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:
- The paper and gum as seen from the back
- The color of the stamp compared to other stamps of the same
- The perforation
- The watermark
- The printer who produced the stamps
- A listing of the actual stamps that were printed. (Like the
one shown above.)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.