Identifying King George VI Stamps
Turks & Caicos Islands

The Turks & Caicos Islands King George VI set was printed by Waterlow from 1938 through 1945. Most of the issues were printed multiple times. Each of these printings has visible traits that may help you identify your stamps. This article attempts describe these characteristics for King George VI collectors.

In an article published in George VI (Fall, 2001) several sources of raw data for this issue were compared to determine the actual printings for the Colony. The table included information from these sources:

1. "The Printings of King George VI Colonial Stamps" by W.J.W. Potter in collaboration with Lt. Col. R.C.M. Shelton.

2. The Crown Agents report of printings, as compiled by David Studd. (link to David's .King George VI Philatelic Resource Site)

3. The three catalogs that describe the stamps, including their current numbers for the stamps they describe.

The goal of this article is to show the actual printings that were produced for the Colony, and attempt to help the average collector identify some of the printings. The printings as we know them are shown below:

Turks & Caicos Islands King George VI Stamps


Catalog Numbers

Value Print Date Color - per Potter & Shelton

CW #

SG #

Scott #
  Quantity Printed
May-38 Black





1942 Greyer Black  


1942 Unlisted  


1945 Deep Black  


May-38 Yellow Green





1942 Green  


1945 Blue-Green




May-38 Red-Brown





1942 Pale Brown  


1945 Deep Chocolate  


1945 Chocolate



1945 Unlisted  


May-38 Scarlet





1945 Deep Bright Scarlet  


1945 Carmine-Red



May-38 Slate





1945 Grey



May-38 Orange





1945 Bright Orange




May-38 Bright Blue





1945 Bright Ultramarine



May-38 Bright Mauve





1945 Brown Sepia





May-38 Bistre





1945 Olive-Green





1945 Light Olive-Green  


May-38 Carmine





1945 Rose-Carmine




May-38 Green





1945 Deep Blue-Green




May-38 Bright Violet





1945 Violet



Potter & Shelton's view of the Turks & Caicos issues included three primary printings:

1. The original 1938 issue. I assume this is the one described by the Catalogs when there is only one printing listed.

2. The 1941 "Colonial Release" which the Crown Agents report indicates was not a new printing. These probably looked different because they were issued in the Colony and may have become tropicalized by the island humidity and temperature. (These are not shown in the table above.)

3. The 1945 reissue of the values from 1/4d to 10/.

In addition to these elements, there are a few odd values that fall outside of this area. These include additional printings of the 1/4d, 1/2d, 1d, 1-1/2d and 1/ values.

I believe there are similarities in the paper and gum between stamps printed at the same relative time. The 1938 issues, and the 1944 printings can usually be identified based on the color differences and the variation in the paper and gum. The remaining printings may not be easily identified. They will tend to be on paper that is similar to the 1944 printing since they were issued during the war period.

Before you try to actually sort stamps, let me tell you how I attempt to make my decisions (guesses if the truth be told). I look at a few characteristics when sorting stamps for the assumed printing. These include:

For the record, I use artificial lighting (actually twin spotlights with 60 watt soft white bulbs just over my desk). The stamps are compared against black and white paper to help show the contrast. I also try to accumulate a good number of stamps in the hope that by looking at a number of similar items, the contrast from the various printings will be more easily visible.

I will admit that my lights do not show true color, but they do show relative color of one stamp compared to another. I have also purchased an Ott light, and it does an excellent job of showing actual colors. If you are only comparing colors and using a color reference the Ott light might be a better alternative. I tend to use the spot lights to compare the paper and gum (as seen from the back of the stamp). The Ott light is used to determine actual color.

In some cases I have had over 100 stamps of one value to compare. It is amazing how easy it is to see the differences when you look at a large number of stamps compared to looking at a sample of two. That was when these issues were easily accumulated. This is no longer practical due to the extreme interest in the King George VI stamps and shortages which now exist. But I began accumulating KGVI Stamps 20 years ago so it was a lot easier to accumulate unsorted mixtures in those days.

King George VI issues in general tend to have the same watermark: Multiple Crown Script CA (MSCA). This was also used for the later issues of King George V. There is considerable variation in the perforation of some issues, but this depends on the printer - in particular De La Rue who had considerable problems when their facilities were bombed during World War II. So unless there is a noted perforation difference, these factors do not help much with identification of a printing.

The paper seems different for some issues based on the time period when it was printed. This seems to have been caused by material shortages during the War. Generally speaking there appear to be similarities for stamps printed during these relative time periods:

1. 1938-1940 - thicker appearing paper, yellowish gum
2. 1941-1945 - thinner appearing paper, off-white gum
3. 1946-1948 - slightly thicker than the war era, off-white gum
4. 1949-1952 - medium appearing paper, whiter gum

(Note - The appearance is subtle and is best seen against black paper.)

There are also color differences which occur within printings and from one printing to the next one. This was before the days of computer matching, and just like the paper and gum, there were shortages of some materials that are used to make the various colors. You should expect to see color differences within a printing, and from one printing to another.

In my opinion, the paper, gum and color criteria have tended to be the most useful in identifying King George VI stamps (assuming the perforations are not different.). The problem with identification is deciding when these differences are from printing conditions, or from storage and humidity. It becomes an art more than a science.

Now that you have some idea of the general characteristics I study, let's talk more specifically about the issues of Turks & Caicos Islands.

The stamps were produced by Waterlow and Sons. Waterlow printed the stamps of a number of Colonies including: Antigua, Basutoland, British Guiana, Dominica, Grenada (low values), Malta, St. Helena, and others. The Waterlow produced stamps tend to be fairly consistent in terms of the perforation (12.5 Line Perf) and in terms of color. You will not see the wide variation that is found in some of the De La Rue printings like the Bermuda Key Plates for instance.

There does seem to be a similarity between Waterlow stamps printed at about the same time, and it does seem to conform to the time periods listed above. So, to make things simple, you should look closely at the paper and gum in sorting the stamps of the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Luckily there are only two primary printings: 1938 and 1945.

The hard part is to find a stamp that can be linked to one or the other era. A good one to look for is the 1/2d. There is a noticeable color difference between the printings. The 1938 issue is Yellow-Green compared to the more true Green color of the 1942 printing or the Blue-Green of the 1945 printing. The Yellow-Green trait can be found on many of the other Waterlow 1/2d issues of 1938 (specifically British Guiana and Grenada come to mind as listed catalog varieties). Try comparing the colors against both black and white paper. It will help the color differences to be seen.

In addition to the Yellow-Green color of the earlier printing, the paper should appear thicker than the later printing. This is not a scientific measured thickness, but rather an observation. I use black paper and observe the stamps with the face down. The "thickness'" observation is based on the relative intensity of the black from the paper showing through the stamp. (Some would correctly call this opacity.) The early printing stamps tend not to be affected by the black background (in other words, it does not show through as well). The "thin paper" war printings (like the 1944 issue) will show some of the black background. You will notice how much more visible the watermark appears. I consider this a prime trait of the thin paper war printings.

Larry Goldberg and I tried scientifically measuring the thickness of different printings one time, and came to the conclusion that the actual measured thickness was not a factor. It is the perceived thickness (or opacity) that is really being tested.

By the way, if the 1/2d test was too hard, just look at the color changes for the 6d issue. It was printed twice, once in each color. The 1938 issue is Mauve and the 1944 issue is Sepia. Even a color blind collector should be able to sort those stamps. You will notice a wide range of color shades for the 6d mauve, which demonstrates the problem of just trying to sort stamps based solely on color differences.

Assuming you can notice the differences in the stamps based on this information, try sorting the other issues. I have found the colors used by Potter & Shelton seem to be helpful. (Remember - you cannot sort these stamps with two copies.)

The remaining values outside of the 1938 and 1945 printings are a lot more difficult. I relied on the paper comparison and then compared the colors mentioned by Potter & Shelton. You should expect to find the thinner paper with off-white gum. I did find variations in the color to match the ones listed. Try using the Gibbons color system, but instead of holding it against the stamp, use it to determine the relative difference between brown and chocolate for example.

Okay, so what do the unlisted issues look like? According to the Print Records of the Crown Agents, there are two printings that Potter & Shelton did not record. (This is in addition to the ones that they recorded that were note printed.) These are the 1/4d 1942 issue, and the 1d 1945 issue. Based on my observations, I cannot identify either one.

It is obvious that the 1/4d is the most common one, so statistically speaking it is the one you probably have. (It makes up 52% of the total number of 1/4d stamps issued.) Based on this, and considering that I have quite a few of what I feel are the 1942 1/4d printing, it appears to look very much like the other printing (assuming I have one of those in my pool of stamps.)

The 1d should show up in about 1 in five stamps if you have an accumulation. Based on the stamps I sorted, I can not find anything that looks significantly different from the two listed printings. So I have to assume that it looks fairly close to one or the other. This would make it a chocolate or a deep chocolate color.

Just like most subjective things, there is no way to say which color is a printing and which is based on too much sunlight. All I can suggest is find your most likely candidate for each version and when you find some more copies compare them again. Eventually you may find the right one.

No one will ever know if my observations are correct, or just too much imagination. But that is the fun in collecting these stamps. If they were dated, we would probably not even notice them.

Ironically, after doing this, I compared my stamps to the revised list, and I have to say that I have many more shades than are shown on the report. This is probably due to the variation within printings as we saw on the 6d mauve issue.

I hope this will be helpful. Please feel free to write - use the email link shown below. As always, any additional information would be apprecated.

Comments or Questions feel free to write

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