Leeward Islands King George VI Large Key Type Stamps 1937-1951

The High Value Key Type differed from the General Key Type in that the portion common to all values is the King’s Head, set in an oval and surmounted by a crown, with scrolls and pendent leaves and fruit to give the effect of a shield, while each duty had a separate Frame Plate incorporating the name of the colony, the duty in words and figures and the words ‘Postage & Revenue’. In both plates the ‘set’ was 60, arranged in a single wide pane of five rows of impressions, with twelve impressions to a row.

The High Value Key Plate Type was used to produce the two top denominations, and was also used for the Bermuda 2/- to £1, and the Nyasaland 2/- to £1 stamps. Continuity of certain flaws, shown by Mr. E. H. Folk, indicate that, though at times subjected to repair work, the plate was used throughout the whole life of all of the abovementioned stamps. [Saunders]

Ten Shillings

Original Printing

Requisition 894/1 Dispatched 6 October 1938. 10/- bluish green and deep red/light green. Sheets: Leeward Islands 105; London 60. Comb-perforated 14 on green surfaced paper. All sheets sent to the colony were numbered 1 up. [Yendall]

The original order, Reqn 894/1, included the 10/- value. This was printed from two plates, a frame plate of the type that was adapted from a common design, but separate for each individual denomination, and a Centre Plate which was used for all stamps printed in this design. The setting for this type was 60, arranged in five rows of twelve stamps to a row. In this case, the Frame Plate is the Duty Plate and the Vignette Plate the Key Plate.

Key Plate 1 and the Duty Plate were issued on 3rd October 1938 and after printing, were returned the following day. 160 sheets (9,600 stamps) were ordered and 165 sheets were delivered. 3,600 stamps were allocated to the Bureau and the stamps were despatched to the Leewards on 6th October, remarkably soon after the end of printing only three days before. The paper was green and recorded as being chalk-surfaced, but the surfacing was unevenly done and contained little chalk and does not give the reaction normally experienced with chalk-surfaced papers. The Key Plate was in green, the Duty Plate in a deep dull red. The gum was clear, but with the tendency quickly to turn to a deeper colour, cream or eventually, brown. [Saunders]

1st Reprint

Requisition 960/1 Dispatched 4 March 1942. 10/- pale green and pale red/green. Sheets: Leeward islands 98. Comb-perforated 14 on green ordinary paper (10/-). Printed by Williams Lea & Co. The entire printing was sent to the colony with no allocation for dealers. All sheets were numbered 1 up.

Both colours of the 10/- are guite pale, with little contrast between the head plate impression and the green paper background. This stamp is susceptible to surface-toning. The quality of impression is very poor. It is interesting to note that less than the ordered guantity of 100 was dispatched. Perhaps the generally poor guality, and deterioration of the frame at position 44, may have resulted in a high proportion of rejected sheets. [Yendall]

Towards the end of 1941 a new printing (Reqn 960/1) was ordered. The Key and Duty Plates were issued on 21st January 1942 and were returned the next day, when printing was complete. 100 sheets,(6,000 stamps) were ordered and 98 sheets were delivered. There was no allocation to the Bureau. This time the printing was on a definitely non-chalky paper, but in colour there was little to distinguish it from the original. The total printing seems to have gone out to the colony on 4th March 1942 and any mint copies were probably returned from there, for it is always found with a brown streaky gum. The gum was originally slightly brown, but in the main mint copies are in a gum-deteriorated state. Gibbons gives no help at all in dealing with this issue, not even recording the change to 'substitute' paper. [Saunders]

2nd Reprint

Requisition 976/1 Dispatched 9 December 1943. 10/- green & red/green. Sheets: Leeward islands 166 and 1/3, London 86 and 2/3. Comb-perforated 14. Printed on green ordinary paper, with clear gum. All sheets sent to the colony were numbered 1 up.

The green head impression of the 10/- is lighter and more clearly printed than the first printing of the 10/- which it closely resembles. It also lacks the bluish tinge. [Yendall]

In August 1943 the Crown Agents announced a fresh printing of some values, including 10/-. The Key Plate was issued on 19th or 20th August 1943, the Duty Plate on 20th, but exactly when printing took place is impossible to say, for the Duty Plate was retained until 30th, though the printing was too small to have needed all that time. Reqn. 976/1 called for a printing of 250 sheets, and 253 were delivered.

The Bureau received an allocation of 10,000 stamps, and as consignments from this order went to the colony on 19th August and 9th December, it is obvious that the 10/- value did not go out until the later date. Gibbons only reported (GSM February 1944) that they had received fresh supplies and that the 10/- was on the same paper as before, and that the 'shade' was the same. The London release was in December 1943. Potter, who had described the paper of the first two printings as "light emerald", now changed to "light green", and the "deep" of the red colour description to "dull". Commonwealth gave it catalogue status as CW 12a "green and red / green (sub.) - thus ignoring the earlier printing on non-chalky paper. The surface of this paper feels smoother than that of 1942 and looks lighter. The gum is clear, so the back appears a bright emerald. The green of the Key Plate has a softer appearance. [Saunders]

3rd Reprint

Requisition 984/1 Dispatched 7 June and 12 August 1944. 10/- deep green & vermilion/green. Sheets: Leeward islands 452 and 1/3; London 166 and 2/3. Comb-perforated 14 with clear gum. Printed on green ordinary paper with emerald back, with clear gum. All sheets sent to the colony were numbered 1 up.

The 10/- appears emerald on the reverse, the only 10/- printing with clear gum. [Yendall]

In 1944 it was decided to lay up stocks and on 14th March the Key and 10/- Duty Plates were issued, and printing was carried out that day. Reqn 984/1 called for a printing of 667 sheets (40,020 stamps), 167 of which were intended for the Bureau. Actually oniy 619 sheets were delivered and consignments went to the colony on 7th June and 12th August 1944. The London release took place on 10th May 1944. Gibbons (GSM July 1944) reported that the 10/- was on a paper with a brighter green back and more yellow-green on the front, and that the colours were a brighter red and a yellower shade of green. Commonwealth listed it as CW 12b without altering the colour descriptions, but changing the "green" of the paper to "emerald back". Whereas Gibbons had seen a change in the red, Potter saw the green as 'deeper' and the red as unchanged, and for him the paper was "light green" as in the 1943 stamp, and in both cases he seems to be more reliable than the other authorities.

Apart from an instruction (Reqn 1006/2) in 1945 to send a batch of sheets, 17 in number, of the 10/- stamp from the Bureau, which was carried out on 13th December 1945, that is the end of the story of the 10/- stamp.

Totals: 68,100 consisting of 9,900 chalky paper; 5,880 ordinary paper, brown gum; 15,180 CW 12a ordinary paper; 37,140 CW 12b ordinary paper, emerald back. [Saunders]

One Pound

Original Printing

Requisition 870/1 Dispatched 23 December 1937. £1 reddish purple (shades) & black/crimson-red. Sheets: Leeward Islands 43; London 50.

Comb-perforated 14 on crimson-red chalk-surfaced paper, most often encountered with brownish gum. The UPU received 415 stamps perforated 'Specimen'. A quantity of stamps in the Colony were spoiled by adhesion and 34 sheets were later withdrawn from the Bureau in London and sent to the colony to compensate. Issued simultaneously in London and the Colony on 25 November 1938. All sheets sent to the colony were numbered 1 up. [Yendall]

For some undetermined reason, possibly a threatened shortage of that denomination in the colony, possibly because an early date of issue of the new series was hoped for, but proved impossible to attain, the printing of the £1 stamp took place earlier by about a year, than the rest of the issue. Details from the CA Records are scanty. Apparently only 93 sheets were printed some time after October 1937. Of these, 50 sheets were retained in the Bureau to supply dealers, but on 7th November 1938, i.e. before the date of issue of the set in the colony, 34 of these sheets were withdrawn and sent to the colony. Thus only 16 sheets (960 stamps) of the first printing were issued through the New Issue Services in London. [Saunders]

1st Reprint

Requisition 870/2 Dispatched 2 December 1938. £1 deep red-purple & black/carmine-red. Sheets: London 39.

Comb-perforated 14 on deep brick-red chalk-coated paper. The entire printing was retained in London to replace the stamps previously withdrawn from the Bureau and sent to the colony. Issued in London, along with the original printing of a year earlier, on 25 November 1938. The paper of the first printing is more red than that of this second printing, but the difference is slight. [Yendall]

To replace these sheets withdrawn from the Bureau, a printing of 50 sheets (under Reqn No 870/2) was made. The Key and Duty Plates were issued on 22nd November 1938 and printing took place that day - only three days before the issue of the stamps. The bulk of stamps issued to dealers in London came from this second printing, and has led to much confusion.
Stamps from varying types of paper were distributed by the trade - one was in a shade described as 'crimson', the other on one described as 'brick-red', and some authorities maintain that there are intermediary shades. Both A. W. Morley and F. B. Kettle maintained that no M.C.A. watermarked paper had been made since 1921, that stocks had deteriorated and had been resurfaced by hand, and that this accounted for the variations. Mr. Marcus Faux of the Crown Agents' Office however explained that the coloured papers were issued three reams at a time, and that the paper was then surfaced on an antiquated machine in the De La Rue works, and though generally an effort was made to print from one batch, left-overs from an earlier batch had to be used up first. Potter was informed by the C.A. that the original printing was made on the so-called "crimson" paper, and the second printing on the "brick-red", and eventually Commonwealth Catalogue adopted this ascription. It will be obvious then, that most of the stamps on "crimson" paper will be found in used condition, and that most mint stamps from dealers' first supplies will be on "brick-red" paper and used copies on this paper will be much scarcer as few of this printing went to the colony, except as an 'exchange' in March 1942.

The paper of the £1 stamp was chalk-surfaced and watermarked Multiple Crown & CA. In the original printing the Key Plate was in a deep brownish-purple and the Duty Plate in black. The gum was initially clear, but could soon deteriorate.

In the second printing the Key Plate is in not such a deep purple, and since most mint copies have not been out of this country, the gum is clear. Commonwealth gave this the catalogue number CW 13 ba, but dated it incorrectly. [Saunders]

2nd Reprint

Requisition 960/1 Dispatched 3 February 1942. £1 deep purple & black/carmine-red. Sheets: Leeward islands 100. Comb-perforated 14 on carmine-red chalk-coated paper. Printed by Williams Lea & Co. The entire printing was sent to the colony with no allocation for dealers. All sheets were numbered 1 up. The deep head plate impression on the £1 appears blurred and indistinct. [Yendall]

In late 1941 Reqn 960/1 called for a new printing. The Key and Duty plates were issued on 21st January 1942 and printing was carried out on that day. 100 sheets were ordered and delivered, but there was no allocation to the Bureau and any copies there must have come from exchange with old stock. The printing was despatched to the colony on 4th March 1942. This time the paper was carmine. The Key Plate was in a slightly deeper purple, and the gum is usually brown and streaky and the watermark shows up plainly. Commonwealth gave this the catalogue number CW 13a. [Saunders]

3rd Reprint

Requisition 965/1 Dispatched 14 October and 13 November 1942. £1 purple & black/deep carmine-red. Sheets: Leeward islands 181; London 50. Comb-perforated 14 on deep carmine-red chalk-coated paper. Printed by Williams Lea.

The head plate impression is much lighter and more distinct than on the previous printing. An unusual shade variety exists with the head printed in a deeper less reddish purple which, if it were not for the carmine-red paper, could be a paler variant of the December 1938 printing. [Yendall]

Later that year a further printing was ordered (Reqn 965/1). The Key and Duty Plates were issued on 15th September 1942 and printing took place within the next few days. 250 sheets (15,000 stamps) were ordered, but only 231 sheets were delivered. The Bureau received an allocation of 3,000 stamps, and consignments were sent out to the Leewards on 14th October and 13th November 1942. The London release was made in November. The paper appeared slightly deeper in the carmine range and the Key Plate colour is slightly deeper, but does not stand out as clearly as in earlier printings. Having been issued in this country in the main, the gum of this stamp is usually clear. Commonwealth catalogued it as CW 13aaa. [Saunders]

4th Reprint

Requisition 976/1 Dispatched 9 December 1943. £1 red-purple & deep black/salmon. Sheets: Leeward islands 102; London 100. Comb-perforated 14. Printed on salmon chalk-coated paper, with clear gum. All sheets sent to the colony were numbered 1 up. [Yendall]

In 1943 arrangements were put in hand for larger printings of all values, mainly for stock-piling purposes. The Duty Plate was issued on 19th August and the Key Plate probably the next day. Reqn. 976/1 called for 200 sheets (12,000 stamps) and 202 sheets were delivered.

6,000 stamps were allocated to the Bureau and a consignment went to the colony on 9th December 1943. The London release was on 3rd December. Gibbons (GSM February 1944) referred to the paper as having been surfaced in a lighter shade. On the lighter surface, usually called 'salmon' the centre shows up more clearly, though the purple is not as deep as in the last printing, and the black is more intense. The gum is clear. This was catalogued as CW 13b. [Saunders]

5th Reprint

Requisition 984/1 Dispatched 7 June and 12 August 1944. £1 deeper red-purple & black/salmon. Sheets: Leeward islands 281; London 100. Comb-perforated 14 with clear gum. Printed on salmon chalk-coated paper , with clear gum. All sheets sent to the colony were numbered 1 up.

The £1 is printed on chalk-coated salmon paper as before. It is difficult to distinguish the two salmon paper printings in all cases, but generally the black frame is deeper on the first, while the purple of the head on the second is deeper and more brownish. [Yendall]

Another 'bulk' printing was ordered in 1944. The Key Plate was issued on 14th March 1944 and the Duty Plate the next day. Reqn 984/1 called for 400 sheets to be printed, but only 381 were delivered.

6,000 stamps were allocated to the Bureau. Consignments were sent to the colony on 7th June and 12th August 1944, and the London release anticipated them by being made in May. It is virtually impossible to distinguish this printing from the last. Some see the paper as being a trifle deeper-coloured on the back, though this may be because the gum, though transparent, is slightly tinted.

To some the purple of the Key Plate appears a trifle deeper or less brownish-purple, but it would be a brave - or perhaps a foolish - man, who would claim to be able to tell with any degree of certainty, the one from the other.

In 1945 there was not much printing activity. Towards the end of the year Reqn 1006/2 called for 15 sheets of the £1 value to be withdrawn from the Bureau and sent to the colony. This was done on 13th December 1945.

Nor was there so heavy a demand on the £1 value during the next years, for in 1947 and 1948 four of the islands in the Leewards issued their own £1 stamps, and it was not until 1951 that a further supply of the £1 stamp was deemed necessary.

Up till now the stamps printed from the Large Key Type, the 10/- and the £1 had been perforated by a comb measuring 14 x 13.8. [Saunders]

6th Reprint

Requisition 1265/1 Dispatched 5 November 1951. £1 violet and black/bright red. Sheets: Leeward islands 360; London 157. Comb-perforated 13 (13.25 x 13) and printed on bright red chalk-coated paper with clear gum. All sheets sent to the colony were numbered 1 up.

Examples are known showing little, if any, impression of the violet head plate but these are changelings of no value. One sheet was printed with the frame printed twice, one albino shifted slightly to the left and above the normal. One sheet each exists with the watermark inverted and watermark sideways. [Yendall]

The Duty Plate was issued on 21st September 1951 and the Key Plate on 25th, illustrating that the order of printing of a two-component stamp was generally, but not always, for the frame to be printed first. Reqn 1265/1 called for 400 sheets (24,000 stamps) but in fact 517 sheets were supplied. Of these, an allocation of 9,000 stamps was made to the Bureau, and a further 400 stamps of old stock were exchanged. A consignment was despatched to the colony on 5th November 1951. The London release was not made until 13th December 1951. The paper had reverted to a bright version of that of the second (1938) printing. The Key Plate was now printed in a violet, rather than a purple, and the black appears much duller. The stamp was now comb-perforated by a comb gauging 13.2 x 12.9.

This printing produced two major 'varieties', one sheet being printed with the watermark inverted, which in sheet-feeding can easily occur, but rarely does, and one sheet with the watermark sideways, which can only occur by using a cut-off running in the opposite direction to the normal cutting, which was possibly done to use a section of paper from a damaged, or dirtied sheet. [Saunders]

Totals printed: 94,440 consisting of:

CW    13. 5,580
CW    13ba. 3,000
CW    13a. 6,000
CW    13aaa. 13,860
CW    13b. 34,980
CW    21. 30,900
CW    21a 60
CW    21b 60

During the printing of the Duty Plate two sheets went through the press together, one receiving the normal impression, the lower one receiving an un-inked (albino) impression. The pressure of the press is sufficient to emboss in reverse, the design of the plate. When the sheet is later fed correctly to the press a so-called "double impression" occurs, one albino and one inked. This can be seen most easily in marginal stamps, and particularly when the stamp is held at an angle towards the light.


  1. Leewards Islands. A Study of the Printings of the King George VI Definitives by F.R. Saunders & M.R. Boyle, GEOSIX Study Paper No 10, 1977
  2. The King George VI Large Key Type Revenue and Postage High Value Stamps 1937-1953 by Eric Yendall, RPSL, 2008