KING GEORGE VI; FALKLAND ISLANDS
The Falkland Islands and their Dependencies are among the most popular collecting areas in the whole of British Commonwealth philately. It is very obvious, attending stamp shows, that there are a large number of very serious collectors - some with deep pockets - chasing a small number of interesting items. I suppose that the 'romantic' setting in the South Atlantic, the whiff of whalers and the aroma of cordite are responsible for a part of the interest. For me, however, I have my doubts (from a purely unromantic viewpoint) as to whether this very high level of popularity is fully deserved. As with the Pitcairn Islands and St Helena, there is much of merit in the earlier non-philatelic Postal History; but, as with these two colonies, the Falkland Islands grasped the idea of making money out of philatelists at a very early stage. I have to admit to a strong personal preference for colonies where commercial usage was high, and the Falkland Islands certainly doesn't come into that category!
Like many other stamp-issuing countries, the Falkland Islands are peppered with minefields, in more senses than one. There is a history of negligent misidentification by dealers, and optimistic misidentification by collectors, starting with the Queen Victoria shades and bisects and, no doubt, running up to the present day. The King George VI era has its fair share of these problems, and one 'great debate' to which we will attend later.
The 1938 set is extremely attractive, and is, in its way, an exemplar of the pictorial labels of the time which paid postage, but doubled up as tourist publicity. The Whales' Jawbones, as a design, have considerable impact. In fact, the designs might have been chosen with the intention of appealing to a range of thematic collectors of today - wildlife and ships being well represented. There were a number of printings of most values, and this is where the main interest of the set lies. Tony Belfield of the Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group has recently produced a fine monograph on the issue, drawing together the archival sources and describing each printing in some detail. There are certainly some fine shades on this issue; notable being the 1d carmine, the 6d with blue-black centre, the 9d, the 5/- 'indigo', and the high values on thin white paper.
Taking the stamps 'value by value', the ½d is a little difficult initially but is possible to sort out. The first printing had a yellowish green frame, the yellow element being absent in 1942 The 1944 printing is on a distinctive paper, presumably with a high rag content (as Tony points out) since there are many fibres present in the paper. This printing is easy to find mint, and difficult used, since no examples were despatched by the Crown Agents to the colony. It is also not listed by Gibbons, although Commonwealth lists the 5/- and 10/-. This means that all the others are lumped in with the first printings. Certainly they are easily distinguishable on grounds other than colour. The first printings of 1937 have cracked gum and are on thick paper. The 1938 printings have the same thick paper, but the gum is whiter, less cracked and often seems dimpled. The final printing of the ½d was in 1947, and is on whiter paper with a blue-green tinge.
The 1d produced the very strong carmine shade. This is quite common in mounted mint singles, but multiples (particularly unmounted mint) are difficult. As with almost all printings of all values of this set, plate blocks and imprint blocks are eagerly sought after. Sheet numbers (indicating that the sheet in question was sent to the colony) are also useful clues with this issue, and consequently are difficult to find. Only a portion of the initial printing was in carmine, the remainder being scarlet, three deliveries being made to Port Stanley. Further printings in 1941, 1942, 1944 and 1947 were in shades of purple-violet, the change of colour being necessitated by UPU regulations.
The 2d had started life in violet in 1937, with a further printing in pale violet in 1938. These can be similar in shade, but the gum on the 1938 printing shows the dimpling mentioned earlier to considerable effect. This printing produced at least one half-sheet with the horizontal perforations between the top row of stamps and the top margin omitted, a fairly significant error which commands a hefty price at auction. The printings from 1941-9 with red and carmine frames seem to have produced a good number of shades which I find difficult to pin down to specific printings - but this is probably a matter of practice.
The 2½d Sheep design had a huge initial printing, a further one not being necessary until 1949. Tony Belfield explains that the rate for foreign postage increased from 2½d to 3d in 1941, and the Post Office in Port Stanley had far too many of this value in consequence. This explains why this is an easy value to find in multiples of any sort, including sheet number blocks. The 1949 printing saw a change in design, from sheep to goose, but in the same colours. This is not an easy stamp to find used.
The 3d did not appear until 1941, because of the rise in rates mentioned above. There were printings in 1941, 1942 and 1944. I have always had trouble splitting these between the Gibbons and Commonwealth descriptions of 'blue' and 'deep blue' - it's always seemed to me that they are all deep blue, more or less. I suspect that if one separates out the 1944 printings (with the fibrous surface), then 1941 will show up as paler than 1942 with the intermediates extracted. Regular readers of Murray Payne's newsletter, Sixth Sense, may recall Horry's spoof artwork for a 3d 'unissued' design with blank (white) centre entitled 'whiteout'!
The 4d had just three printings; 1937, 1938 and 1944. By now, you should be able to work out the differences between these three without reference to colour; you will know to look for heavily cracked gum, less cracked gum and fibres in the paper surface. We are helped by the fact that the 1937 printing has a bright purple frame, while the 1938 printing is in dull purple. The 1944 colour is altogether less deep than the others.
There were four printings of the 6d, but since the 1949 printing was in black, this leaves us only 1937, 1938 and 1944 to consider. 1937 has a distinctly slate-black centre, i.e. there is a considerable element of blue. 1938 has a dark brown frame, although this can vary. 1944 has a small tinge of slate in the vignette, but not nearly so much as 1937, and the frame is lighter. If in doubt, let the fibres help you!
The 9d had four printings. The 1937 printing has a strong slate-black vignette; 1938 is in sepia, which almost amounts to a change of colour! 1944 is in brownish black, with the surface of the paper a little blued, while 1947 is similar from the front to 1937 (although without the slate element), but is a totally different animal from the back; the thin, very white paper making it a simple stamp to identify.
The 1/- follows a similar pattern. The 1937 printing was in pale blue, which varies in its degree of paleness. This is, like the 1d carmine, quite readily available in hinged mint singles, but a different matter either unmounted or in blocks! 1938 has a dull greenish cast to it, while 1944 is a plain dull blue. 1947 is deeper, and the paper is somewhat thinner and whiter. It's an easy stamp to distinguish, but not very plentiful, and is certainly difficult in used condition.
The 2/6d value had four printings. The 1937 printing has been described as slate, 1938 as violet slate and 1944 as yellowish slate. However, the characteristics of the backs of the stamps are a more useful guide. I have to admit that the 1949 printing is absent from the Murray Payne reference collection. However, I know enough to be able to identify it should I see it; given the consistency of the pattern of printings, so should you! It's on thin white paper, which immediately sets it apart. Used examples are rare.
Now, the 5/- has been a bone of contention for years, with much debate taking place about the famous 5/- 'indigo'. The irony is that this stamp is unmistakeable. You will know that I often advise that 'an expert society certificate is essential', or words to that effect. However, this is a stamp which should not need a certificate. It is the most common printing in used condition, but it is rare mint, and this seems to have caused problems in the past. The colour of the centre is a very deep, almost blackish, blue, aptly called indigo, while the frame is equally distinctive, being a clear yellow-brown. This was the 1938 printing; the whole lot went to the colony, so it is not surprising that it is difficult mint. The first printing, in 1937, had the usual gum characteristics, with a blue vignette and a light brown frame. The 1944 printing has a dull deep blue vignette, with a brown frame, which one would call 'yellow' were it not for the 1938 printing! As usual with the 1944 releases, this is a difficult stamp used. However, the real rarity of the entire set is the 1949 printing in used condition. I have seen very few, fortunately including a block of 4 acquired for a customer some years back. The centre is bright blue and the frame buff-brown, the paper being thin and white as usual.
The 10/- had the same pattern. 1937 is black (to my eye, with a hint of slate) and brownish orange, while 1938 is black (with a hint of grey) and paler orange, quite distinctive. 1944 is black and orange, 1949 having a distinctive deep reddish orange frame with black vignette. this is a difficult stamp, being scarce mint and rare used.
The £1 is difficult to identify using colour alone. Mostly you will need to use the characteristics of the individual printings. For what it is worth, the colours are given by Tony Belfield as 1937 - black and dull violet; 1938 - black and reddish violet; 1944 - grey black and bluish violet; 1949 - black and violet.
As a number of people have pointed out to me, dated used examples are not as much use for the purpose of identification of printings as they usually are. It is possible to find stamps dated before they were issued. This suggests that someone was active with backdating handstamps, but not especially knowledgeable about printings. Postmarks of the period are either double- or single-ringed, but the double-ringed canceller was destroyed in a fire at the Post office at Port stanely in 1944. Recently, I have noticed an increasing number of forged postmarks, particularly emanating from the U.S.A. - we illustrate a couple. In adition, there are also the notorious 'Madame Joseph' forgeries, in this case being two Port Stanley double-ringed CDSs of 14th July 1941 and 28th July 1943.
Another stumbling block for the collector is the existence of photographic essays for both the intended set for King Edward VIII, and the King George VI set. These can be confused, unless you have pictures of them to which to refer. As Stefan Heijtz says in his admirable specialised catalogue of Falklands, the majority of these offered on the market are merely photographs of the essays, which (although not wholly without value) are worth very little.
The 1952 set also has some identifiable printings, notably of the high values. For example, there were two printings of the £1, black in 1951, and intense black in 1953. There is still much research to be done on this set. We illustrate a 'T' guidemark, fortuitously resembling a periscope, on the 1d - it seems certain that there are others to be found.
CW S5a R8/5
As regards the commemoratives, the most interesting stamp is the 3d Victory. There are a number of minor instances of doublings to be found, but R8/5 from Plate 1 may be found with and without a large flaw on the crown. The Commonwealth catalogue listed this variety for years as a 'major re-entry to crown', which (as editor) I altered in the last edition to read 'flaw and re-entry to crown'. At first sight, it seems like a major co-incidence that we have a flaw and major re-entry appearing at the same time on the same stamp. No-one has ever reported the flaw or re-entry on its own, although a positional block may be found without either - which is itself a scarce piece. My theory is that the damage to the crown occurred first, possibly due to someone dropping a hard object onto the plate. Normally, the printer would at this stage make a decision either to leave the damaged cliché in place, creating a plate variety; to replace the cliché (difficult and time-consuming); or to attempt to repair the damage on the plate itself. I suggest that an attempt was made to burnish away the damage, and when this proved unsatisfactory, a decision was made to re-enter the area in order to try to limit the visual impact of the damage. Doubling can be seen quite clearly on the King's face, but none on the crown. This is probably because the printer lined up the transfer roller exactly with the crown, but wasn't too worried about the rest of the design. Thus, although the crown has been re-entered, it is a co-incident re-entry and would not normally be detectable in the most-affected area.
The 3d Victory has been reported as existing from Plate 2, but I have never seen one - can anyone substantiate the reports?
Acknowledgements; Stefan Heitz, Specialised Stamp Catalogue of the Falkland Islands and Dependencies, 1995 Tony Belfield, Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group Monograph No. 5, The Stamps of the Pictorial Issue of the Falkland Islands and Dependencies - 1938-51 Correspondence in the Upland Goose, the journal of the Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group Stephen Reah-Johnson Malcolm Barton Horry's 'The Unissued Stamps of KGVI