The King of Stamps
The Story of why King George V was no April Fool
King George V is rightfully the most famous stamp collector in history.
He is the King of stamps…
The man who loved to collect his own head.
As the Duke of York, he was elected Honorary Vice President of the Royal Philatelic Society.
In 1893, the Society presented him with an album containing around 1,500 stamps as a wedding present. Like so many ordinary folks at the time, he caught the collecting bug…
In 1904 he purchased a Mauritius 1847 “POST OFFICE” 2d deep blue stamp for a price of £1,450 ($1,946). This was a record price at the time for a single stamp…
The stamp he bought is now one of the most famous stamps in the world. There are believed to be only 12 examples in existence.
They are famous because of the “POST OFFICE” inscription in the left margin, which should have read “POST PAID”.
After reading about the sale in the newspaper, a courtier asked the Prince if he had seen “that some damned fool had paid as much as £1,450 for a single stamp”.
George replied, “Yes, I am that damned fool”.
But… the future King was no fool…
Today, it is valued in the SG catalogue at a price of £1.5m. It may well fetch much more than this when it next appears at auction.
King George V did not stop there. He is personally responsible for building the Royal Philatelic Collection into what it is today, although both King George VI and the current Queen also added significantly to the collection.
He once wrote to his philatelic adviser, J.A. Tilleard, “I wish to have the best collection and not one of the best collections in England.”
He surpassed his goal…
The Royal Philatelic Collection today is the most comprehensive philatelic collection of the British Commonwealth & Empire. It is also believed to be the most valuable stamp collection in the world.
It is reported to be the Queen’s most valuable personal asset.
The ordinary King
At 11:45pm on May 6, 1910, Prince George was proclaimed King George V.
King George V became a well-loved monarch despite reigning during such a difficult time in British history.
He was monarch during World War I (1914-1918) and the subsequent economic hardship, which was worsened further by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Despite such hard times, he was a popular King. He became so popular because he abandoned the aloofness associated with the Royal Family and related more with the people of the country.
This was demonstrated when he responded to the adulation he was receiving, “I can not understand it, after all, I am a very ordinary sort of fellow”.
The stamps of King George V’s reign
As an avid stamp collector, King George V was very much involved in the stamps issued during his reign.
He would be sent designs of new stamps for approval. It was common for him to reject them if not to his satisfaction.
He was also involved in the printing process and was obsessive about quality.
Because of this, stamps from the reign of King George V are considered by many to represent the golden era of British Empire stamp designs. Issues from this reign are highly desirable, with a large and avid collector base.
Stamps during the King George V era were responsible for many of the “firsts” for British stamps…
This included the first commemorative stamps. The most famous being the 1929 Postal Union Congress (P.U.C.) £1, the finest stamp ever produced in Britain, in the view of many collectors.
Last week I sold an exceptional quality marginal mint example of this stamp. Today, I have something even better:
King George V 1929 £1 Postal Union Congress (P.U.C.) black, SG438. A superb unmounted mint block of four.
Price: £3,750 ($5,033)
This block of four is a beautiful and rare philatelic treasure.
The Stanley Gibbons catalogue price for single stamps is £1,100. The offer price of £3,750 represents a discount of 15%, without any premium being attributed for being a much rarer block of four.
Six years later, the most famous British commemorative stamp issue was released…
In 1935, the Silver Jubilee of the Philatelist King was commemorated with a host of stamp issues across the British Empire.
Today, these commemorative sets have a huge fan base. There is even a website devoted entirely to those interested in the 1935 Silver Jubilee of King George V. They remain widely viewed as the finest of Commonwealth omnibus sets 84 years on.
I have two sets for you of this classic commemorative issue from the far reaches of the British Empire:
Dominica 1935 Silver Jubilee set of 4 to 1s, perforation 'SPECIMEN' (type D19), matching right marginal examples, brilliant unmounted original gum. Exceptional quality and very scarce thus. Specimen. SG92s/5s
Price: £160 ($215)
This is a scarce set of 4 right hand marginal examples from the island country of Dominica in the West Indies.
It is a much rarer set virtue of being matching “SPECIMEN” stamps. These were sent to the postmasters to use as reference to identify valid stamps and to avoid forgeries.
It is a difficult set to assemble, particularly in this quality and with all being right hand marginal examples.
Falkland Islands 1935 Jubilee set of 4 to 1s in marginal blocks of 4, the 1d and 1s from left margin, the 2½d and 4d from lower right corner, very fine unmounted original gum. Unmounted mint. SG 139/42
Price: £250 ($336)
A stunning 1935 Silver Jubilee commemorative set from the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Each of the four stamps in the commemorative set is presented in marginal blocks of four in unmounted mint condition and much rarer in this form.
Another “first” for British stamps from King George V’s reign were the first stamps printed by photogravure.
In this printing process, the plate was engraved photographically. Photogravure printing allowed for fine gradations of tone. When magnified, the images of stamps printed show fine lines due to the screening process.
The result - beautiful quality stamps such as these:
Great Britain King George V 1934-36 ½d-1s "Photogravure" definitives. Very fine unmounted original gum set of eleven, SG439/49.
Price: £60 ($81)
This set was the penultimate stamp issue from King George V’s reign. They remained in issue until his death in 1936.
The quality of the set is effectively as printed, demonstrating the benefits of the high quality printing technique at the time.
This set of stamps is listed in the Stanley Gibbons catalogue at a price of £95. They are available today at a 37% discount to that price.
The King George V era also saw the introduction of the first ‘postage due’ labels:
Zanzibar POSTAGE DUE. 1926-30 50c black/orange, block of 4 from foot of sheet, showing variety 'cent.s' on upper left stamp (R4/1), fine unused. A scarce positional piece. Dues. SG D16/a
Price: £185 ($248)
The African island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean introduced these postage due labels for the first time in 1926.
This is a philatelic rarity costing very little. At the price of £185, in my view, it is under-valued. The Stanley Gibbons catalogue price of the stamps as singles is £193.
It is a scarce positional piece, being both a block of 4 and including a variety, ‘cent.s”.
One of the reasons King George V stamps have attracted so many collectors is the existence of a large number of colour shades to collect. This provides huge depth for the specialist collector to become immersed in.
The reason for this is that the printers used at the time, Harrison & Son, won the tender simply because they put in the lowest quotation.
Unfortunately, Harrison was inexperienced with fugitive inks, meaning many denominations would have multiple shades. Some of those shades are rare and highly sought after, such as this one:
Bermuda 1924-32 Script watermark 2s6d grey-black and pale orange-vermilion/grey-blue, from March 1930 printing, very fine original gum. A lovely example of this rare and distinctive shade. Accompanied with British Philatelic Association certificate (2016). Unmounted Mint. SG 89h
Price: £2,250 ($3,020)
This is a very rare printing shade of an elegant King George V definitive stamp design. It is so rare, the example I have is the only one you could buy today as far as I know.
The Stanley Gibbons catalogue price for this rare and distinctive shade is £2,750. Its £2,250 price today is an 18% discount.
The King George V era is also responsible for the £100 stamp. That’s right, you heard me correctly. £100 face value for a stamp:
Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika 1925 £100 red and black, SG105. A superb mint example overprinted ‘SPECIMEN’ in Black. A stunning stamp in all respects.
Price: £5,750 ($7,718)
Back in 1925, £100 was worth the equivalent today to well over £1,000. It is a bizarre anomaly in stamp production.
Because of the elegance of its design, high face value and extreme rarity this stamp is considered as one of the all-time greats of the British Empire.
It really is a stunning stamp.
The stamp I have is overprinted “SPECIMEN” and was used for reference by the postmaster. I would love to be able to say that this makes my stamp even more valuable.
In this case, the stamp without the “SPECIMEN” overprint is valued in the Stanley Gibbons catalogue at a whopping £160,000. There is an example currently listed for sale online at a price of £195,000.
It is believed there are only around 10 mint examples of the K.U.T. £100 red and black stamp in existence.
The Specimen stamps of this famous issue are more common but not that much more common. Most examples you will find are badly stained or damaged by the climate they were kept in. There are very few around of this superb mint quality.
I hold the firm view this stamp should be valued at a much higher price. As such, I think it will prove a very sound long term investment for the canny buyer.
The final stamp in my King George V collection is one of the most famous stamps of British philately…
The prolific “Seahorse” design by Bertram Mackennal was shown to the King in 1912. He recommended they were printed by the intaglio printing process to make them look even more distinguished. His view was accepted.
With the intaglio stamp printing process, the area of the image to be printed was recessed into the surface of the printing plate. The recessed area was then filled with ink. The print quality was worthy of such an iconic stamp design.
The Seahorse stamps represent a miniature piece of propaganda on the eve of the Great War. They portray Britain’s image of herself screaming imperial power, might, tradition, pomp and circumstance.
Today, I have the rare opportunity of being able to offer you a pristine mint example for under £1,000:
King George V 1913 2s6d "Seahorse" sepia-brown, SG400. A superb original gum bottom corner marginal example printed by Waterlow. GB Specialised catalogue number: N63(2).
Price: £850 ($1,141)
This is a beautiful example of this great stamp and rare as a corner marginal.
I have always considered this stamp to epitomise King George V’s reign and to depict the attitude of Great Britain at the height of the British Empire. In short, every stamp collector should own a “Seahorse”!
The King George V Collection
The total price of my entire King George V collection is £13,255. For that price, you will own eight classic philatelic treasures from the reign of King George V.
Together they provide a strong representation of this key period in stamp production.
You can email us with your order or call on +44(0)1534 639998.
As always, sales will be made on a first come, first served basis.
CEO, Just Collecting
PS. Did you know… King George V spent 3 afternoons a week when in London on his stamp collection. It would likely have served as a valuable means for him to keep track of his territorial possessions around the globe.
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