The King Edward VII stamps had only been on issue for six months when he
died in 1910 and King George V ascended the throne. It was quickly decided
that a new set of stamps should replace the Edward VII stamps, but it was
five years before the new set was issued. There were various reasons for
the five year delay - difficulty finding a designer, difficulty sourcing
appropriate inks, and the perfectionist nature of the then
Postmaster-General Sir Heaton Rhodes, himself a keen philatelist. Rhodes
was keen to return to the simplicity of the 1855 Chalon Heads and the
English 1840 penny black and twopence blue stamps.
issues, recess and surface printings were issued from the start, the
surface printings used to reduce printing costs of lower value stamps.
The initial issue contained the 1½d, 2d violet, 2½d,
3d, 4d yellow, 4½d, 6d, 7½d, 9d and 1/- stamps. The
1½d, 4½d and 7½d stamps were new values introduced
for parcel post and it was not thought necessary to have 5d and 8d values.
All the careful planning came unstuck when a halfpenny tax was imposed on
all mail other than newspapers during the First World War. As the new
issue did not have 5d or 8d stamps, the Edward VII issue stamps continued
in use until 1922 when 5d and 8d recess print stamps were finally
introduced. However, within a week of issue of the 8d blue it was realised
that the colour was too easily confused with the 2½d stamp, so the
stamp was reprinted brown as the 7½d brown stamp had been withdrawn
by that stage. This ought to have made the 8d blue stamp very rare, but
pressure from stamp collectors forced the post office to continue selling
In 1915 the tax on receipts was increased to 2d. The
2d violet stamp was too dark for pen cancellations to show up, and so the
colours of the 2d violet and 4d yellow were swapped in 1916. Many used
copies of the 4d yellow were cancelled after it was withdrawn and 1915
cancellations are hard to find.
print stamps have a different design to the surface and local print stamps
which are listed separately. The recess print stamps (left image) have
diagonal shading on George V's face and neck, while the surface print
stamps (middle image) have horizontal shading. The background on the
surface prints has a clear diagonal pattern, while the recess print stamps
have a very fine and complex pattern of alternating arcs with a criss-cross
hatching over the top giving the appearance of almost solid shading. The
local print (right image) is very coarsely drawn with a diagonal pattern
very similar to the surface print stamps, but with rather poorly spaced
diagonal shading lines on the face and neck.