King George V Centenary of Stamps 1914–2014

Release date: 17 June 2014

A century ago, Australia’s stamp designs were “hot” political topics. Labor Postmaster-General, Charles Frazer developed the Kangaroo and Map design as “an effective advertisement” for Australia. A few months later, his successor as Postmaster-General, the Liberal’s Agar Wynne, made plans to scrap the kangaroo in favour of stamps featuring the monarch, King George V.

Together with the King’s profile, the new stamp design also featured a kangaroo, emu, sprig of wattle and the crown. Addressing a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League in Melbourne, Agar Wynne was quoted in the press as saying the design “would make a very good stamp, being emblematic of Australia, and also of our loyalty to the empire”.

Following earlier advice received from the British government about the depiction of the king on stamps, the Australian stamp would feature the same royal profile as depicted on Great Britain’s stamps.

The George V stamp was a 1d denomination for basic letter postage within Australia and to British Empire countries. With a view to making the stamp look impressive it was decided to use intaglio. The initial quantity printed comprised only 1.2 million stamps, and when the stamp was first issued on 9 December 1913, a limit of six had to be imposed on any single purchase. A further supply of 1.1 million 1d stamps was released in March 1914, without a sales limit.

The limitations of intaglio printing meant that the letterpress method would be required to produce a permanent 1d George V stamp, as well as for other frequently-used denominations. As the Stamp Printing Office in Melbourne had no suitable engraver to cut a letterpress die, an order was placed with London stamp printers, Perkins, Bacon & Co. The firm sub-contracted the actual engraving of the die to De La Rue, who was more experienced in letterpress stamp production.

Following completion of the stamp die, Perkins Bacon made four steel printing plates of the 1d stamp, and five non-denominated George V stamp dies, intended for later use when new denominations might be required. The dies and plates were shipped in May 1914, reaching Melbourne about six weeks later. The consignment included a supply of watermarked paper specially manufactured for the George V stamp. Being wider than the Kangaroo and Map, the George V stamp required the “Crown & A” watermark motif to be in a different configuration across the sheet.

The first release of the 1d letterpress George V stamp occurred at the Sydney and Melbourne general post offices on 17 July 1914. Production of the 1d Kangaroo and Map stamp now ceased. Agar Wynne had issued a King’s head stamp for 1d basic letter postage. The former Postmaster-General, Charles Frazer, did not live to see this threat to his beloved Kangaroo and Map stamps. He died of pneumonia on 25 November 1913, aged 33.

Using the blank denomination dies, the Stamp Printing Office made printing plates for three new George V stamps of ½d, 4d and 5d denominations, issued at intervals during 1915. This was the extent of substitution of George V for Kangaroo and Map stamps during the course of World War I. The war had a considerable impact on stamp production. The supply of ink pigments from Germany was cut off and the substituted pigments were usually inferior. Consistency of colours could not be maintained and, in particular, the 1d George V stamp appeared in a striking range of red shades.

More far-reaching changes to George V stamps occurred as a result of adjustments to postal rates. A total of five postal rates changes occurred between 1918 and 1930. Each rates change required new stamp denominations to be issued and old denominations to be withdrawn. Other alterations were required by a rule of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). This specified the colours of three stamps representing basic international postage for printed matter (green), postcards (red) and letters (blue). Following each change to Australia’s international postal rates, the UPU rule meant that new denominations were printed in green, red and blue. The replaced denominations were changed to different colours to avoid confusion.

On 20 January 1936, King George V died and new stamps featuring his successor, King Edward VIII, would be needed. However, the new king reigned for less than a year before abdicating in favour of his brother, who became King George VI. By early 1937, the subjects of the George VI definitive stamp series had been selected. All the remaining George V stamps would be replaced.

The first George V stamps to be withdrawn were the commonly used 1d and 2d denominations. By late 1938, the last of the George V stamps had gone off sale. For nearly a quarter of a century the George V design had served for the basic letter postage stamp, and for many commonly used postal rates. During this period, a total of 11.8 billion George V stamps were produced.

The Stamps

The stamps are modified designs of the original 1914 stamps. The colours of red, burgundy, purple and green approximate the original colours.

70c Red
70c Burgundy
70c Purple
70c Green
 

Technical Details

  • Issue date

    17 June 2014
  • FDI withdrawal

    16 July 2014
  • Denomination

    4 x 70c
  • Stamp design

    John White, Australia Post Design Studio
  • Product design

    John White, Australia Post Design Studio
  • Paper (gummed)

    Tullis Russell
  • Printer (gummed)

    EGO (McKellar)
  • Printing process

    Lithography (letterpress)
  • Stamp size

    22.22mm 30mm
  • Minisheet size

    136mm x 80mm
  • Sheetlet size

    140mm x 86mm
  • Perforations

    14.4 x 14
  • Sheet layout

    Sheetlet of 10 (Laser cut to one)
  • National postmark

    Sydney, NSW 2000
  • Issue withdrawal date

    31 December 2014

Designer

John White, Australia Post Design Studio

Additional Products

  • Minisheet
  • Cover (blank)
  • First day cover (gummed)
  • First day cover (minisheet)
  • Stamp pack
  • Sheetlet pack
  • Specimen Pack
  • Maxicard (4)
  • Medallion cover
  • Prestige booklet
  • Stamp coin (Perth Mint)
  • Gutter (10 x 70c)

*This content was produced at the time of the stamp issue release date and will not be updated.