Notes; 1937 £1 is the only printing which should have brownish/streaky gum 1937-46 printings perf 13.9 x 13.8, 1951-2 13.2 x 13; no line-perforated printing
I think that the £1 is by some way the easiest value of the series to separate into printings. Perhaps I should have started with it! There are a couple of ‘problem’ stamps, which don’t affect the majority of printings, but we will get on to these in due course. You can see, if you compare these quantities with the 12/6ds, that the revenue use of £1 stamps was very small indeed in comparison. The Crown Agents absorbed roughly similar quantities of both values, but the colony used vastly more 12/6ds.
November 1937 Printing
The November 1937 printing is on distinctively-coloured paper. Dickgiesser and Yendall describe it as red, Dickgiesser in his 1994 ‘Printings Classification’ chart as ‘pinkish red’. It’s not actually too different from the colour of the headplate, so it doesn’t show up too well, but the head is clearly printed and its lines are clean and clearly defined. Considering the small printing figure, the stamp is available quite readily in hinged condition, but unmounted stamps are hard to come by, especially in multiples. A nice piece to own would be the top left corner block with the plate number! Nice used examples are hard to find, too, since the colour has a tendency to wash. There is an aberrant shade apparently from this printing, described as ‘pale violet and deep black on bright crimson paper’ (formerly listed by Commonwealth). It is distinctive, and I have seen several examples now, but somehow I still fail to be convinced that it warrants anything other than a mention.
July 1941 Printing
The July 1941 printing is the first of four on salmon-coloured paper. It is more difficult than the later printings to locate in mint condition, since, as the table shows, the whole printing went to the colony. It is the only one to have a pale head. The frame is dull, but is distinctive in that many stamps from this printing have ‘spotty’ frames (look at the areas of solid colour with a magnifying glass and you will see that they are not as solid as they look!)
March 1943 Printing
The March 1943 £1 was released in London only, so is relatively easy to find mint. The impression of the head is often blurred; it’s deeper than the 1941 printing. The frame is similar to 1941, dull black but not spotty. June 1945 has, by contrast, a very deep intense black frame. The head is similar to 1943. 1946 is also quite easy to distinguish in that the head colour has quite a strong hint of blue; the frame reverts to the normal ‘black’.
With the perf 13 £1s, the paper colour is bright red. I’m not sure it is possible to separate the first two printings with complete reliability except by proving which one a given stamp must come from by flaw states. It is worth quoting Bob Dickgiesser; ‘November 1951 shades overlap those of the April 1952 printing. Although paler shades have long been attributed to November 1951, sufficient evidence indicates this to be a tenuous allocation. Flaws or other criteria should be used for positive identification.’ The headplate colour is, of course, fugitive, and this affects the appearance in many cases. Nonetheless, given the lack of other distinguishing characteristics, headplate shade may be used as a guide.
October 1952 Printing
The October 1952 shade is another one of those stamps which is not only controversial, but also almost always misidentified by dealers and auction houses (the expression ‘bank error not in your favour’ comes to mind). The headplate colour is again the key; in this case, bright, deep and vivid violet. In natural daylight true examples of this shade are almost fluorescent, and I find them uncomfortable to look at - which is the ‘test’ I use myself. The headplate is more heavily inked than the two earlier perf 13 £1s.
Apart from the flaws listed by the Gibbons and Commonwealth KG VI catalogues, there are many,many other flaws in the series. Many collectors expect any stamp with a plate variety to be expensive. While this is usually the case, it need not be so with the headplate flaws on the Bermuda keytypes. One reason for this is that, by the time one arrives at the last printing of the £1 described above, there are not many positions without flaws! Except where the flaw is short-lived, or important in identifying a printing, or is very large, you should expect to pay little or no premium. Spotting them yourself is, of course, cheaper; but in order to do this you need time and plenty of stamps to look at. Dickgiesser & Yendall’s ‘Green Book’ is invaluable, but is now becoming difficult to find.
A really difficult long-term project would be to try to find a fine used example of each printing, with true colour. Prices tend to be more affordable than for mint, but the problem is that is possible to spend ‘real’ money on used keytypes and end up with a selection of stamps which have defects in terms of colour. Caveat emptor, and don’t forget that a general stamp dealer is probably pretty much at a loss when it comes to keyplates! Those whose interest in Bermuda has been awakened or re-awakened by these articles can contact us for details of the Bermuda collectors society.
Acknowledgements; these apply to all the articles in this series on Bermuda -Dickgiesser & Yendall, King George VI Large Key Type Stamps of Bermuda, Leeward Islands and Nyasaland. Triad Press, 1985.Commonwealth KG VI catalogue, 2000 (18th Edition).Stanley Gibbons 2001 catalogue ‘Part 1’. Bermuda Post, the organ of the Bermuda Collectors’ Society. Many, many collectors; especially David Springbett, , Wilson Wong, Denis Littlewort, John Swain, Art Hamm and Stephen Reah Johnson, the late Stuart Stokes, Stewart Jessop, Reid Shaw and Harry Whitin.
Published in Sixth Sense No.33