Newfoundland didn’t produce that many stamps during George VI’s reign, but sometimes it seems like it did. It’s very easy to put together a one-of-each collection, which is what the vast majority of collectors do, but very difficult to build a comprehensive collection. As a dealer, I get occasional passing ‘snapshots’ of Newfoundland philately in the form of maybe a collection with a number of the imperforate or imperforate-between pairs, but I am very fortunate in knowing several collectors whose knowledge of Newfoundland philately during the period is extensive. One, who was kind enough to check the draft for the Commonwealth King George VI catalogue 18th edition, I have ‘met’ only via E-mail, but has been extremely helpful.
If you are looking for a country in which to specialise, then Newfoundland is in many ways not an obvious choice. Firstly, a comprehensive collection would be expensive. There are double prints (some “once albino” and some not), plate proofs, pairs with-and-without watermark, imperforate pairs, imperforate-between pairs, full offsets, inverted watermarks, thin papers, different Dies and some rare perforations. Secondly, sorting out (for example) the ‘long’ Coronation set is a fiddly business. I should know – having once sorted out a large chunk of the late Barney Kleinberg’s stock of the issue! Not just the Coronations; the 1941-9 set has to be identified by perforation. Thirdly, there is not much obvious appeal to the designs, but they have grown on me over the years.
Let’s assume, then, that you haven’t got pots of money, but Newfoundland still tempts you. We will indulge in a quick survey of what there is to look for, starting with the definitives. Four values with Royal portraits appeared in 1938 and have their full share of complications; for example, the 3ct exists in pairs with-and-without watermark, in imperforate pairs, imperforate between stamp and margin, in vertical pairs imperforate horizontally and with a fine plate flaw on the ‘A’ of ‘LAND’ (R5/9). It also exists line perf 14, as opposed to the normal 13.5 comb – this is difficult enough mint, but is a desperately scarce stamp in used condition. All this you can glean from the standard catalogues. I have in front of me photocopies of an exhibited collection, and in addition to the above, it contains; four different progressive Die Proofs, a trial colour plate proof pair on ordinary paper, three pairs of plate proofs on different types of banknote paper, a corner strip of four with manuscript notation ‘Last Pull after 8,000 impressions 21/4/38’, two colour trials, and a marginal pair with the right stamp completely imperforate. Wow. I’m going to gloss over the imperforates, watermark/no watermarks and imperforate betweens, since all this information is readily available.
There is some doubt about who printed the 5ct Caribou Die 1, perf 13.5, which appeared in a larger size in about 1941. There were two Dies, 1 having both antlers the same height, and 2 with the right antler taller than the left. The scarce KG VI stamp (SG 280, CW 5A) is a repeat of the Die 1, except that it measures 21mm wide against the earlier 20.4mm. Peter de Groot theorises that it may have been a Waterlow production. Another latecomer from the earlier pictorial set is the 48ct perf 13.5, which appeared in 1938, and has a space in the printed KG VI album. It’s rarely easy to find, especially used.
The 1941-9 set is cheap, but rarely easy to find. Some values in fine used condition, e.g. the 7ct and 24ct, are almost never seen outside sets. I get the feeling that there is an awful lot of research still to be done, despite the a pamphlet entitled ‘The Last Stamps of Newfoundland’, published by Robson Lowe Ltd in 1978, written by John Ayshford and edited by Mike Brachi. However, this is a study of the official file sheets of the issue, highlighting the corrections to be made to the plates and giving details of printing quantities. It’s not hard to find imperforate plate proof pairs. (These have no gum, as opposed to the imperforate issued stamps, which are gummed.) They can be found with or without security punches, and these punches can be large or small. Often the action of the security punches meant that the paper creased during the process, and such pairs can be very reasonably priced. It is noticeable that there are different perforations to be found, for example the 1ct can be 12.5 all round or 12.5 x 12.8. I am prepared to bet that there are a lot more plate flaws to be found other than those listed by Ayshford; most of these would have been successfully corrected, but others are bound to have developed during the course of printing. The photocopied collection I have with me (it’s not in colour) shows a 2ct marked as being an ‘apple-green’ error of colour, as opposed to the normal green, and remarks that the printing is ‘very unclear’. This sounds to me like a typical Newfoundland occurrence of a double print, one impression albino. What happens is that the uninked plate comes down onto the sheet, quite possibly to test how the plate and sheet will come together for printing. This uninked impression does not print, obviously, but what it does do is break the fibres on the surface of the paper. As far as the printer is concerned, there is no need to discard this sheet since it shows no printing; the plate is then inked, and normal printing commences. However, the impression on this first sheet will be notably different from the rest. Because the ink is coming into contact with the broken fibres, it spreads much more than usual, and typically this provides a much brighter, blurred impression. So this 2ct sounds to me like a double print, once albino. (This is the only explanation I have come across for these peculiarities. Similar instances may be found elsewhere, for example with the New Zealand Peace issue. It would also explain why they may be found on quite a large number of stamps, but in very small numbers for each, since only one sheet would presumably have existed for each print run of each value and no survival rate was guaranteed. Alternative theories are very welcome.) We will just leave the issue by mentioning that there are numerous shades, of the 4ct and 24ct in particular. The 24ct is normally in deep blue, but may be found in a much less deep shade on very thin paper.
There were three further definitive issues, each of one stamp. 1943 saw a 30ct stamp showing the Memorial University College, which (like many of the one-value commemorative sets of Newfoundland) is not over-plentiful. About the only things to look for here are gutter pairs, since the stamp was printed in two panes, each 10 x 10. In 1946 this stamp was surcharged ‘TWO CENTS’. There are numerous varieties of the overprint and this would make a cheap and cheerful study. Scott’s Specialised Canadian Catalogue (I have to confess that the edition I am referring to is 1991!) lists one of these varieties as 268i, ‘spacing variety in pair’. I have no idea what they are talking about. No further description is given – spacing variety between what? – and no sheet position is given either. And our American cousins sometimes wonder why some British dealers and collectors find Scott frustrating! The final issue, in 1947, showed Princess Elizabeth, the last in the series of Royal Portrait stamps, which had begun as far back as 1865.
There was an airmail 7ct issued in 1943, which was altogether unexciting. On to the commemoratives; firstly the ‘short’ or ‘omnibus’ Coronation set of 3, which is quite straightforward, but then back to a really complex issue with the ‘long’ Coronation set. I am always amazed by the number of different states of the Die Proofs that exist – I have photocopies from another collection which show 10 of the 1ct alone. Then there are plate proofs in issued colours, and also in black. The 1ct black proofs are on ‘bookend’ paper, which is quite thick, and the other values are on ordinary stamp paper. There is a wide range of imperforates and with-and-without watermarks to collect, and a number of plate varieties which we will go into shortly. However, we will consider perforations next. For many years Commonwealth has listed the three types; 14.25 line, 13.75 line and 13.25 comb. Some years ago Stanley Gibbons chose to split their listing of the line perfs. Now, the comb perfs are reasonably easy to split by eye. In a block there is rarely a problem because the central perforations will always be even with the comb perfs, but the line perfs meet randomly at the central intersection. Hence they may occasionally coincide and resemble comb perfs. With singles, the bottom corners on line perfs are always uneven, but the comb perfs always even (for some reason, the top corners vary). Normally, when I am perf’ing large quantities of an issue, I can tell with time which perforation a stamp is likely to be. The line perfs of this issue are an exception and I must get it wrong 90% of the time! The thicker the points of perforations, the lower the gauge, is a general rule which holds good. However, these stamps are the exception which inevitably crops up. I suspect, and have not done any observations to prove it, that there were two different machines producing the perf 14.25 stamps, one giving extremely fine perforation tips and one much coarser. Hence I find it necessary to measure every single stamp.
There are lots of good shades of the issue, the 25ct being the only one which makes it into Commonwealth, in slate and bluish slate. The 7ct, for example, has blue and dark blue, but these are rather inconsistent. Among the ‘basic’ perfs, there is one great rarity, the 14ct comb perf which is apparently known in just one example. The 7ct is also very scarce either mint or used, and some of the other comb perfs (e.g. the 25ct and 48ct) are very difficult used. The 3ct exists in two different Dies, sometimes called ‘fine’ and ‘coarse’ – not a bad means of differentiation, but I always look at the nose. Die 1 has no shading to speak of, while Die 2 has prominent shading. The 3ct is a surprisingly difficult stamp to complete (remember, you need two Dies of each of three different perforations!) either mint or used. It will probably come as no surprise to learn that there are unrecorded varieties of perforation, e.g. the 1ct and 7ct each perf 14.1 x 13.7, the latter having been discovered by Dr Bill Barker and reported in Geosix in March 1994. An example of this 7ct fetched an astonishing $22,000 ($25,300 with buyers’ premium) at a Victoria Stamp Company auction in June 2006.
My recent tour through an unchecked stock produced a few plate varieties which have not, to the best of my knowledge, been recorded before. We are very short of positions for these and any observations would be welcome. On the 3ct we found a nice scratch from ‘CORNER’ on the 3rd row (position not known). Other items to crop up included two 7cts, one in a block and one in a single, showing a constant scratch on the King’s left shoulder. Also on the 7ct, there was a nice flaw to the right of the second tree from the left. Still on the 7ct, Richard Lockyer describes a recut frame over ‘AN’ on R3/2 for which I found a promising candidate. I wouldn’t normally mention this but then found an even more promising candidate for the reason behind the recutting – what do you think?
In general, many positions seem to have had one or more framelines completely, or partially, recut. The 1ct has strong guidemarks in the fish’s mouth on R1/7 and 3/3, the latter being more complete. R2/1 has a decent re-entry to the right frames and R5/6 has had the top left corners rather crudely recut. The 3ct has various recuts and frame re-entries, and the ‘cigar stub’ variety on R1/9 from Die 1 – I do not recall having seen this, but it is listed by Scott. (I note that Richard Lockyer didn’t mention it either, so he probably had not seen one when he wrote his article on the issue in 1993.) I was very struck by a piece of the comb perf Die two stamp, consisting of the bottom half of the sheet. Looking at the stamps at arms’-length, it is obvious that some impressions are much darker than others within portions of the design, and that a good deal of reworking has been done. I can find no record of this being mentioned previously.
The 7ct has several minor re-entries, notably R3/3, and one major one on R4/8. They each consist of doubling of the medallion at right (and other parts) but R4/8 is far more extensive. Similarly, the 14ct has re-entries affecting the inscription “NEWFOUNDLAND DOG’ and the date on R2/10, 3/10, 4/10 and 5/10. The 20ct has an ‘extra smokestack’ on R6/5, also called the ‘smoking chimney’. There are other re-entries to be found, and I am certain that there are far more plate varieties to be found than have been recorded hitherto. The problem is finding positional pieces to study.
The remainder of the commemorative stamps are relatively straightforward. There was a Royal Visit in 1939, for which a 5ct stamp was issued; it is known printed in aniline ink. This stamp was subsequently surcharged to give 2ct and 4ct stamps. There are varieties of the overprint, the best being on the 4ct, a badly broken ‘S’ which produces an overprint resembling ‘CENTL’ instead of ‘CENTS’. Both the 1941 Sir Wilfred Grenfell and the 1947 5ct Cabot had varieties of omission of perforation, the Cabot also existing in aniline ink, possibly a colour trial.
The Postage Dues have several rare items among them. The 10ct perf 11 is the only watermarked stamp among them, and there were three sheets of this imperforate between the first and second rows. So there are 30 pairs. On the third and eighth stamps in the third row, there is a plate variety obscuring part of the ‘D’ of ‘DUE’, so that it appears to read ‘LUE’. So six vertical strips of three should exist with the top pair imperforate between, and the bottom stamp with the ‘LUE’ variety! On R10/1 of the same stamp there is a full stop after ‘DUE’, and R1/1 has a broken ‘S’ in ‘CENTS’. The other Dues are reported to exist with a wide range of perforations, other than the listed perf 10 x 10.25, 11 x 9, 11, and 9. The 3ct is the only value to exist perf 9, and is very rare. None of the Dues are easy used, and I have seen many dubious postmarks, so take great care when buying.
I have many people to thank and sources to acknowledge, more than can be mentioned here; Stanley Gibbons, British Commonwealth catalogue Part 1 (2007) Murray Payne Ltd, Commonwealth King George VI catalogue, 18th edition Richard Lockyer, article in Gibbons Stamp Monthly, August 1993 Graham Cooper, Judith Edwards, Peter de Groot and Tom Gosse