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Coronation Stamps of King George VI

If, like me, you grew up in Britain and collected stamps the chances are you will have at least started out collecting British stamps which means, and there is no getting away from it, you are collecting the modern history of the British Monarchy. When collecting stamps of Great Britain it is quite easy to acquire the majority of stamps quickly and cheaply but you soon realise it is an exhaustive process and there are some more expensive stamps which can make collecting prohibitive. By the time you realise this you will have probably collected a sizable amount of material from other countries and you then start to specialise. For me one area of specialism started with one moment in time, the stamp commemorating the Coronation of King George VI.

The history behind this coronation is a fascinating time in British History, the date the 12th May 1937 was originally intended as the Coronation of Edward VIII, but he had abdicated in December 1936 and his brother the then Duke of York, ascended to the throne. The coronation event was not cancelled and in true British pomp and ceremony went ahead as planned. This was the biggest event of its kind, the largest radio broadcast, first major televised event, events and parties went on for months. This was not simply the crowning of a King and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, but also the Dominions of the British Commonwealth and as Emperor and Empress of India. This was Britain in its full pageantry and at its imperial height.

In the stamp world the event in the UK was commemorated with just one stamp. The Post Office had planned to issue three special commemorative stamps to mark the coronation and invited Eric Gill to submit designs, another artist Edmund Dulac also submitted plans. The King accepted Dulac’s and they were printed in brown with a hint of purple the day after the coronation. The stamp, by featuring Queen Elizabeth, is also the first British stamp to feature another living person other than the Monarch. Dulac would go on to design other stamps including the 1s 3d stamp commemorating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II issued on the 3 June 1953 but he died before it was issued on the 25th May 1953.

The UK stamp was also used for the Morocco Agencies. These were post offices in Morocco which were administered by Gibralter. The stamps were overprinted with “TANGIER” or “MOROCCO AGENCIES”, the latter reflected whether it was for use in the French or Spanish Zone by using “15 CENTIMES” or 15 CENTIMOS” in the overprint.

The abdication and decision to go ahead with the coronation on the 12 May 1937 not only caught out the UK but also Australia and Canada. Canada, like the UK, produced one stamp but made up for it with a delightful set issued in 1939 to commemorate a royal visit. Australia missed the issue altogether and produced a set of definitives in 1937 and 1938 interspersed with a Kangaroo, Merino Ram, Kookaburra, Lyre Bird and a Duck-billed platypus!?. One story, and I do not know of its validity, suggests they did not have an appropriate photograph of the Duke of York and were going to graft his head to another picture of him in a uniform, the palace official, much to his amusement, said no and later provided more appropriate material.

The entire set consists of 202 stamps across 57 authorities, the majority of the countries, 48, issued the same stamp as a set of three with their country name and currency. The portraits in reverse position to the UK and Canada and again with heads uncrowned, surrounded by the symbols of sovereignty the crown, orb, sceptre and sword of state.

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Newfoundland which had already issued the three as others had done also issued a further eleven stamps as an extended issue. New Zealand issued a set of three which was similar to the others but used a different picture and arrangement, these stamps were then used and overprinted by the Cook Islands and Niue.

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I originally had a problem arriving at the number 202, what eluded me for so long was issues of Nauru, New Guinea, Papua and Southern Rhodesia which all issued four stamps of various pictures and sizes and also the issue of South Africa and South West Africa which issued five and eight respectively. The latter two also issued the stamps bilingually and should be counted twice.

I have made a full list below and a quick guide which can be downloaded by clicking here:

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