The 1937 Coronation Stamp of King George VI:
IntroductionA small study of covers cancelled
before the official date of issue
Pre-release-cancelled covers for the issue of stamps for King Edward VIII are rare. Very few are known. It seems that the strict instructions by the Post Office not to use the stamps before the day of issue were heeded by employees of the Post Office, and apparently by collectors and traders as well.
In vivid contrast, the philatelic world came to life with the unexpected and precipitate coronation of King George VI. Enormous efforts were made by dealers and collectors to design and produce special covers to bear the new stamp. Coronation Day was a public holiday and all businesses were closed, including post offices. Accordingly, the day after the coronation, the 13th of May was declared the official day of issue of the commemorative stamp. The stamp bore the date of the coronation but all those specially-produced covers were cancelled on May the 13th.
The Post Office had issued strict instructions to all post offices and sub-post offices that the stamp should not be used before the official day of issue. This did not deter some individuals, presumably post office workers up and down the country, to produce the odd cover cancelled before the 13th and examples may be found cancelled on the 11th and the 12th of May.
There was an extra-ordinary circumstance whereby mail posted on the 13th would be cancelled with the date of the 12th. It appears that a small quantity of stamps were bought at the 24-hour post office at Mount Pleasant and driven by car at high speed to Birmingham where two TPO trains paused to pick up mail which would be cancelled during the last part of the trains's journeys. The cancellers had the date of the 12th, when their journey started.
The High Wickham covers are the result of an attempt to break the Post Office rules and make a great profit. In between these two extremes it seems obvious that the majority of pre-release covers were cancelled by post office employees for personal use or for favour. Whether they were done in deliberate defiance of the rules or innocently can't be known. But the Post Office, aware that a small amount of improper cancelling had occurred took a magnanimous point of view and implicitly absolved all incidents from any crime.