Antigua King George VI Stamps: 1938-51

The definitive set for the new reign was entrusted to Messrs Waterlow and Sons. Initially it consisted of ten denominations, ranging from ½d to 5/- but later, on 1st April 1938, two further denominations, the 10/- and £1, were added.

The stamps were printed by recess-engraving on the normal paper for Colonial issues, watermarked with multiple crowns and script CAs.

Four designs, two vertical and two horizontal in format were used. The ½d and 2d denominations were in vertical format, the vignette showing a view of English Harbour. The 6d, 1/- and 5/- were also in vertical format, their vignettes giving a view of St. John's Harbour. In one of the horizontal designs, used by the 1d, 1½d and 2½d, Nelson's Dockyard was shown. The other horizontal design, showing Fort James, was used for the 3d and 2/6 denominations. All denominations, except for the 1/-, were in single colours.

Apart from the bi-coloured 1/- denomination, all were printed from single plates of 120 subjects. For the horizontal designs the 120 stamps were arranged in 12 rows of 10 stamps to a row; for the vertical there were 10 rows of 12 stamps to a row. None of the plates was numbered, but all bore the firm's imprint below the centre two stamps of the bottom row.

The 1/- denomination was printed from two plates, a frame and a vignette plate, neither of which was numbered. The sheet for the 1/- numbered only 60 subjects, arranged in 6 rows of 10 stamps.

All denominations were perforated 12½ by the line method.

When the two extra high value denominations were added in 1948, these were also in monocolour, like the majority of the original issue. The 10/- was in the horizontal "Nelson's Dockyard" design, and the £1 in the vertical "St. John's Harbour" design. Like the 1/- denomination, these were in sheets of 60, arranged in 10 rows of 6 stamps for the 10/- and 6 rows of 10 stamps for the £1. Unlike the earlier plates, both plates were numbered '1', the figure appearing below the 59th stamp.

In 1938 the original series was distributed to the U.P.U. perforated by the word "SPECIMEN' in the diagonal line peculiar to Messrs.
Waterlow. In 1948 the two additional denominations were distributed, similarly perforated.

Though proofs were struck, these were not distributed, not even to His Majesty, King George VI, but artist's sketches of the four designs are in the Royal Collection. When the 10/- and £1 stamps were printed proofs were again struck, and on this occasion die proofs were sent to the King and are now in the Royal Collection.

The ½d denomination.

1st Printing

The original printing ordered under Reqn. No. 3313/2, designated 1,600 sheets of 120 stamps (192,000 stamps in all). Printing took place during the middle of 1938. A total of 1,560 sheets (187,200 stamps) was delivered, and 72,000 stamps were retained for supplying dealers, leaving 960 sheets (115,200 stamps) to be shipped to Antigua on 6th October 1938. The colour of the original printing was yellow-green on a medium thick, off-white paper, with yellowish gum. The sheets were numbered from 1 upwards before being sent to Antigua.

2nd Printing

2nd Printing Under Reqn. No. 3831/1 a second printing was requested for a suggested date of 10-6-1941. A total of 250 sheets (30,000 stamps) was ordered, and 325 sheets (39,000 stamps) were delivered.

There is no indication of a supply for dealers, and the printing was not detected by Potter & Shelton, and as specimens probably would not have come into general use until 1942, it may be conjectured that in general appearances it conformed to the 1942 printings, i.e. that there was less yellow in the green, that the paper was thinner and whiter, and that the gum was white. Before being despatched on 19th June 1941, the sheets were numbered from 1 upwards.

3rd printing

Early in 1942, under Reqn. No. 3887/1, with the request for a delivery as soon as possible, 150 sheets (l8,000 stamps) were ordered. 149 sheets, (17,880 stamps) were delivered, and the sheets were numbered from 1 upwards. The parcel was despatched to Antigua on 2nd April 1942. Again no allocation to dealers was made, and once again Potter and Shelton failed to identify this printing, which must be conjectured to resemble fairly closely the second printing. However, Potter and Shelton do list a printing of all values to 5/- for July 1942, and while    it is true that a printing was released to the dealers in July 1942, the printing then made did not include the ½d and 5/- values.

Yet those two values were included in the release of July 1942. There are two possible explanations for the ability to release these values. Firstly, it was usually the practice of the CA when a new printing was received, to clear out the old stock by exchange for new stock, though as the original allocation of ½d value for dealers had been only 72,000, the supply still held can only have been small. Secondly, fairly early in the course of the war, the CA had set up a "bank” in which it retained stamps against a sudden emergency, and these, like those retained for dealers, were fed into new printings against an exchange for new printing stock. The oversupply under Reqn. No 3831/1 may have been retained to set up such a "bank" and an exchange of stock against the new printing of Reqn No 3887/1, would thus have made possible an allocation of the value to dealers in July 1942. If this were so, it would esyablish that the 3rd printing was in a less yellow green, on thinner white paper and with white, fairly transparent gum.

Under Reqn. No. 3926 seven values, but not including the ½d value, were ordered, but in the "Remarks" column, there is an allocation to the Bureau, for dealers, of 270,000 ½d stamps. Of the stamps ordered, except for the 3d value, some of each were allocated to the Bureau. The printing was not recorded by Potter & Shelton, and the notice in GSM October 1942 does not make it clear whether the reference is to the printing sent out in April 1942 or to the release of July 1942, the only value mentioned being the 2/6, which was printed on both occasions. The allocation of 270,000 ½d stamps could not have been drawn from the printing of April 1942 (Reqn 3887/1), for then only 150 sheets were printed. Reference to the Plate Issue Register might establish whether or not the ½d value was also reprinted (as an afterthought ?). Entries in the Plate Issue Register for at least one other territory (Mauritius) indicate that around this time a reprinting of stamps (for stock ?) took place without corroborative entry in the Requisition Books.


Antigua 1938-51 1d. handpainted essay in an unissued design of English Harbour (a little similar to the issued 1/2d value), executed in red and Chinese white on card (117 x 69mm), endorsed ''Antigua 8.4.38'', stated to have been painted by A. W. Morley. Sold at Grosvenor Auction in 2010 for ?580 plus buyer's premium.


Antigua 1938-51 1s. handpainted essay very similar in design to issued, executed in green, blue and Chinese white on card (140 x 88mm), endorsed ''Antigua 14.4.38'' and ''App.'' with initials. Stated to have been painted by A. W. Morley. Sold at Grosvenor Auction in 2010 for ?900 plus buyer's premium.

Antigua 1938-51 2s.6d. composite essay of the issued design, comprising printed King's head with remainder handpainted, executed in black, blue and Chinese white on card (139 x 87mm), endorsed ''Antigua 15.4.38'', and ''App.'' with initials. Stated to have been painted by A. W. Morley. Sold at Grosvenor Auction in 2010 for ?1100 plus buyer's premium.

Antigua 1938-51 5s. handpainted essay of an unissued design of map of Antigua, executed in red, blue and Chinese white on card (140 x 88mm), endorsed ''Antigua 11.4.38'', and ''Not App.'' with initials, attractive. Stated to have been painted by A. W. Morley. Sold at Grosvenor Auction in 2010 for ?980 plus buyer's premium.



  1. W.G.Cornell, F.R.Saunders, GEOSIX Study Paper No. 7, 1975.