New Find After 75 Years

An exciting and very significant new find was offered by Philas Stamp Auctions in Sydney in mid-November, as lot 2208 in their auction no. 136. A set of three die proofs of the 1945 Duke and Duchess of Gloucester issue was of a type not previously seen for Australian die proofs in collector hands. They were invoiced for near $AUS8000.

Three vertical die proofs – unique in Australian philately

As the proposed stamp design featured royal portraits, it was necessary for the design to be approved by King George VI before printing. For this purpose, a set of three die proofs was prepared by the Note Printing Branch Melbourne in the proposed colours of the three stamps – 2½d. lake, 3½d. ultramarine and 5½d. indigo.

However, uniquely here, each die proof was pulled from only the 2½d. master die. This procedure was followed so that, if adjustments were required to the design, these could be made to the master die, and then the 3½d. and 5½d. dies could be derived from the approved design. No other set of proofs is recorded showing the proposed colour scheme using the master die only.

The three proofs are mounted in sunken matted frames as was usual, but unusually, they were then added into a blue leather folder. This folder would have been submitted to the Post Office for forwarding to the Australian High Commissioner in London, who in turn would have sent the proofs to Buckingham Palace for approval.

The proofs were accompanied by a letter from the palace returning them to Australia House, noting that King George VI had approved the design and the duke had also seen the proofs. It would seem that the proofs were not returned to Australia but remained in London, where they may have been kept as a souvenir by a staff member.

Approval from the very top!

The set of three stamps were issued, as we know, on 19 February 1945, and these proofs were mailed to UK in November 1944. All very formal, seeing World War II was still raging fiercely – the German unconditional surrender only took place on 8 May 1945 and Japan did not surrender until August 1945. A very classy piece of history that Temora on kindly shared.

Article by Glen Stephens

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