The King George V Halfpenny Green ‘Downey Head’


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01 February 2017
king_george_v_downey_head_stamps-31253.png King George V Downey Head (image courtesy of Embassy Philatelists)
Ed Fletcher provides a fact file of the 1/2d green KGV stamp known as the 'Downey Head', explaining why you should add at least one example to your collection

The King George V Halfpenny Green Downey Head stamps were available at post offices from 22 June, 1911 (Coronation Day for King George) alongside a Penny Red of similar design.

You should have little trouble in buying a mint Halfpenny Green for £5.

Shades such as bluish-green can raise the price to £100 and more; while a watermark variation (inverted or sideways) can add another zero to that £100; but there will be plenty of time for those more costly halfpenny values later when you have browsed the catalogues and the stamps on offer at a few fairs.

Meanwhile concentrate on finding an example at the lower end of the price scale that is clean, undamaged and looks like a stamp that has been well cared for.

Downey Head fact file

Issue date: 22 June, 1911
Value: 1/2d
Reign: King George V
Valuable variety: inverted watermark

  • The ‘Downey Head’ stamps were the first definitive British stamps of King George V, issued on the day of his coronation
  • Essays for values up to 1 shilling were prepared, but only the 1/2 penny and 1 penny stamps were issued
  • The stamp was engraved by J.A.C. Harrison who went on to engrave the ‘Seahorses’ stamps in 1913
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Downey Head timeline…

  • June 1910 - a photograph of the then Duke of York is taken by Court Photographers W & D Downey
  • June 1911 - the ‘Downey Head’ stamps featuring the three-quarter profile portrait taken by W & D Downey were issued to a mixed reception
  • 1912 - new definitive stamps were issued, showing a more orthodox left-facing side profile of the king

Higher prices…

A single, used example with watermark reversed and inverted (SG346wk) recently sold on eBay for £20.99, despite having a catalogue value of £100.

A 1911 die 1A watermark crown 1/2d green with ‘error perforation 14’, fine used with part double ring cds cancel, realised £320 at a recent Grosvenor Philatelic Auctions

Affordable price…

A ‘fine unmounted mint pair with interpaneau margin’ recently sold on eBay for £6.50. Used examples can be bought for as little as £1.

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