June 2019

Iconic stamp: King George V Seahorse

Great Britain

King G seahorse

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 are 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.

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 good colour are far scarcer than their mint equivalents.

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