KING GEORGE VI BRITSH COMMONWEALTH COLLECTING; ADEN
The 1937 'Dhow' set is relatively straightforward, although there were two printings of most values in its short life. The best shade comes on the 5r, a bright aniline shade with colour suffused through the paper when seen through the back of the stamp - more easily seen on used, but quite evident on mint. Fine used examples of the high values are difficult and most I see have First Day cancels, the result of a large number of FDCs prepared by Selfridge's, the London department store. Never hinged, the set is worth a large premium over mounted. Resist, if you can, the temptation to buy a short set. Dealers are not happy to sell a 10r on its own, when that usually leaves them with a short set themselves. I have been shown only one plate variety on this set, a re-entry on the 8a affecting the lower left corner.
The 1939 set had numerous printings (at least 11 of the 2 rupee, for instance) and these can make a fascinating study. One way to approach collecting a set like this on a serious basis is to try to find plate blocks. These are especially interesting when a stamp had a long life and heavy commercial use, and can be a valuable aid to dates of printing. Often on KG VI 'first sets', the original plate was unnumbered - only being numbered if this was specifically requested by the colony - but subsequent plates would be numbered '1', etc. Usually the plate number is to be found under the bottom right corner block. If you can find plate blocks for this or any other set that interests you, then buy them; but be warned, the search may be long! Interesting multiples of KG VI are becoming harder and harder to find.
Most collectors will be happy to have one example of each value, but there is a significant minority who want a bit more than that. Many will collect the listed shades. Stanley Gibbons list only one for this set, the 1948 Ża bluish green, which is a perfectly respectable shade (difficult to find in used condition) but doesn't do the set any sort of justice. The Commonwealth King George VI catalogue lists ten and so, by coincidence perhaps, does Scott. It is possible to differentiate all the printings, which is only to be attempted by those with a great deal of patience! A general catalogue can't list all the printings. What usually happens is that the original printing is listed and its colours are used for the description. Later printings may be different, but insufficiently so to attract the eye of the editor, who will wait until something distinctive appears. The collector may have one stamp, which need be neither of the listed printings, so needs to take a guess as to which shade-group it belongs to. A very useful guideline with this set, as with many others during the reign, is paper. Early printings are on creamy paper with thick creamy gum, which can be quite dark; the later the printing, the thinner and whiter the paper and the thinner and more transparent the gum. Paper colour affects the appearance of the stamp almost as much as the ink used - when trying to date a printing I usually look at the back first, which has earned me a few funny looks over the years. If you want to go into details, a listing of each officially-released printing can be found in the tables compiled by Potter & Shelton. The colour descriptions are not always the most helpful. Real detail is to be found in Frank Saunders' analysis in Geosix, the King George VI Collectors' Society journal. An ultraviolet lamp is always a useful tool.
The sheet formats for this set need to be remembered. The Ża to 2Ża plus the 8a were 16 rows of 5 stamps each; the 3a and 14a 8 rows of 10 stamps each, and the rupee values 5 rows of 12 stamps each. When I first wrote about Aden, I knew very little about plate varieties on this set, but a good deal more has come to light since then. There are a good number of 'T' guidemarks to be found. (We will consider the technical reasons for these on another occasion.) These occur halfway along the design, at the sides, in the case of this set. They were intended to be burnished off the plate but pieces (which may be vertical or horizontal, or both) can remain in the pommels of the daggers. There are re-entries, particularly affecting the 14a, which was the subject of an article by F. Bentley Kettle in Stamp Collecting. I was fortunate enough to find a nice plate flaw in the sky on the Ża, at R6/4.
The 1951 surcharges were carried out on a number of different printings and good shades can also be found here; none are listed by SG, but Commonwealth lists eight. The surcharging was originally carried out on old stock, but new printings were also made, which led to some of the main differences. The 15ct is known with double surcharge and the 2/- with albino (uninked) surcharge; the 50ct has recently been discovered with surcharge double, once albino.
As far as the commemoratives go, there is nothing much on the 1937 Coronation, although I wouldn't mind betting that there are distinct shades to be found which might be possible to allocate to different printings. One item recorded at the time of issue by Douglas Armstrong, the editor of Stamp Collecting, is a missing crossbar to the 'A' in the left value tablet at R15/4. This is elusive. The Victory issue has one major error, the 2Ża with inverted watermark. These are popular and far from cheap - there are few inverted watermarks in KG VI collecting, especially if the Dominions are excluded. On the 1Ża R7/1 bears examination. It exists in three states; without flaw, with a flaw above the 'D' of 'ADEN', crossing the inner frameline, and with the flaw officially scratched out on the stamp - an almost unbelievable operation for any printer to carry out, but it was done; it can be detected by the fact that complete obliteration is rare, and fibres on the surface of the stamp can be seen to have been lifted. I suppose this could easily be faked, but can't see much point in spoiling a good variety! The 2Ża has a 'falling object' left of the main tower on R9/3, and a nice plate scratch on R7/1 through 'ADEN'. The Silver Wedding low value has a large mark affecting the '48' of '1948' at R2/6.
The well-known forger of postmarks known as Madame Joseph didn't neglect Aden. Several dates are known and we can illustrate one of 'her' creations. Known dates for Aden are as follows; 28 Mar 42, 28 Mar 43 and 22 Mar 44. Aden Camp was also affected; known dates are 1 Apr 37 and 1 Apr 41
Aden is popular. A general observation for you; countries at the front of the alphabet are more expensive to collect than those at the back. Presumably, this is because of general collectors who work their way through the alphabet. As dealers, we can place a range of bids throughout an auction and, as often as not, end up with little up to 'G' but be increasingly successful thereafter. I would say that this was due to people leaving the room during the course of an auction, but it applies to postal sales as well!
Aden (as well as Somaliland and the surrounding areas) is covered by a specialist group, the editor of whose journal is based in Australia - Gary Brown, PO Box 106, Briar Hill, 3088, Australia. If you contact him, I am sure you will receive a warm welcome. I expect he and/or others from the group will be in touch to tell me about all the things I have left out - you can too - but please be aware that these articles are not intended to be all-inclusive!
Acknowledgements; Global Stamp News and Stamp Magazine, where earlier versions of these articles appeared Richard Lockyer, articles in Gibbons Stamp Monthly, 1986 to date The Printings of King George VI Colonial Stamps, W.J.W. Potter and R.C.M. Shelton, 1952 Stanley Gibbons 'Part 1' British Commonwealth Catalogue Commonwealth King George VI Catalogue 18th edition - Murray Payne Ltd. Iain Murphy