Leeward Islands King George V Key Plates Stamps 1912-1938

During the period 1912 to c. 1927 the Presidencies forming the Leeward Islands group (Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis and Virgin Islands) requisitioned for their own stamp requirements. Leewards Islands stamps, known as the Federal issues, were valid for use concurrently with the individual issues of each Presidency. Some of the scarcer printings thus emanate from only one source. Late in 1926 control of Federal issues passed to the Federal Treasurer at St Johns, Antigua. All supplies were thereafter sent to Antigua and from there distributed to the various Presidencies as required.

Until 1927 printings are recorded and indexed in the De La Rue records under the Presidency name rather than Leeward Islands. When obtaining the printings from the De La Rue records this did present some difficulties in separating, for instance, Antigua and Leeward Islands issues. In these cases Leeward Islands issues were normally annotated 'Kings Head', whilst those of Antigua were marked 'Arms', although sometimes the identification was missing from the Day Books and it was necessary to cross-refer to the Colonial Stamps books.

In The Stamp Lover (Vol.20 p208) Harry E.Huber stated that, for the ¼d, ½d ,1d and 2½d of the first Leeward Islands requisition using the new King George V key plate, the sheets had plate numbers in both top and bottom margins, i.e. plate la had been used. This requisition was invoiced on 31st May 1912, and is believed to be the last printed for any colony before the lower numbers were removed from the plate.

All values from ¼d to 1/- are known from plate la, but the 3d and 1/- white backs and all plate 1 printings of the 2/6 and 5/- were printed only from plate lb.

Specimens were distributed for the first printing of the 3d in August 1912 (the bright yellow surface shade, termed descriptively ''gold-yellow" by the Bridger & Kay catalogue) and for the white backs in September 1913. They are also believed to have been distributed for the first printing on the new yellow paper in April 1914, but there is no record of this in either the Day or Colonial Stamps books. The copy of this latter value m the Crown Agents' Archive Album (without Specimen overprint) is dated '7.5.14'.

The 3d, 1/- and 5/- white backs of September 1913 were issued only in Montserrat. The quantities printed were small (22, 22 and 26 sheets respectively) and only double these numbers of plate number copies (from plate lb) can exist. Their scarcity is mitigated to some extent by the sale of a large proportion of the supply to dealers and collectors.

At least two of the four printings of the 3d made in 1914, and possibly a third, exist on lemon-yellow paper with orange specks on the back. The printing from Reqn.56/14 of September 1914 was probably on paper of identical type to the Virgin Islands 3d War Tax from plate lb, which did have orange specks. The 5/- of the July 1914 printing was also on similar paper.

The allocation of plate 2 to the printing of the ¼d and ½d from Reqn.8/15 is based on a reference to the issue of this pair from plate 2 in 1915 by Harry E. Huber in the Stamp Lover (Vol.20 p209). No separate printing of these two values together was made during the life of plates 1 and 2, and it has been assumed that both plates were in use separately for printing the various values of Reqn.8/15. The ¼d plate 2 is not listed in catalogue of the Royal Collection, but a single plate 2 copy, added later, is present in the Collection. Plate number copies of the ¼d plate 2 appear to be particularly scarce.

A note in the Colonial Stamps book (Vol. 12 p57) against Reqn.44/15 states "Print 1d same time as Antigua on next page". This referred to the Antigua entry on the following page for the printing of the Id for Reqn.46/15. Both were printed from plate 3.

It is likely that the separate despatches of the 6d plate 5 to Antigua (Reqn.61/16) and St Kitts (Reqn.62/16), both invoiced on 25th July 1916, were the same printing. Of the various shades of the three printings of the 6d plate 5 known, it can be stated that the brown-purple shade was either the first or second printing, but not the third. This conclusion is based on examples seen of the brown- purple shade without the bent top tail to the final 'S' of 'ISLANDS' on RP 9/5. and the purple shade in the damaged state.

The catalogue of the Royal Collection records the 1/- printed from plate 6. This is a typographical error; three plate 5 examples are in the Collection but none from plate 6.

The Royal Collection contains a block of the 1d plate 8 in a most distinctive shade of pale red, approaching pink, unlike any other red shade seen on any of the Imperium issues. The Bridger & Kay catalogue (1980) lists this shade as rose-pink. This was presumably the first plate 8 printing of this value, for Reqn.l 15/19 in February 1920. The second 1d plate 8 printing in December 1920 was scarlet.

The 3d plate 8 of February 1920 was printed on both orange-buff and buff paper, the only printing of this value from plate 8 (295 sheets). This particular printing, and the 6d of this requisition, shows many examples of blotches, smears and blemishes to the duty plate impression, none of which are constant.

The Royal Collection has two blocks of the 5/- plate 8 of February 1920, described as orange-buff and pale yellow paper (although the latter is probably buff, as with the 3d from this printing above). This second paper shade has yet to achieve catalogue status. Again, only one printing of the 5/- from this plate was made.

The first printing of the 1d carmine stamp on Multiple Script CA paper, from plate 10, was ordered by St.Kitts-Nevis and invoiced in July 1921. In The Stamp Lover (Vol.20 p344), Harry E.Huber reported that dealers were supplied in October of that year from London but the stamps were not released in the colony until January 1923.

The first and second printings of the new 4d, 5d, 2/-, 3/- and 4/- stamps, from plates 10 and 11 respectively, all featured double marginal rules. For the second plate 11 printing, in 1925, all values displayed a single marginal rule surrounding each pane, the duty plate marginal rule having been removed. No reason for the removal of the duty plate marginal rules has been suggested.


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