A Brief Guide to the GB Edward VII Stamp Issues
The British stamps from the reign of King Edward VII were at first printed exclusively by De La Rue before Harrison and Sons and Somerset House took over at the end of his reign and during the transition period to the stamps of King George V.
Following the trend first established with Queen Victoria's Jubilee issue, many of the stamps issued during the KEVII era are bicolour. Because there were three printers employed each with their own techniques, technology, inks and working processes, the basic nineteen Edward VII stamp values issued in Great Britain now offer a vast array of colour shades, papers and perforations for specialist collectors to focus on.
De La Rue had the exclusive printing contract until 1909 meaning the stamps from other printers didn't come in to use until 1911. The first De La Rue printed stamps were produced on what is now known as "ordinary paper". It wasn't until 1905 that stamps printed on a chalk Surface paper came in to use for some values as a security measure. The aim of chalk surface papers was largely to act as a revenue protection measure as attempts to remove postmarks and enable fraudulent reuse were more likely to damage the printed stamp design.
The Revenue determined that stamp production costs were becoming cheaper and, as a result, De La Rue lost their printing contract in 1909 in favour of Harrison and Sons. Although King Edward VII died in May 1910, his stamps would remain in use for some time until replacement King George 5th stamps were ready.
Harrison began printing the non-bicolour stamps but didn’t possess the required technology to adequately produce the bicolour values. This provided the opportunity for Somerset House to enter the market. The Edward VII stamps were printed up until 1913, some three years after the King's death.
Distinguishing between the different prnters is in many cases fairly simple. For used stamps with a postmark up to and including 1910 then De La Rue is a safe bet. Any Edward VII stamp with 15x14 perforations would have been printed by Harrison and any chalky paper stamp (excluding the 6d value) was printed by De La Rue. Beyond that, philatelists need to acquire a specialist knowledge of the colour shades and print quality differences. Generally speaking De La Rue is recognised as producing better quality printings and Somerset House used a purple ink that was more red than the De La Rue stamps.
To gain a better understanding of King Edward VII stamps, printings and shades it is worth keeping an eye out for specialised catalogues for sale in the online auctions. Old copies can be quite cheap and, although the stamp values information may be outdated, the recognition guidance can be invaluable.
Browse the online auctions for GB King Edward VII Stamps.
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