The 1937 Long Coronation Issue of Newfoundland
Today's post will explore a set that is completely unique to all of British Commonwealth philately: a commemorative issue, whose size and whose designs are almost entirely based on those of a contemporary definitive issue. Newfoundland issued the 1937 Omnibus Coronation designs, just like every other crown colony in the Empire. But then it was decided that in addition to these, another commemorative set was to be issued, which would feature the designs of the current Resources definitive issue. The result was what collectors today know as the Long Coronation Issue. It consisted of eleven stamps ranging from the 1c to 48c, similar to the Resources definitive issue. In addition, with only three exceptions, being the 1c, 3c and 7c, the remaining 8 denominations were almost exactly the same as the corresponding definitives, with a portrait of King George VI added at the right (or left in the case of the 8c) and an inscription with the date of the Coronation added at the top.
Although this was issued as a commemorative set, there is some evidence that it may have been used as a definitive set during the period from 1937 until the Waterlow printings of the Resources issue were issued in 1941-1942.
For the collector interested in perforation varieties, this set is a fantastic choice because at least four different perforations are found on all eleven values, and there are several more to be found on several values as well. Some of these are very scarce and easily overlooked if you are not paying very close attention and using an accurate instanta gauge. Most of these are not too expensive, but two of them are expensive, and one, the comb perforation of the 14c black, is one of the rarest stamps of Newfoundland and in all of King George VI philately.
All eleven values were issued on the day of the coronation, which was May 12, 1937. They were printed by Perkins Bacon on horizontal wove paper, with the Newfoundland Coat of Arms watermark, as was used in the Resources Issue. I have never seen a complete sheet from this issue, but according to Ralph Trimble, they were issued in sheets of 100. I am interested to know what the issue quantities were, and would greatly appreciate any information in this regard.
The Stamp Designs
- Line perf. 13.8.
- Line perf. 13.9.
- Line perf. 14.
- Line perf. 14.1.
- Line perf. 14.2.
- Line perf. 14.25.
- Line perf. 14.4
- Comb perf. 13.5.
- Comb perf. 13.4.
- Comb perf. 13.3.
- 13.8 x 13.9: found on the 1c, 3c die 1, die 2, 7c, 8c, 10c, 14c, 15c, 20c, 24c, 25c and 48c
- 13.9 x 13.8: found on the 10c, and 24c.
- 13.8 x 14: found on the 1c, 7c, 8c, 10c, 14c, 20c, 24c, and 25c.
- 13.9 x 14: found on the 1c, 7c, 8c, 10c, 14c, 15c, 24c, and 48c.
- 13.9 x 14.1: found on the 7c, and 14c.
- 14.2 x 14.25: found on the 1c, 8c, and 48c.
- 14.1 x 14.25: found on the 14c.
- 13.9 x 14.2: found on the 15c,.
- 14.25 x 14.2: found on the 24c and 48c
- 14.24 x 14.4: found on the 24c.
The comb perforation appears to vary as well. I have found the following measurements on various values:
- 13.5: found on the 10c.
- 13.4: found on the 3c die 1, die 2, 8c, 10c, 15c, 20c, and 24c.
- 13.3: found on the 3c die 1, and 10c.
- 13.3 x 13.4: found on the 3c die 1, 3c die 2, 8c, and 10c.
- 13.4 x 13.3: found on the 3c die 1, die 2, 10c, and 20c.
- 13.5 x 13.4: found on the 20c,
- The guide-line of the gauge, which is the leftmost vertical line must intersect a top and a bottom perforation tooth in exactly the middle of those teeth., and,
- All other vertical lines of the gauge must intersect a perforation tooth in exactly the middle of that tooth.
Why so many? And why have they been overlooked for almost 80 years? With respect to the first question, I have a plausible theory, and it has to do with the circumstances around which this set was produced. When King George VI's brother Edward VIII ascended the throne in January 1936, the plan was to hold the Coronation on May 12, 1937. However, Edward abdicated on December 11, 1936, just about six months in advance of that date. You would think that when George VI took over, that his Coronation would be postponed until say March or April 1938. However, such was not the case. It was decided to go ahead with the original date, which only gave all parties 6 months to prepare for the event. The Crown Agents had decided to issue an omnibus set for the Coronation, and it is easy for collectors to forget what an incredible feat it was to have a new set, designed, engraved, printed for every colony and distributed to every colony in time for the actual Coronation. Remember that all of this had to be coordinated when there were no computers, no internet, no fax machines and so on. So what this meant was that all of the printing companies that had regular contracts with the Crown Agents - Waterlow, De La Rue and Bradbury Wilkinson, were working flat out on omnibus common design.
Now the government of Newfoundland had decided to have Perkins Bacon prepare this issue as an additional contribution to the celebratory efforts. Once again, Perkins would have had very little time to prepare this issue, and in all likelihood they found that while three or four different perforating machines was almost sufficient to enable them to keep up with the demand and fill the order they had received from the Postmaster General, it wasn't quite sufficient. They had to employ other machines to perforate some of the printed sheets. While the calibration of these machines was very similar, it was not quite the same, which is why we see some of these very scarce compound line perforations. That's my theory on how there were so many perforations.
Why have they been overlooked? I believe that the reason is that very few collectors are accustomed to measuring perforations with a greater degree of accuracy than the nearest quarter perf. When you are only measuring to the nearest quarter or the nearest half, then you can have a crooked perf gauge and you will still get the right measurement. You don't have to line everything up perfectly. However, when you want to distinguish between 13.8 and 13.9, you have to be extremely careful with the gauge, and it is my belief that this is not something that collectors are accustomed to. So they simply didn't notice that there were additional varieties beyond 13.8, 14.25 and 13.4 comb.
So which perfs are common, and which are scarce? I can give a tentative answer by value, based on what I have examined to date:
1c: 13.8 and 14.25.
3c: all the comb perfs, but especially 13.4, line 13.8 and line 14.25.
7c: 13.8 and 14.25.
8c: 13.9, 14.25 and comb 13.4.
10c: 13.8, 14.25, 13.9, and comb 13.4.
14c: 14.25, 13.8, and 13.9.
15c: 13.8, 13.9, 14.25 and comb 13.4.
20c: 13.9, 13.8, 14.25 and comb 13.4 & 13.4 x 13.3.
24c: 13.8 and 14.25.
25c: 13.8, 14.25 and 13.9.
48c: 13.8, 13.9 and 14.25.
Scarce to Rare Perforations Other Than the 7c and 14c Comb Perforations
1c: 13.9, 13.8 x 13.9, 13.8 x 14, 13.9 x 14, 14.2x 14.25 and any comb perf.
3c: 13.9 and 13.8 x 13.9.
7c: 13.9 x 14, 13.8 x 14, 13.9, 13.8 x 13.9, and 13.9 x 14.1.
8c: 13.8, 14.2 x 14.25, 13.8 x 13.9, 13.9 x 14, and comb 13.3 x 13.4.
10c: 13.9 x 14, 13.8 x 14, 13.8 x 13.9, 13.9 x 13.8, and all the comb perfs except 13.4.
14c: 14.2 x 14.25, 14.1 x 14.25, 13.9 x 14.1, 13.9 x 14, 13.8 x 13.9, and 13.8 x 14.
15c: 13.8 x 13.9, 13.9 x 14.2, 13.9 x 14, and any comb perf. other than 13.4.
20c: 13.8 x 13.9, 13.8 x 14 and comb 13.5 x 13.4.
24c: 14.25 x 14.4, 13.9, 13.8 x 13.9, 13.8 x 14, 13.9 x 13.8 and any comb perf.
25c: 13.8 x 14, 13.8 x 13.9, and any comb perf.
48c: 14.25 x 14.4, 13.8 x 14, 14.2 x 14.25, 13.9 x 14, 13.8 x 13.9 and any comb perf.
- 1c grey black.
- 1c black.
- 3c Indian red .
- 3c deep Indian red.
- 3c deep orange brown.
- 3c deep bright orange brown.
- 7c dull ultramarine.
- 7c deep ultramarine.
- 7c Royal blue.
- 7c dull Royal blue.
- 8c brownish scarlet.
- 8c deep brownish scarlet.
- 8c pale brownish scarlet.
- 8c brownish vermilion.
- 8c deep red.
- 10c brownish black.
- 10c agate.
- 10c olive black.
- 14c black.
- 15c bright brown purple.
- 15c light brown purple.
- 15c brown purple.
- 20c deep bright green.
- 20c deep green.
- 20c deep bronze green.
- 20c deep olive green.
- 24c deep turquoise blue.
- 24c Prussian blue.
- 24c dull Prussian blue.
- 24c deep bright Prussian blue.
- 25c slate-grey.
- 25c bluish slate.
- 25c grey-black.
- 25c grey.
- 48c deep purple.
- 48c maroon.
- 48c deep plum.
- 48c deep maroon.
- 48c plum.
- 48c brownish plum.
Here is another scan showing the two most extreme differences:
- 1c grey black, perf. 14.1 with watermark reversed.
- 3c deep bright orange brown, die 2, perf. 13.3 x 13.2 with reversed watermark.
- 10c brownish black, perf. 13.3x 13.2 with watermark inverted and reversed - this is listed in Gibbons.
- The cigar stub variety on the 3c, which occurs on position 9.
- The male dog variety on the 14c, which has not been plated as yet.
- The extra smokestack variety on the 20c, which occurs on position 55.
- Minor re-entry in which the inner and outer framelines of the lower right corner show distinct doubling.
- Position 35, in which the words "Corner Brook" and "Labrador" are both doubled, as well as several letters of the word "Postage" and the right "3".
- Position 84 in which both "3"'s and the words "Three Cents" show traces of doubling.
- Position 98 in which both "3"'s show traces of doubling.
- Die 2, position 34, which shows some marks in the "N" of "Newfoundland" as well as some doubling of the "E" of postage.
- Die 1, position unknown, which shows doubling in the lower right corner.
- Die 1, position unknown, which shows the entire right frameline doubled.
- Die 1, position unknown, which shows doubling of the outer frameline above "wfound" and the upper right outer and inner framelines.
- Die 1, position unknown, which shows doubling of the upper left horizontal frameline.
- Die 1, position unknown which shows a misplaced entry through the "R" of "Corner".
- Position 38, which shows doubling of the portrait medallion along the right side, the right tree trunk, and the lower right "7".
- Position 23, which shows similar doubling of the medallion, but also the upper right corner.
- Position 59, which shows doubling of the complete inner frameline at right, and part of the outer frameline, the tree trunk at right and the lower right "7".
- Position 21, which shows doubling of the outer right frameline in the middle. Trimble also illustrates a weaker version of this re-entry from position 22.
- Position 40, which shows doubling of "Newfoundland Dog" and the "WF" of "Newfoundland".
- Position 20, which shows doubling of the letters "Ndlan", & "12th May 1937", as well as the left side of the portrait medallion, and the inner horizontal line above the N of "Cents".
- Position 30, which is almost the same as position 20, but for a heavy frameline below "cents".
- Position 50, which shows doubling of "Dland of Newfoundland Dog", "WF of Newfoundland", and "12th May".
- Position 10, which shows doubling of "12th May".
- Position 97, which shows doubling of the left side of the design, including the upper left frameline, the "N" of "Newfoundland", the "2" of "25", and the lower left frameline.
- Position 40, which is similar to position 97, but not as strong.
- Position 60, which shows doubling of the right side, including the upper edge of the medallion, extensions of horizontal lines into the inner frame, doubling of the right frameline and smudging of the left inner frameline.
- Position 65, which shows slight doubling of the outer frameline at right.
- 3c Indian red die 2.
- 8c brownish scarlet.
- 14c black.
- 25c slate
- 48c deep purple
- 3c Indian red die 1, or die 2.
- 8c brownish scarlet
- 15c brown-purple
- 20c deep bright green
- 24c deep turquoise blue
- 48c deep purple
- 3c Indian red die 1 or die 2 (imperf between only)
- 3c Indian red die 1.
- 8c brownish scarlet.
- 3 essays of the King's Head in blue
- 20 progressive die proofs, all in issued colours except one of the 15c, which is printed in blue-green.
- 21 large die proofs in issued colours.
- 9 large trial colour proofs, all in black, except one of the 15c, which is printed in olive green.
- 11 Plate proofs in black.
- 12 Plate proofs, all in issued colours.
The final aspect to a comprehensive collection of this issue is of course the postal history. Used stamps with small village and town cancellations outside of St. John's are hard to come by, and attempting to collect as many of them as possible on this issue would be a fun challenge. It would be very satisfying to try and put together a listing of all the known postmarks on these stamps.
First day covers containing the entire set, like the one shown above, are not particularly rare, but you can collect them according to where they are postmarked, or which perforations are represented by the stamps on the cover. What I have not seen are first day covers of the single stamps in the set, though I am reasonably confident that there must be many out there to collect, with a variety of different cachets.
Another challenging area are commercial covers franked with stamps paying the correct rates to foreign destinations. The most common covers will be to the US, Canada and the UK, but airmail covers to far flung destinations in South America, Asia and Africa must be quite scarce, and very desirable. I would suspect that covers like these will prove to be far more expensive than the modest prices in Unitrade, which seem to be in the $10-$20 range, and do not, in my opinion reflect the scarcity of this material.
This concludes my discussion of this fascinating commemorative issue. I have a fairly good selection of the different perforations and shades in my E-bay store, which you can access, if you wish, by clicking the following link:
Next week, I will circle back and look at the 1937 Coronation and 1939 Royal Visit Issue of Canada.