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King George VI  1939 2s 6d brown
Stamp & Coin Mart

King George VI 1939 2s 6d brown

Posted Monday, 2 October 2017   |   304 views   |   Hobbies & Crafts   |   Comments (0) A fact file and condensed history of an affordable classic; and why, as a beginner, you should add at least one example to your stamp collection

The stamp we hope to persuade you to add to your GB Gems Affordable Classic Collection this month is the King George VI brown 2s 6d issued in 1939. It was one of three higher values (2s 6d; 5s 0d; 10s 0d) engraved for recess and printed during the early months of the Second World War by Waterlow & Sons. A colour change to yellow-green for this value was made in March 1942, perhaps necessitated by wartime difficulties with ink supplies.

What’s so special about this stamp?
The 2s 6d went on sale on 3 September 1939, the day after Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain went on BBC radio to tell the British people that we had declared war on Germany. For almost six months prior to the issue date letters had arrived in the post from Germany carrying a stamp that celebrated the Fuhrer’s fiftieth birthday (13 April, 1939) and depicted him in an army greatcoat and peaked cap, with a Nazi flag fluttering from a building in the background. Fortuitously Edward Dulac’s magnificent patriotic design for the GB 2s 6d and 5s 0d provided a bold response to Germany’s belligerence. Britain’s stamp displayed our King’s head above the royal arms with lion and unicorn to left and right, and value figures in the top corners. Philatelic commentators regarded it as probably the finest stamp issued by our country since 1840. A sole and slight disappointment lay in the cost of buying one from a local post office. Few average citizens posting their two ounce letters for the cost of a three-halfpenny stamp would have come face-to-face with Dulac’s stirring halfcrown emblems; the majority of these higher values were probably used on parcels, telegrams, special deliveries, or obscure official correspondence. Thankfully newspapers printed enlarged images of the stamps so that even odd folk who did not collect stamps knew what the new issues looked like, and felt proud that mail carrying the stamps criss-crossed the country at the height of the Blitz.

Why was this set issued in 1939?
These were the first higher values of the reign; and nothing higher than a 2½d had appeared during Edward VIII’s short occupation of the throne. In fact we have to go back to George V and the final year of the First World War for higher value issues. Supplies must have been running low by 1939.

How many varieties are there?
Advanced collectors take a keen interest in minor varieties such as re-entries (additional printing marks on a stamp due to a second pass through the printing process); and tiny flaws, or signs of retouching. Beginners can conveniently leave them all for another day and concentrate on acquiring the best used or mint 2s 6d within their price range. An example of the 1942 yellow-green stamp always looks attractive alongside the 1939 brown. Funds permitting, a set of all six colour and value varieties as seen in one of our illustrations would make a superb display, whether used or mint.

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About Stamp & Coin Mart

Stamp & Coin Mart is the UK's leading Stamp & Coin magazine that offers in-depth collecting articles, price guides, opinion, the latest collecting news and much more with everything you need to build your collection, every month.

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