Part of the Iconic Stamp series. Click here to see the full list of Iconic Stamps.
First issued in June and August 1913, on the cusp of World War 1, the definitive high value “Seahorses” remain one of the most iconic stamps to date. This is primarily due to their high quality engraving and intricate design, a depiction of Britannia on her chariot behind three horses on a rough sea, accompanied by a striking portrait of King George V.
These elegant stamps were designed by the renowned Australian sculptor, Bertram Mackennal, who at the time strongly recommended that they be printed by the intaglio process to make them even more distinguished. The stamps were issued in four colours and values: brown (2s 6d), red (5s), blue (10s) and green (£1).
During this turbulent era of war and economic turmoil the stamps were issued as a symbol of patriotism and camaraderie; they depicted Britain as a powerful country ‘and a ruler of the seas’. The longevity of the issue, coupled with the powerful Britannia design, explains why they are so popular with collectors.
To celebrate this iconic stamp we have put together a range of information and items, including some free downloads:
- Two useful charts on a free PDF download:
- Helping you identify between the four printings of the Seahorse stamps
- Showing you the Seahorses used in Commonwealth countries by value and printing
- A fascinating article on the shades of the Bradbury Wilkinson 2s 6d
- 20% off the highly acclaimed book ‘Discovering Seahorses’.
Did you know...
- The Seahorses were in circulation longer than any other British high value stamp.
- Four contractors were used to print over 100 million of these stamps, from over 50 individual plates. Sadly the archive of one of the contractors (Bradbury Wilkinson) was incinerated on the instructions of the management.
- The Seahorses were overprinted for use in Bechuanaland, British Levant, Ireland, Morocco Agencies and Nauru.
- Very fine used Seahorses, neatly cancelled, and well centred with a good colour are far scarcer than their mint equivalents.
What our customers say...
“I would choose the 1913 £1 Seahorse. In my opinion this is the best stamp design ever issued, and the seahorse theme is very appropriate for travels abroad!”
– Alan Ottiwell
“KGV Seahorse £1. This stamp is a universally recognised face of British unity and strength of purpose through its striking use of Britannia astride her chariot, a Union Jack on her shield.”
– David Collingridge
“The GV Seahorses. The stamps contain a dramatic scene and are intricately engraved. The most beautiful of all GB stamps, which should be promoted to inspire people to investigate and take up philately.”
– Steve Waldron
Seahorse Stamp Distinguishing Characteristics Charts - FREE DOWNLOAD
There are two useful charts on the free PDF download:
There are four printings of the Seahorse stamps. Prices between them can vary significantly, however, it is often difficult to identify the printing of a Seahorse. This handy chart helps collectors to properly identify each one:
- 1913 Waterlow & Layton
- 1915 De La Rue
- 1918 Bradbury Wilkinson
- 1934 Waterlow & Sons
A chart showing Seahorses used in Commonwealth countries by value and printing:
- British Levant
- Morocco Agencies
New Revelations about Bradbury's 2s 6d Seahorses - FREE DOWNLOAD
The Bradbury Wilkinson 2s 6d is the cheapest and most common of all the 1913-19 Seahorses and is listed as coming in four shades in the Concise Catalogue or five in the Specialised. Bryan Kearsley FRPSL, who wrote the standard book on the Seahorses and advised on the listings in the Specialised Catalogue, offers guidance in this Gibbons Stamp Monthly article on identifying the currently listed shades. This is a free PDF download.
NB: See details further below on how to purchase Bryan Kearsley’s book Discovering Seahorses.
Shop Seahorses - COMMONWEALTH (by country)
A product of six years’ research, Discovering Seahorses relates the story behind the creation of the Seahorses, and the changes they experienced during their production over a period of 26 years.
Little is known about their varieties and ever since they were issued, 90 years ago, the technical and philatelic aspects of the King George V Seahorse stamps have remained undiscovered. For the first time, all their plates and the quantities printed are identified. The numerous shades are explained and all plate varieties are illustrated and included in the next Specialised Catalogue.
This comprehensive guide will help collectors have a better understanding of the details unknown still to some and will allow philatelists uncover the rich history behind their existence.
Great Britain Specialised Volume 2 Stamp Catalogue
Philatelic Literature Gold Award Spring Stampex 2016
This multi-award winning catalogue is the standard reference work for specialist collectors of the popular ‘Four Kings’ period of British philately, from 1902 to 1952. The catalogue includes detailed notes on the Recess-Printed Seahorse High Values (1913-34).
The full list of Iconic Stamps
- Penny Black – Great Britain 1840
- £5 Orange – Great Britain 1882
- “Seahorse” High Values – Great Britain 1913
- Postal Union Congress (PUC) £1 – Great Britain 1929
- “Wilding” Definitives – Great Britain 1952
- “Machin” Definitives – Great Britain 1967
- Four Annas – India 1854
- The ‘Camel Postman’ – Sudan 1898
- Five Shillings Penguin – Falkland Islands 1933
- Royal Silver Wedding – Commonwealth 1948