This article, through the written records and other material in the Crown Agents Philatelic and Security Printing Archive, and the Universal Postal Union Collection, will trace the history of the printings of this stamp over a period of some 17 years.
The Crown Agents written records consist of several types, the Requisition Books, which contain details of the orders and shipments, the Plate Issue Books, which list the issue and return of the printing plates, the Paper Issue Books, which record the issue of security paper to the printers, and the Registers of Dies, Plates etc. Unfortunately there are several gaps in the records, and these are noted where they occur. There are no records for Ascension in the Registers of Dies, Plates etc.
An unusual feature of the Ascension records is that, because it is a dependency of St Helena, its Requisition numbers are included in the series used by that Colony, so Ascension references may be found listed under either territory's name in the indexes to the Crown Agents record books.
The ½d value was issued on the 12 May 1938, and although using a similar design to the King George V pictorial issue of 1934, showing Georgetown from the sea, was printed from new plates. Two plates were used for all the printings, both 60 set, a Border or duty plate No. 1, and a Vignette or key plate, also No. 1.
The records of the ½d value commence with an imperforate proof in the issued colours, marked 'approved for colours' dated 27.10.37, produced by Messrs. Thomas De La Rue & Co, who were responsible for all four printings of this stamp.
First Printing: Requisition 1586/3
This requisition was originally for 7,000 sheets (420,000 stamps), subsequently increased to 8,000 sheets (480,000 stamps). There is no delivery date due recorded. The despatched column indicates that 8,100 sheets were delivered in two instalments on 10.3.38 and 5.5.38. The remarks column records: 'New Issue, G.P.O. specimens and Dealers - ½d - 60,000. Exact quantities to Ascension'. Unfortunately, the Paper Issue Book for this period has been lost, but the Plate Issue Book shows that the Duty Plate was issued on 14.2.38. No date is given for the issue of the Key Plate but both plates were returned on 28.2.38. The specimen column notes 'All, new issue'. The U.P.U. Collection contains one of these specimen stamps perforated in a semi-circular format with the word SPECIMEN.
Second Printing Requisition 2549/1.
This requisition called for 7,000 sheets (420,000 stamps), and was due for delivery on 1.3.44. The record shows that 7,123 sheets (427,380 stamps) were despatched in two shipments on 30.3.44 and 26.5.44, of these 300,000 stamps were allocated to the Bureau. The remarks column indicates that this order was urgently required. The Plate Issue Book shows that the Vignette, or key plate, was issued on 8.2.44 and returned on 10.2.44, and the Border, or Duty plate, was issued on 14.2.44 and returned on 17.2.44. Specimens were taken as follows H.M. (His Majesty the King) 4, D.L.R. (Messrs. De La Rue) 12. The Paper Issue Book records that the paper required for this requisition was 7,000 printed sheets plus 1,053 extra sheets for waste, a total of 8,053 printed sheets. As 4 printed sheets were obtained from each Mill or Issued sheet a total of 2,013¼ Mill sheets were issued on 11.2.44 in papers, or pre-cut format. The paper was described as being large, white, thick.
Third Printing Requisition 3258/2.
The entry for this requisition was for 4,000 sheets (240,000 stamps) later increased to 4,400 sheets (264,000 stamps) due on 16.9.48. A total of 4,303 sheets (258,180 stamps) were despatched on 12.11.48 The remarks column noted that the original Bureau requirements were for 240,000 stamps, subsequently altered to 234,180 stamps. The shipment required 1 Parcel. Unfortunately, the Plate Issue Book contains no details except that specimens were required as follows, H.M.4, D.L.R. 240. The Paper Issue Book shows that 4,400 printed sheets plus 660 extra for waste were required, a total of 5,060 printed sheets. Again, 4 printed sheets were cut from each Mill sheet, of which 1,265 were issued in papers on 6.9.48. This paper stock has the description white, thick, gummed, 22 ¾ ins x 22 1/2 ins. In addition, a separate issue of 4 printed sheets, or 1 Mill sheet in the same size was made on 1.7.48 for ink test purposes.
Fourth Printing: Requisition 4398/1.
This requisition was for 4,400 sheets (264,000 stamps) due on 7.1.53 and despatched by parcel post. The remarks column notes that the Bureau required 240,000, exchange-nil. With the exception of the Bureau Supplies sheets to be numbered 1 up each duty. The Plate Issue Book records that the Border, or duty plate, and the Vignette, or key plate, were both issued on 6.11.52 The dates of return are not recorded but specimens were required as follows, HM 4, D.L.R. 120. The Paper Issue Book shows that 4,400 printed sheets plus 440 extra for waste, a total of 4,840 were required. In the case of this requisition the Mill sheets were smaller than previous issues, and only 2 printed sheets per Mill sheet could be cut. The original order for 1,210 Mill sheets was therefore amended to read 2,420 Mill sheets in papers which were issued on 10.11.52. This paper stock was described as white, thick, gummed, size 22 1/2 ins x 14 1/4 ins.
- R. Vousden, GEOSIX No 177, 1995.