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Gibraltar

Gibraltar is one of the great ‘classic’ colonies for collectors, full of fascinating stamps, and Postal History dating back to the seventeenth century. Fortunately we can limit ourselves to the stamps, and the short period 1937-52, or we’d end up writing a book on the subject. In fact, one was indeed recently published (2003), on KG VI stamps, by Edmund Chambers of the Gibraltar Study Circle, and we will look at this in some depth. I originally delayed writing about Gibraltar partly because I wanted to wait until the book had appeared, and partly because I know quite a few people who know vastly more than me about the subject and this makes me nervous!

Over twenty years ago, an American came to our stand at Stampex and asked if we had anything interesting in Gibraltar material. We found a few re-entry pieces for him and got chatting. He said he’d bring a few things in to show me the following day, when he duly returned with a briefcase. He opened it up, and it was full of Gibraltar Die Proofs and the like – a veritable cornucopia. I had not seen that sort of material in that quantity before, for any colony. Paul Kayfetz’s collection was sold by Harmer’s in May 1947 and the catalogue is a marvellous tribute to the collection. It was kind of him to bring such a treasure trove to show to a young stamp dealer.

It is often true that serious collectors, used to nineteenth-century issues and their associated gravitas, aren’t familiar with the finer nuances of issues from a mere 70 years ago. Gibraltar’s 1938 set is straightforward in its listings in SG and Commonwealth, with SG listing only a couple of shades, the ‘Ape on Rock’ and the broken ‘R’ flaws to add to the perforations. However, the pioneering collectors of KG VI back to Kettle and Saunders always took a great interest in the set and found much of note. Richard Lockyer, in Gibbons Stamp Monthly of February 2000, summarised a debate between Kettle and ‘W.E. Fyndem’ in Stamp Collecting Magazine in 1951, Kettle arguing that ‘modern’ flaws were important and Fyndem arguing against. Historically speaking, Kettle won the battle.

De La Rue printed the set, which was current from February 1938 to October 1953. The sheet formats varied, but for most of the horizontal-format stamps it was ten rows of six stamps each. Plates were numbered. Proofs and essays were photographically produced but are very rare indeed; two sets of artist’s drawings are in the Royal Collection. ‘Proof pulls’ from the plates on lined paper can be found, often of the 10/- value frame. First Day Covers are quite readily available, although not often including the top values.

The ½d had six printings. Commonwealth lists two shades, the original deep green, and the olive-green of 1949 (described by Chambers as grey-green). Coils were made from the 1938 and 1942 printings. Apart from these, there are the four different Plate numbers to collect – the sheets being printed in four panes of 60 each, numbered 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D. The 1d also had six printings, as listed by Chambers, but Potter and Shelton list eight. Perforation and watermark differences enable most to be identified with ease. There were coils, which are still readily available. A couple of plate retouches can be found on the 1949 printing. It is worth commenting that the 1d early perforations, as with many of the higher values, are highly catalogued in mint condition. In many cases the stamps are easy to find mounted mint at a low proportion of catalogue, but really nice unmounted examples are much more difficult to come by and command a high percentage of catalogue figures. The early gum ‘puddles’ and can look unattractive.

The 1½d in the original red had just two printings, perf 14 in 1938 and 13½ in 1939. There are numerous re-entries on the former and it is as well that there are multiples of this value around; the perf 13½ stamp is far less easy to study due to the lack of material. The colour-change to violet features a couple of good shades and no less than 28 reentries, divided between the two panes, as identified by Chambers; it is with this value that we begin to see the pattern of re-entering on this set. When the original impression was not quite satisfactory, the printers attempted to strengthen it. A near-miss meant that two lines can be seen, with the aid of a magnifying glass, where one was intended. These are often best seen in the castle at the upper right of the design, where the lines are fine enough that duplication is obvious. Commonwealth lists these for the 6d to 10/- values.

3d kink in frame

The 2d grey exists in three perforations, and with watermark upright and sideways. The 1941 issue, perf 13½ and with watermark sideways, was issued solely in coil format and has always been scarce. Perfect perforations are rare and, indeed, always make me suspicious! Unmounted examples are particularly difficult since the coil-joins (every sixth stamp) meant that two out of every six stamps started life with gum disturbed by the process of manufacture. Commonwealth listed the R1/5 ‘ape on rock’ variety on the first printing a few years ago, and SG followed suit this year. It is undoubtedly very scarce, especially mint. On later printings there are a good number of scratches and other plate blemishes, especially on the 1943 printing. These are relatively easy to find and make a cheap study. The colour-change of 1944 to red provided a couple of shades and numerous plate flaws, as well as a fine offset which appears to have affected just one vertical row of one sheet.


The 3d had three perforations, and in its perf 13 incarnation, excellent shades. The 1942 printing had numerous plate blemishes, and the 1951 greenish blue printing had a large number of reentries and recuts, some of which show the lengths to which the printers were prepared to go to obviate the need to provide new plates. The top frameline particularly merits the enthusiast’s attention. Chambers’ coverage of the 3d value extends to 28 pages (which includes the New Constitution overprint), much of which is taken up by the excellent illustrations of flaws and work on the plates. The 5d value appeared in 1947. It appears to be very difficult to find well-centred, or is this just me? The only re-entries recorded are in the imprint and Plate blocks, from Plate 1A only, which makes life easier.

See Part two for conclusion.