George VI Coronation FDCs

Thomas P. Myers, GBCC, U.S.A.

Published in the January, 2004 issue of The Chronicle, the journal of the Great Britain Collectors Club. Reprinted by permission.

At the Omaha Stamp Show last weekend I was thumbing through a bunch of GB covers when I discovered the George VI coronation cacheted FDC shown in Fig. 1. When I got home I added it to my small stash noticing that I had several different, which led me to wonder how many there are.

George VI Coronation FDC
Figure 1. The King George VI Coronation First Day Cover that started Myers’ investigation.

Truthfully, I have never been much interested in FDCs but somehow I have accumulated a small number of them. That led me to wonder what I had, and how it stacked up against which might be available. Fortunately, I have acquired a couple of books on GB FDCs over the years. One is Collect First Day Covers, 1988 published by Benham. The other is the 1993 edition of Collecting British First Day Covers by N.C. Porter and published by A.G. Bradbury. Both are badly out of date but they do provide some idea of how Brits collect FDCs as well as some idea of value. A Google search on the web provided some additional information about FDCs, but little about the 1937 Coronation FDCs that I was seeking.

A review of the catalogs, combined with the information gleaned from a quick web search, reveals that cacheted FDCs were not the norm until after World War II. A Junior Philatelic Society cachet on a 1/2d green Downey head that appeared in 1911 was the first cacheted FDC. That will set you back nearly £300. The next appeared at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley in 1924, followed by an illustrated cover from the George V Silver Jubilee in 1935.

Illustrated FDCs are also associated with the appearance of the Edward VIII issues in 1936 and with the 1/2d, 1d, 2d, 2 1/2d and 3d values of the 1937 George VI definitives. Curiously, illustrated FDCs are not reported with the higher values of the 1937 definitives. That brings us back to the 1937 Coronation FDCs.

The catalogs in my possession tell me only that illustrated FDCs exist for the Coronation and give different prices for various postmarks, associated or not with the coronation. The web yielded little additional information. At least information about Coronation FDCs is not readily available so let me share what I have in my collection.

George VI Coronation FDC
Figure 2. This King George VI Coronation First Day Cover was created by Stamp Collecting, Ltd, London.

The cover that initiated this inquiry (Fig. 1) is unusual because it is on yellow paper. The printing is in blue ink. Unfortunately, there is no indication of the group that sponsored it. The second cachet features a red crown over an oval portrait in blue (Fig. 2). The vertical text indicates that it was published by Stamp Collecting, Ltd, London. A search on eBay revealed that the same illustration was printed with a blue crown and a red portrait.

George VI Coronation FDC
Figures 3 and 4. These King George VI Coronation First Day Covers were prepared by Gimbels Famous Stamp Department in the United States.

The third cover (Fig. 3) features a rectangular portrait of George VI in blue with the lettering above and below in red. There is no indication as to the publisher. The fourth cover (Fig. 4) features the Coat of Arms in blue with red lettering below. A small handstamp in red on the reverse of the cover indicates that it was printed in the USA and a card inside reveals that it was provided by Gimbels Famous Stamp Dept. The print on the third and fourth covers is identical and the gum stains are similar so both may have been prepared in the United States as a courtesy to Gimbels’ customers. However, the difference in franking as well as the less attractive handwritten address suggests that it was privately mailed rather than part of a mass mailing to Gimbels’ customers.

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