A Study of GB Low Value Definitives 1934 to 1971



By the early 1930s, the volume of post in Britain was so high that a faster and cheaper method of printing than Waterlow's letterpress method was required. Harrison and Sons had been printing foreign stamps by photogravure since 1923 and had had experience of this method. Thereby, eighty years ago, Harrisons regained the British Government contract to print GB low value definitives. Photogravure was to be used at Harrisons' new facility at High Wycombe, where double panes of 480 stamps would be perforated on the web. The first photogravure stamps were thus issued on 20 August 1934.

The Exhibit

The exhibit demonstrates the design, methods and problems with printing the early GB photogravure stamps. lt shows cylinder flaws and multipositive flaws. While controls for accounting for stamp production had been around since Victorian times, the changes in control position and the problems with changing the control are shown, until the control's eventual demise in 1947. The £sd period 1934 to 1971 is shorter than the subsequent QEII Machin Decimals from 1971 to date.

Little attention seems to have been given to the importance of perforation. For a start it determined the eventual size of these stamps. However, the literature refers to numbers of different perforating machines. This exhibit shows that other than the existing Type 2 perforator only two more machines were employed using different combs for different applications, counter sheets, booklet panes and stamps for rolls. The examples from each machine type are deliberately followed chronologically from KGV to QEII. Some of the perforation varieties shown are very rare. For the hand fed sheet Type 5 perforation, single combs gave way to double combs, which became the norm during KGVI's reign. The continuous triple comb Type 6 perforator frequently shows a dislocation in the perforations every three rows, which does not seem to have been noticed before. This exhibit demonstrates all these variations.

Perforations are referred to as Perfs and Cylinders as Cyls throughout the exhibit. The comb diagrams come from Beaumont and Stanton's Postage Stamps of Great Britain Part 4 (B&S4).

Rare items are described in red and scarce items in green.

Scans are indicated by a different font.

Please note that this exhibit was put together for a South African exhibition. There are obvious comments, but these were aimed at the South African judges who know little about early GB photogravure.


The Postage Stamps Of Great Britain Part 4: The Issues of King George V, by K M Beaumont and J B M Stanton – Published by Royal Philatelic Society, London 1957
Great Britain Specialised Catalogue Volume 2, 13th Edition – Published by Stanley Gibbons 2009
Great Britain Specialised Catalogue Volume 3, 11th Edition – Published by Stanley Gibbons 2006
Great Britain Journal – Published by Great Britain Philatelic Society (GBPS)
King Edward VIII by A J Kirk – Published by GBPS 1974
British Stamp Booklets – by J Alexander and L F Newbury Published by GBPS 1990
George V and the G.P.O. – by D N Muir Published by The British Postal Museum 2010


Frame 1 – Counter sheet perforations are shown from Type 2 to Type 6B. Note the rare Type 3 and the dislocations in the Type 6.
Frame 2 – More perforation examples are shown as well as misperfs. Booklet perforation Type B3 is shown.
Frame 3 – Booklet perforations from B4 to B6 plus the beginning of Controls.
Frame 4 – Stamp design, cylinder numbers, and flaws, plus marginal rules.
Frame 5 – More cylinder flaws and advertisement booklet panes.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Type 2 Perforation - KGV ½d and 1½d
  3. Type 2A Perforation - KGV 1½d Large Format
  4. Type 3 Perforation - KGV 2d
  5. Type 2 Perforation - KEVIII ½d, 1d and 1½d
  6. New Type 2 Perforation - KGVI 6d
  7. Double Pane Perforation Type 2 - Late Watermark Crowns - QEII Wilding 6d
  8. Type 4 Perforation - KGV Block Cypher ½d and Photogravure 1d
  9. Type 4 Perforation - KGV 1d and 1½d
  10. Type 6 Perforation - KGV ½d and 1½d
  11. Type 6 Perforation Dislocations - KGV 1d and 2d
  12. Type 6A Perforation - KGV 1½d
  13. Apparent Type 6B Perforation - KEVIII ½d and 1½d
  14. Type 6 Perforation Blind Perfs - KGV ½d, 1½d and 2d
  15. Type 6 Perforation - KGVI 4d
  16. Type 6 Perforation - Early Watermark Crowns - QEII Wilding 6d

Frame 2

  1. Type 5 Perforation - KGV ½d
  2. Single Comb Type 5 Perforation Corner Piece - KEVIII ½d
  3. Double Comb Type 5 Perforation Corner Piece - KEVIII 1½d
  4. Type 5AE Perforation - KGVI 1d
  5. Double Comb Blind Perf - QEII Wilding 2d
  6. Different Perforation Types for the Same Cylinder - KGV ½d Cyl 4
  7. Different Perforation Types for the Same Cylinder - KGV ½d Cyl 4
  8. Type 6 Perforation Guide Holes Sheet Markings - KEVIII 1½d and 2½d
  9. Double Perforation - KGVI 1½d Light Colours
  10. Perforation Error - KGVI ½d Light Colours
  11. Type 5 Perforation Variants - QEII 2d and 3d Wildings
  12. Perforation and Cylinder Errors - QEII 9d Wildings
  13. Ghost Perforation - QEII Wilding 3d Green Phosphor
  14. Traffic Lights - QEII 3d Machin
  15. Booklet Perforation Type B3 - KGV 1d and 1½d
  16. Booklet Perforation Type B3 - KEVIII ½d and 1d

Frame 3

  1. Booklet Perforation Type B4 - Intermediate Format Panes KGV ½d, 1d and 1½d
  2. Booklet Perforation Type B4 and B4A - KGV ½d and 1d
  3. Booklet Perforation Type B4 and B4B - KGV ½d and 1½d
  4. Booklet Perforation Type B4, B4A and B4B - KEVIII 1d
  5. Type 6 Perforator Guide Holes for Booklet Panes - KEVIII ½d and 1½d
  6. Booklet Panes Perforation Types B5 and B6 - KGVI Pale Colours ½d and 2½d
  7. Blind Perfs - Booklet Panes with Inverted Watermarks - KGVI ½d New Colours
  8. TÍte-BÍche Stamps plus 21-Row Printing - QEII Wilding 3d
  9. Background to Controls - QV, KEVII and KGV ½d
  10. Control Positions A and B - KGV 1d and 1½d
  11. Control Positions C and D - KGV ½d and 1d
  12. Progressive Boxing - KGV 3d
  13. Controls for Lesser Used Cylinders - KGV 7d, 10d and 1/-
  14. Faint Controls - KEVIII ½d
  15. Clear Ghost - KGVI 4d
  16. Faint Ghost Control - KGVI 5d

Frame 4

  1. Smudged Controls - KGVI ½d
  2. The End of Controls - KGVI Light Colours 1½d
  3. Marginal Flaw - KGV 1½d
  4. Heavy Cylinder Number - KGV 1½d
  5. Cylinder Number Retouch - KGV 2d
  6. Re-engraved Cylinder Number - KGV 2d Intermediate Format
  7. Great Orange Spot - KGV 2d
  8. Marginal Rules - KGVI Dark Colours 1½d
  9. Phantom Stamp Corners - QEII Wilding 3d and 4½d
  10. Stamp Design - KGV 1½d Large Format
  11. Consistent Design - KGV 2d
  12. Reverse Printing - KGV 1d and 1½d Large Format
  13. Cylinder Numbers - KGV 1d
  14. Cylinder Number Engraving Errors - KGV 1½d and 4d
  15. Miscellaneous Early Photogravure - KGV ½d, 1½d and 1/-
  16. 'ALF' Flaw - KGV ½d Small Format

Frame 5

  1. NE Frame Flaw - KGV 1½d
  2. Frame Break - KGV 1½d
  3. Frame Retouching - KGV 2½d
  4. Broken Tablets - KGV 2d
  5. Retouched Leaves - KGV 2d
  6. Pearl Flaw - KEVIII ½d
  7. Hair Flaw - KEVIII 1½d
  8. Cylinder Flaws - KEVIII 1d and KGVI ½d Dark Colours
  9. Row 18 Retouching - KGVI 6d
  10. Type 2 Perforation and Uncoated Paper - QEII Machin 10d
  11. Dry Printing - QEII Machin 5d
  12. Advertisement Labels - KGV 1½d Intermediate and Small Formats
  13. Advertisement Panes - KEVIII 1½d
  14. Progression of a Booklet Pane - KEVIII 1½d Cyl G5ns
  15. Vertical Delivery Stamp Rolls - KEVIII ½d and 1d
  16. Series 6 Sub-Series C 6d Booklet Panes from Sideways Watermark Rolls - KGV ½d and 1d Dark Colours