-1935).
  • Watermark:  WMK 30 (1911-1912), WMK 32 (1912-1913), WMK 33 (1912-1922), WMK 35 (1924-1935) -- (See images above).

The 2 S. 6 P. through the £ 1 denominations:

  • Printing Process:  Engraved.
  • Portrait:  Left Profile.
  • Perforation:  Perforated 11 x 12.
  • Watermark:  WMK 34 -- (See images above).

The three-quarter-facing profile used on the first definitive British stamps of King George V was taken from a photograph by W. & D. Downey, the court photographers.  These stamps are referred to in British philately as the "Downey Head Issues".  Essays for the 1/2 Penny through 1 Shilling denominations, were prepared, but only the 1/2 Penny and 1 Penny denominations were produced and placed on sale at post offices.


Die I - Original Designs

Die II - Re-engraved Designs


The three-quarter-facing Downey Head definitive postage stamps were all issued between June 1911 and October 1912.  They are all shown above, adjacent to their respective watermarks.

These stamps can be separated into two major groups, as has been done above, Die I - Original Design and Die II - Re-engraved Design.  The differences are obvious, as can be seen in the images above.

Die I - Original design stamps:

  • 1/2 P. - WMK 30  (Sc. #151)
  • 1 P. - WMK 30  (Sc. #152)

  • 1/2 P. - WMK 33  (Sc. #155)
  • 1 P. - WMK 33  (Sc. #156)

Die II - Re-engraved design stamps:

  • 1/2 P. - WMK 30  (Sc. #153)
  • 1 P. - WMK 30  (Sc. #154)

  • 1/2 P. - WMK 33  (Sc. #157)
  • 1 P. - WMK 33  (Sc. #158)

  • 1/2 P. - WMK 32  (Sc. #158A)
  • 1 P. - WMK 32  (Sc. #158B)

The public, as well as the king, disliked these designs, and after about a year of use, they were abandoned.


Beginning in 1912 and continuing through 1922, new definitive stamps of King George V were issued.  They are all shown above.  The new left-facing profiles were based on the coinage designs of Bertram Mackennel.  All of these British stamps are typographed and WMK 33, what British philatelists refer to as the "Simple Cypher Watermark".

The Scott catalog attributes are as follows.

  • 1/2 P.  (1913 - Sc. #159) - Green.
  • 1 P.  (1912 - Sc. #160) - Scarlet.
  • 1 1/2 P.  (1912 - Sc. #161) - Red Brown, Orange Brown, Chocolate Brown.
  • 2 P.  (1912 - Sc. #162) - Deep Orange.
  • 2 1/2 P.  (1912 - Sc. #163) - Ultramarine.
  • 3 P.  (1913 - Sc. #164) - Bluish Violet.
  • 4 P.  (1912 - Sc. #165) - Slate Green.
  • 5 P.  (1912 - Sc. #166) - Yellow Brown.
  • 6 P.  (1912 - Sc. #167) - Rose Lilac, Dull Violet.
  • 7 P.  (1913 - Sc. #168) - Olive Green.
  • 8 P.  (1913 - Sc. #169) - Black on Yellow.
  • 9 P.  (1913 - Sc. #170) - Black Brown.
  • 9 P.  (1922 - Sc. #183) - Olive Green.
  • 10 P.  (1913 - Sc. #171) - Light Blue.
  • 1 S.  (1913 - Sc. #172) - Bister.

The 1/2 P. through the 2 P. denominations were also issued in booklets.


A scarce plate error of the 1 1/2 P. denomination has "PENCF" instead of "PENCE".  It is illustrated above.


Waterlow and Layton Printing (1913)


The magnificent looking set of high-denomination definitive British stamps shown above were first issued during 1913

These new designs feature the left-facing profile of King George V and an allegorical representation of "Britannia Rules the Waves"The allegory depicts Britannia, with a shield and trident, riding through stormy seas in her chariot, led by three horses.  Stanley Gibbons refers to these stamps as the "Recess Printed High Values", but British philatelists have always referred to them by the nickname, "The Seahorses".

The 1913 printings, shown above, were produced under contract to Waterlow & Layton.  Most collectors just refer to them as the Waterlow Printings.  The designs of these stamps measure 22 mm vertically.  The perforation holes are larger and evenly spaced.

The Scott catalog attributes are as follows.

  • 2 S. 6 P.  (1913 - Sc. #173) - Dark Brown.
  • 5 S.  (1913 - Sc. #174) - Rose Carmine.
  • 10 S.  (1913 - Sc. #175) - Indigo Blue.
  • £  1   (1913 - Sc. #176) - Green.  This denomination was ONLY produced in the 1913 Waterlow Printings.


De La Rue Printing (1915)


The Seahorses were issued again in 1915, under contract to De La Rue & Company.  These are referred to as the De La Rue Printings.

The designs of these stamps measure 22 mm vertically.  The gum tends to be yellowish and patchy.  The perforation holes are smaller than those of the Waterlow Printings.

The Scott catalog attributes are as follows.

  • 2 S. 6 P.  (1915 - Sc. #173a) - Light Brown.
  • 5 S.  (1915 - Sc. #174a) - Bright Carmine.
  • 10 S.  (1915 - Sc. #175a) - Light Blue.



In 1912, a small issue of vertical coil stamps of the 1/2 P. (Sc. #177) and 1 P. (Sc. #178) denominations, were printed on paper with WMK 32 - the Multiple Crown and Script GvR watermark.  They were printed in sheets and then issued in vertical coils of 500 stamps.  This was the only time that this particular watermark was used for the left-facing profile British stamps of King George V.

This was a very small printing, and today, the stamps are very scarce and quite expensive.  Some examples, from the original printed sheets, in horizontal pairs and in blocks, are known.  They are all exceedingly rare.


Bradbury, Wilkinson Printing (1919)
Retouched


The Seahorses were issued again in 1919, utilizing retouched rotary  plates, under contract to Bradbury, Wilkinson & Company.  These are referred to as the Bradbury, Wilkinson Printings.

The designs of these stamps measure 22.75 - 23 mm verticallyMost of the stamps have a tiny, colored dot above the middle of the top frame line.

The Scott catalog attributes are as follows.

  • 2 S. 6 P.  (1919 - Sc. #179) - Olive Brown.
  • 5 S.  (1919 - Sc. #180) - Carmine Rose.
  • 10 S.  (1919 - Sc. #181) - Blue.


For the specialist, there are a multitude of collectible varieties of most of the British stamps described on this page, including essays, die proofs, plate proofs, color trials, plate markings, cylinder numbers, booklet panes, and coils.  For details, please refer to the Stanley Gibbons Great Britain Specialised Catalogue, Volume 2 -- King Edward VII to King George VI.





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British Stamps - Definitives of 1911-1922





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