The 1914-38 KGV Heads, Sidefaces or Georges as they are more affectionately known are one of the more studied issues in Australian philately. I know collectors who never got past the shades and varieties on 1d Reds after becoming totally engrossed (obsessed) with them! This potential for complexity also causes many collectors to shy away too. It doesn’t have to be like this though and it is well within the scope, and best interest I might add, for any collector of Australian issues to grasp the George basics at the very least.
Armed with the elementary knowledge this article is intended to provide, you will know more than 95% of collectors and it will place you nicely to identify what many miss out on.
There are 72 Stamps that make up the basic set as laid out on the Seven Seas (SS) album pages. This is a popular way to collect the basic set as watermark and perforation notations, along with illustrations to assist in distinguishing the various Dies are provided on hingeless mount pages. I strongly recommend this approach, particularly if you are new to Georges.
The basic set is made up of four different watermarks, No Watermark issues, two perforation sizes, along with various Dies and overprinted stamps. Of course if you have established a relationship with an association dealer they will be pleased to assist, I’m sure.
Before proceeding with the project here is the information you need to know for the basic identification process.
Single Watermark – Large Crown over A. Identified in Stanley Gibbons catalogue (SG) as W5. If you remember from our kangaroo articles this watermark is generally referred to as the 2nd watermark when discussing Roos. It’s not half hard to see why things get so confused and explains just why SG uses its ‘W’ reference system! It is incorrect to refer to Single watermark Georges as 2nd watermark – Single watermark or W5 is the correct description.
Large Multiple Watermark – Multiple Large Crowns over A. SG ref W6a. The least common of the watermarks and is a series of densely distributed W5’s. The distinguishing factor from W5 is that parts of other crowns will show in addition to the more central image.
Small Multiple Watermark - A series of small crowns interspersed with A’s. SG ref W7
C of A Watermark – A series of small crowns interspersed with the letters CofA. SG ref W15. Often confused with W7, but readily distinguished with moderate experience.
No Watermark – The No Watermark issues are: 1913-14 1d Engraved the 1924 1d Green and 1½d Red.
The four watermarks used in the KGV Heads series. There are also ‘No Watermark’ issues: 1913-14 1d Engraved, the 1924 1d Green and 1½d Red.
The Seven Seas Album pages make reference to two perforation sizes - Perf 14 and Perf 13½ x 12½. This refers to the number of perforations holes per 2 centimetres. Perf 14 refers to this measure along the side of the stamp, the measure along the top of the KGV Perf 14 stamp is actually 14¼. The second perf type is 13½ top and 12½ along the side. It is important to be able to distinguish between the two different Perfs as W7 stamps come in both. All other stamps in the set can be distinguished by watermark alone.
I recommend using a ruler type perforation gauge as illustrated These ruler style gauges are more accurate and versatile than a dot type gauge and you’ll really appreciate the extra few dollars outlaid as you progress in your philatelic persuits.
Once you can identify Perf 14 and Perf 12½ it becomes very easy to sort your W7 watermarks. Select say a Perf 14 stamp and lay it along side another stamp, if the holes line up it also is Perf 14, if the perfs go off (see illustration) you know it’s a Perf 13½ x 12½ stamp. It saves you time by not having to put them all through the Perf gauge – too easy
Ruler style perforation gauge. Stocked by most dealers. Ask for a demo if you’ve not used one before.
Perf 14 – Notice how the side of the stamp measures Perf 14. You can also measure along the top, but remember this will be Perf 14¼.
Perf 13½ x 12½. Notice how the holes line up as these stamps are the same perforation, i.e. 12½ holes per 2 cm.
Perf 14 aside 12½. Notice how the holes line up at the top then go off.
Printing plates are made from a die. Often a new die was produced for the same value which resulted in subtle differences in the final product. Hence the requirement to collect all of the die variations to make up a basic set. The SS album pages provide illustrated comparative examples which makes the identification process much easier for you. BW provides detailed illustrations and educational content should you wish to expand your knowledge base. There is also a vast amount of KGV literature readily available should you decide to become a specialist.
An example of how the SS pages can assist you in identifying the Die. Here the illustration shows the difference between 2d Red Die I & Die II. Note how the 2 is larger on the Die II stamp. The stamps are inserted into the hingeless mounts. A very nice way to compile, house and display your Georges. Courtesy Seven Seas.
Key Stamps, Traps & Opportunities
1913-14 Engraved issue
1d Red Engraved – This stamp is quite different in appearance from all other Georges and strictly speaking should not be grouped in the basic set. Different types of dies and plates were used in its production and the issue is generally studied as a stand alone. However, as it has been included in the SS pages, you need to know a bit about it. The stamp has No Watermark and SS has a mount for it in both Pale Red and Red as part of its basic 72 set. The Pale Red is from the Plate 1 printing and the resultant weak impression left by this plate produced a stamp of pale appearance. See illustration.
KGV 1d Engraved. The Pale Red (left) and the Red. The Pale Red is from Plate 1 and is distinctly paler in appearance.
1d Red Die II – Distinguished from Die I by the spur in the left value tablet. A massive price difference between the two, particularly if you are collecting MUH, MLH or MH. Nice opportunity stamp when you know what to look for.
1d Red Die III – Distinguished most readily by the scratch on the King’s neck and the unnatural looking gum. These were printed on war savings paper and were hand gummed. Often not recognised as Die III and a very nice bonus if you can pay Die I price.
4d Lemon – A trap stamp as often it’s the Orange that has been chemically altered. If you purchase from one of those online bargain auction sites, or a non-professional seller, pay only the Orange price no matter how Lemon it looks. If it’s seems a bargain – it will probably be a Lemon (pardon the pun at the risk of confusion). Better still buy this one from a reputable professional only. If collecting MUH expect to pay $700+ and only purchase with a certificate of authenticity or warranty. MLH, $150.
Large Multiple Wmk
1d Red – Opportunity stamp if you can snare the Cooke printing. You need be an advanced George collector to identify it. It is done through shade detection under UV and by date and slogan cancels on cover or piece. Study your Brusden-White (BW) to get hooked. A nice study stamp.
Small Multiple Wmk – Perf 14
1/4d Blue – Easy to confuse with Perf 13½ x 12½ if you are not familiar with Perf identification techniques. Expect to pay double that of P13½ for MUH. Incredibly difficult to find well centred in very fine grade. Toughest of the basic Georges.
Small Multiple Wmk – Perf 13½
2d Red – Comes in Die I & II. The Die II has much thicker numerals. SS illustrates.
3d Blue – There is Die I & II. Again Die II has much thicker numerals. SS illustrates.
4½d Violet - Also in Die I & Die II. Much thicker 4 on die II. Importantly the Die II stamp was never officially issued and is only available as CTO (market $85). There are however a number of the unissued Die II’s in circulation... A customer of mine found one not recognised by the seller as such and paid Die I price (market $90 MLH). The market for Die II is $10,000+ thank you very much! A definite opportunity stamp. SS and BW in particular illustrate and provide the history surrounding it – burn it into your brain.
As a price guide to compile the basic 72 in MUH condition you could expect to spend $4500+ and MLH slightly less than half that. Moving down the grading scale a little to MH, say $1400. Fine Used $650 and Good Used $300’ish. For premium centring (very difficult) add 50% and even more for the tough ones.
Your KGV education
A sound George knowledge base is a highly valuable asset. By knowing what to look for in plate & watermark varieties, shades, flaws and the like, you could trade that material with a KGV dealer for normals and offset the cost of the more valuable stamps in the set. A very satisfying exercise indeed.
A good starting point is to purchase a copy of Brusden-White, King George V (2007). At around $100 you simply must own it if you wish to put yourself in that position. You can purchase directly from the publisher or your favourite dealer. Surprise, surprise, I have them in my web store too – just though I’d mention that!
In addition to (BW), specialist study books have been published for all of the KGV values. These are incredibly detailed and suitable for the advanced KGV philatelist – got them too!
Love ‘em or loath ‘em the KGV sideface is a big part of the Australian Commonwealth collecting landscape and grasping the basics will be worth your effort. How deep you end up going down George’s Well is dependant upon the passion you develop for the issue along the way. If you get hooked, leave a note, someone may need to contact you one day!
So there we have it, basic Georges – wasn’t so bad really!