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George VI stamp collecting

       
Collecting the stamps of

George VI by Nick Pollard

Setting the Scene

George VI was crowned on 13 May 1937 following the debacle over the abdication of Edward VIII and died on 6 February 1952, a relatively short reign of just under 15 years. Nearly 50 years after his death, collecting stamps from his reign is one of the most popular areas of philately. The first album dedicated to George VI was fist printed in 1956 and is still in print today. There are two readily available catalogues for collectors to buy and a thriving collectors society. This article is a brief introduction to the area, looking at what makes it so popular, providing some ideas about how to collect, what to collect, where to buy.

The Appeal?
What is the special appeal of the stamps of George VI

Production and Design

First and foremost, for many collectors, the stamps are well designed, well produced and attractive. Most were produced by the so-called recess method, giving a pleasing effect of depth to the designs while normally using no more than two colours. While most stamps of today can be produced in many colours, they are often described as “wallpaper”.

Many of the stamps include pictorial elements, a feature that only became prevalent in the British Commonwealth towards the end of the reign of George V. Indeed, quite often the first definitive sets of George VI used designs first developed for George V stamps.

Putting it simply, the are good-looking.

Short reign

Another factor that draws many collectors is that, due to length of his reign and the fact that it included 6 years of the Second World War, the numbers of stamps issued was relatively modest. The most popular printed album for the stamps of George VI has less than 5,000 spaces. With certain exceptions that I will discuss later, it is possible to build a comprehensive collection without winning the lottery!

War affect

The effect of the war, as well as limited the numbers of special issues, was also to create a number of interesting varieties. For example, in December 1940, bombing extensively damaged the De La Rue printing works and new printers were used. They used a different gauge perforating machine producing stamps that can be extremely scarce and sought after by the more specialist collectors.

How to collect

Simple

Most of the colonies issued a relatively small number of stamps, starting with a coronation set, a definitive set, stamps commemorating the end of the second world war, a Silver Wedding pair marking 25 years of the King’s marriage to Queen Elizabeth (now know as the Queen Mother), a set of stamps marking 75 years of the Universal Postal Union and, often, a second set of definitive stamps. One such set (New Hebrides) was not issued until 30 April, 1953 over one year after his death and just over one month before the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II!

There are, of course, many territories that are much more complex, but it is possible to assemble a basic collection relatively cheaply and quickly.

THE CROWN ALBUM

For those collectors, like me, who like life made simple, Stanley Gibbons produce a handsome album including spaces for all the stamps issued during his reign (as well as the few issued during Edward VIII’s short reign). It does not cater for shades and perforation changes, nor does it allow spaces for the Japanese Occupation overprints. These albums are available for £110 from Stanley Gibbons and various wholesale outlets such as Vera Trinder and are also often to be found at auctions with or without some stamps. You can expect to pick up an empty second hand album for £30-50, depending on condition.

New Age album

Stanley Gibbons also produced a loose-leaf album called New Age. These include provision for many of the shades and perforation changes, as well as Japanese Occupation and some countries (such as Nauru and New Zealand) that reissued stamps in George VI period that had been available before in different watermarks or papers. It is sometimes possible to find these second hand, but much less frequently than the Crown album.

 SPECIALIST BOOKS

For the specialist, there is really no alternative but to collect into stock books or hand-produced album pages. There are many flaws and varieties not to mention shades of even the most common stamps that keep the specialists busy. Apart form the Stanley Gibbons catalogue, good sources of specialist information include The Commonwealth King George VI Catalogue published by Murray Payne (top illustration). The Potter-Shelton Tables of K.G. VI Printings,available from Bridger & Kay, Guernsey and King George VI Large Key Type Stamps by Dickgeisser and Yendall, available from Vera Trinder and the George VI Collectors Society (membership secretary F R Lockyer, 98 Albany, Manor Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3EW).

Condition

Unmounted

Gibbons lists George VI mint stamps in unmounted condition while the Commonwealth Catalogue more realistically lists them in mounted condition. Not many collectors at the time collected unmounted (never hinged) and it is often the earlier stamps of the reign that are much less common in this condition, For example, St Helena issued a 3d stamp in ultramarine in 1938 and replaced it with the same value in grey in 1940. Gibbons quotes £90 for unmounted while the Commonwealth catalogue quotes £25 for mounted. This is a very scarce stamp unmounted but plentiful mounted.

Most collectors are happy with lightly mounted but there is no doubt that unmounted is more challenging and a better long-term investment.

Mounted

Mounted (hinged) stamps make more sense when collecting into a Crown album and can often be obtained for a fraction of the unmounted price. Just be careful that the gum is not toned (difficult on some issues) and does not have several layers of hinge remainders!

Used

Many  collectors feel that used stamps have "done their job" and prefer them in used condition. If, like me, you prefer used to mint, try to go for cleanly cancelled copies with discernable circular date stamps (cds). One word of warning - if a stamp is quoted with a higher used than mint, particularly if the catalogue price is high, beware of forged cancellations! One stamp in particular is the $5 stamp issued by Trengganu in 1938 where virtually all the copies that come on the market have forged cancellations. See Fiscal cancels

Where to buy

Fairs and exhibitions

Most of the regular issues can be found at local fairs while national exhibitions are good hunting ground for more specialist material.

General dealers

There are many dealers - such as Sage stamps that cater for the general George VI collector, many of whom offer mail order together with wants list services.

Specialist dealers

Such is the popularity of George VI that several dealers offer nothing but George VI, including Murray Payne, Goldcast Philatelics at 43 London Street, Southport, Merseyside, PR9 0TH), Parkstone Philatelics (www.parkphil.co.uk) and Ross-Shiells (4 Eldon Street, London EC2M 7LS). These dealers offer a treasure-trove of philatelic material including varieties, postal history, blocks and many other esoteric items.

Web

The world-wide web is another rich source of material. I have bought quite a number of interesting and everyday items through eBay as well as Sothebys (not at exorbitant prices!).

Auction

As with all areas philatelic, auctions provide a rich hunting ground for George VI collectors, but beware of the “bargain” difficult stamps. If they are cheap, they may well be wrong!

Get Collecting!

This introduction has only skimmed the surface. If you like what you have read, why not start collecting now – you won’t regret it.

Copyright © Nike Pollard Empire Stamps 2000. All rights reserved

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