George V Definitives – First Designs

In 1910 De La Rue lost the contract to create and print all British stamps.

Responsibility for stamp production was subsequently divided between the Royal Mint, which made the dies and printing plates, and Harrison and Sons Ltd, who printed the stamps.

Invitations were issued to the engravers George W. Eve, Charles William Sherborn and Garth Jones to produce frame designs. The Postmaster General suggested that the head for the stamp be re-produced from a plaque prepared by a sculptor, and suggested Bertram Mackennal, who had previously designed effigies for coins.

However, the King favoured an engraving made from a portrait of him taken by the Court Photographers, W. & D. Downey, for coins and medals. All stages of design and production, including dies, colours and proofs, were submitted for the King’s approval.

Design by C W Sherborn
Design by A Garth Jones
Reductions of Mackennal’s designs
Reduction of design
Reduction of design

At the end of December 1910 the King approved three frame designs by Eve and Mackennal, the ‘Dolphin’ for the ½d and 1½d values, the ‘Wreath’ design for the 2d and 3d values, and the ‘Lion’ frame for the 1d and 2½d denominations .Other designs for the low values were sent in by members of the public, but none were adopted.

One was submitted by Perkins Bacon, printers of the Penny Black, which was produced by the Printex photographic technique in various colours. The Printex method, whereby an etching from a photograph was reproduced on the surface of a copper sheet, was quicker and cheaper than engraving dies and creating letterpress plates.

Colour was a very important factor in stamp design, enabling mail sorters to identify rates quickly. Designs could alter perceptions of colour, hence final colours were not allocated until the finished die or plate was ready. The George V stamp artwork collection holds the various colour trials for the finished stamp designs.

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