King George VI stamps – Centenary of First Adhesive Postage Stamps, May 1940

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1940_centenaryofpostagestamp-43015.png 1940 stamp centenary
The Post Office celebrated the centenary of the first postage stamp in May 1940, as revealed in our quick guide to the King George VI stamps

Celebrating 100 years of adhesive postage stamps

The decision to mark the centenary of the Penny Black with a new stamp set and a philatelic exhibition had been made two years in advance, and despite the project being temporarily abandoned upon the outbreak of war, six stamps, 1½ times the size of definitives and each featuring a simple dual-portrait design, were duly issued on 6 May, days before a postal rate increase.

The stamps were designed by HL Palmer, printed by Harrison & Sons Ltd and issued on 6 May, 1940, exactly 100 years since the Penny Black had been issued.

The designs showed portraits of the current monarch King George V, alongside his great grandmother Queen Victoria, using the design which had been used for the Penny Black in 1840.

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The shades and values were as follows:

  • Green, ½d
  • Red, 1d
  • Brown, 1½d
  • Orange, 2d
  • Blue, 2½d
  • Violet, 3d

Examples of the stamps were overprinted with the text ‘Tangier and Morocco Agencies’ for use in those countries.

The stamps' reception

The stamps were criticised by some for their size, with certain MPs claiming it was a wasteful during wartime.

According to the Postal Museum's Stamp History, a senior GPO official, RG Bennett, drily commented: ‘The issue of the Centenary stamps drew little or no comment from the public, which was not surprising as the country at the time had far more serious matters to concern it.’


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