The Wilding Castles Inverted Watermarks of Great Britain

August 22, 2017 by Stanley Gibbons

The Wilding Castle High Values are some of the most keenly collected and studied definitives of the Queen Elizabeth era. Here, Peter Shaw, who has written several articles on these iconic stamps for GSM in the past, discusses the known examples from the various printings that feature inverted watermarks.

After Queen Elizabeth II succeeded as monarch on 6 February 1952, preparations for new high values began. After a long discussion, a set of four designs depicting castles, one from each region of the United Kingdom, along with the Wilding portrait of The Queen, was issued in two stages in September 1955. The four values depicted Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland (2s.6d.), Caernarfon Castle, Wales (5s.), Edinburgh Castle, Scotland (10s.) and Windsor Castle, England (£1). Initially, the Castle High Values were printed by Waterlows. The contract was transferred to De La Rue in 1958 and to Bradbury Wilkinson in 1963. The stamps were replaced by stamps featuring the Machin portrait of The Queen in 1969.

Watermarks

The Castle High Values were one of the last issues of Great Britain to be printed on watermarked paper. Two different watermarks were used. The first, commonly known as the St Edward’s Crown was used for all Waterlow and the first De La Rue printings.

The st Edward's Crown watermark was used for all Waterlow and the first De La Rue printings

In the second watermark, the E2R cipher was removed and it is commonly known as the Multiple Crowns watermark.

The Multiple Crowns watermark used for the second De La Rue and Bradbury Wilkinson printings

It was used for the second De La Rue and Bradbury Wilkinson printings.Normally, the watermark was upright relative to the stamp design. However, printings are known by De La Rue and Bradbury Wilkinson where the watermark was inverted. The error is not known on the Waterlow printing. The error was probably caused by a sheet or sheets of paper being dislodged from the pile prior to printing and being replaced the wrong way round.  Wherever the error occurred, there must have been at least 80 stamps with the watermark inverted as the printings were on plates with double panes of 40 images by all printers. As the error was not easily detectable, most examples would not have been saved.

It is questionable if inverted watermarks can be regarded as errors. De La Rue stated in a letter of 14 August 1959 to a collector, which is in possession of the writer, ‘that so long as we turn out a sheet of stamps that is correct to the naked eye we have done our job’. New finds of the error are still emerging over 40 years after the stamps were on sale.The Wilding Castle High Values are some of the most keenly collected and studied definitives of the Queen Elizabeth era. Here, Peter Shaw, who has written several articles on these iconic stamps for GSM in the past, discusses the known examples from the various printings that feature inverted watermarks. Fig 1 The St Edward’s Crown watermark was used for all Waterlow and the first De La Rue printingsThe Wilding Castles Inverted Watermarks of Great Britain By Peter ShawFig 2 The Multiple Crowns watermark used for the second De La Rue and Bradbury Wilkinson printingsFig 3 A 2s.6d. value with inverted St Edward’s Crown watermark from the first De La Rue printing. The ‘Post Early for Christmas’ postmark means it was probably used late in 1958Fig 4 Second De La Rue printing with inverted Multiple Crowns watermark cancelled at Victoria Road

The 2s.6d. stamp

The first De La Rue printing

The 2s.6d. stamp printed by De La Rue is the only recorded value where the St Edward’s Crown watermark was inverted. Gibbons Specialised states three used examples are known. The error was first reported in the May/June 1991 edition of the GB Journal, the magazine of the Great Britain Philatelic Society, where it was stated that it first appeared in 1987 at a stamp fair in Copenhagen. It re-appeared in 1991 at an auction in Denmark. This copy was discovered in kiloware and has a London cancel. A second copy was offered by Rushstamps in 1998 and the third recorded example, illustrated below, was discovered in an auction of Great Britain pre-decimal definitives in 2006.

A 2s.6d. value with inverted St Edward's Crown watermark from the first De La Rue printing. The 'post Early for Christmas' postmark means it was probably used late in 1958

The stamp has been cancelled with the ‘Post Early for Christmas’ postmark. Since this printing was only in use for a short period, the stamp was probably used late in 1958.

The second De La Rue printing

The first report of this error was by dealers Muscotts of Godalming in the 7 November 1974 edition of Stamp Collecting. Lord Spens reported in the May/June 1991 edition of the GB Journal that Ken Snelson of Canada discovered six used examples in the 1970s. They were all off-centre and appeared to be from the same source. Nothing further is known of these stamps.I have recorded nine De La Rue used stamps, five singles and a block of four, all of which can now be located to the south-east of England. The example has a Victoria Road postmark, which is not very helpful. There are at least two Victoria Road post offices in the south-east and several more around the country.

Second De La Rue printing with inverted Multiple Crowns watermark cancelled at Victoria Road

The first indication that the De La Rue examples came from south-east England was when one was purchased by a leading stamp dealer in the Stanley Gibbons auction of 15 June 2011. Gibbons described the stamp as printed by Bradbury Wilkinson but it was quickly sold as De La Rue by the dealer who bought it. The stamp was postmarked Tilbury but with no discernible date.

A block of four was placed in the Philangles auction in January 2013. The stamps were cancelled in Essex on 3 July 1963. Rushstamps had a copy for sale on their price list of October 2012. The postmark is not clear, but there is a suggestion it may be the original finding as reported by Muscotts.

Another copy was dealt with by John M Deering, of ‘Machin Watch’ fame. The stamp had a London cancellation dated 3 July 1963, the same date as the block of four. Another example was listed by an internet auctioneer in September 2015. The stamp was described as being Bradbury Wilkinson, but it was from the De La Rue printing. It is illustrated in Figure 5. The stamp has a similar London postmark to the John M Deering copy. An article in the GB Journal of March/April 2017 by the writer distinguishes between the De La Rue and Bradbury Wilkinson 2s.6d. printings.

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Filed Under: Great Britain, Stanley Gibbons Stamp Guides
Tagged With: cancellation, castles, De la Rue, Great Britain, Great Britain Stamps, Inverted, london, mint, philately, postage, postmark, printing, Queen Elizabeth Era, stamp, Watermarks, wilding