Gilbert and Ellice Islands 1912-1927 KGV Key Plates Stamps

The Imperium design was introduced in 1912 and only one printing of all values except the ½d, 1d, 2d and 3d was made. With this colony it is possible to identify the printing of every value on the basis of plate number alone, since no value had more than one printing from the same key plate.

Two designs were submitted for the new King George V Imperium issue, both of the King Edward VII head with separate value tablets for the 5d, 6d and 1/- values. The first, dated "Oct 14th 1911", had the title "Gilbert & Ellice Islands Protectorate" in two lines, with shaded value tablets for the 5d and 1/-, the 6d with coloured figure on a plain white background. This was rejected and it was requested that "Protectorate" be dropped and that all values should be in colour on a plain background.

The second design submitted, dated "Nov. 2nd. 11", with King Edward VII head and "Gilbert & Ellice Islands'', along with the 5d, 6d and 1/- value tablets as requested, was approved on November 23rd. It should be noted that the three value tablets on this example are not the same as those ultimately used on these values for the issued stamps, there being subtle differences in the shape of the figures when examined closely.

Sheets were numbered.

The only printing of both the 4d and 51-, made in 1912, were printed on both yellow and buff-vellow paper.

Of the values printed from plate la, the ½d, 2d, 2½d, 5d, 6d & 1/- values are known with top and bottom plate numbers, and the 1d, 4d, 2/-, 2/6 & 5/- with top only, the printing of all these values straddling the point at which the lower plate numbers were removed. In Stamps of the Pacific Islands by RJ.G.Collins (1924) the author states that the 2½d is also known with a blank lower margin. Since this value is also known with lower margin plate numbers, it would seem that part of this printing was made after the lower numbers had been removed from plate 1a.

Lower margin blocks of the ½d without plate number are from plate 2. Similar blocks of the Id are from either plate 1a or plate 2.

In the Philatelic Handbook of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (p5.4), D.H.Vernon mentions that Specimen overprints exist on the 1d printing from plate 2 as well as the first from plate la. They are not recorded for the plate 2 printing in the Day Books.

Three printings were made of the ½d, and four of the Id on Multiple Crown CA paper. Plates 1, 2 and 5 were used for the ½d and 1, 2, 5 and 6 for the Id. Since these printings were widely spaced the allocation of plate 2 to the 1913 printing of both values is certain.

Replying to the Crown Agents' Reqn. 127/17 for 4,000 sheets of the Id WAR TAX on 31st December 1917, De La Rue commented "We propose to use the overprint Plate prepared for St.Lucia and to overprint the stamps in black".

The Crown Agents wrote to De La Rue on 29th October 1918 "... we have to inform you that the mail containing the 504 sheets (120 set) of Gilbert and Ellice Islands 3d Postage and Revenue Stamps which you supplied to us was lost in transit to the colony through enemy action. We shall be obliged if you will reprint the stamps as soon as possible ...". The entire printing of the 3d from plate 5 was lost when the vessel carrying them was torpedoed in April 1918. The plate 5 block of four supplied for the Royal Collection is thus almost certainly unique. However, the Specimens distributed to the U.P.U. are from the plate 5 printing.

The Philatelic Handbook of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (p5.9) states that the remaining stocks of the 101- and £ 1 values, having a face value of £24,000, were destroyed on the introduction of the new King George VI issue in 1938. The precise division of quantities between the two values is unknown.

Duty Plates

All the values made in 1912, with file die proofs marked '½ leads', were subsequently invoiced as 120- set plates. The 3d was added to the series in 1917, and the VAd, 10/- and £1 in 1926. All were all made as 120-set plates. The ½d. 10/- and £1 duty plates each featured a marginal rule, producing a double rule on the printed sheet. No plate replacements were made.


  1. King George V Key Plates of the Imperium Postage & Revenue Design, Peter Fernbank, 1997.