Monday, 13 March 2017

I Spy...On ½d Downey Head Differences

It has been several years since I've had a good look at my Great Britain KGV collection. Because of this I have forgotten a lot of the sorting details. Distinguishing between the different types of the ½d Downey Head is one of the things that has fallen victim to my forgettery. The Great Britain Downey Head stamps were first issued in 1911. There are two Downey Head values: ½d green and 1d red. 

Both values have their own intricacies, but in this blog we will focus on the ½d green value. The ½d green has two main dies (referred to as 'types' in some catalogues). For ease of description we shall call these Die 1 and Die 2. Then it gets a bit more tricky. Die 1 can be further broken down into two sub Dies, referred to as 1A and 1B. Nervous? Well, don't be. With a bit of practice the differences can be easily learned. Then you'll be sorting like a pro!

First off let me say that the explanations that follow are the easiest way of sorting the different dies that work for me. If my way helps you along a bit that's great. So without further ado, let's grab our ½d greens and spread them out before us.


Okay, now that you have all of your ½d greens arrayed before you, let's get sorting. To begin with it is important to know that the ½d green can be found with three different watermarks, shown below, but we will come back to watermarks in detail later. 


The first detail to tackle is sorting Die 1 stamps from Die 2 stamps. This is actually quite easy, and if you have descent eyes, it can be done without any aids. Otherwise, a magnifying glass will be more than adequate. I have created a diagram - see below - to help us along. Looking at the diagram you can see immediately the differences in the beard. In Die I the beard is very heavy and undefined. And in Die 2 this was neatened up and the beard is more defined. The way I remember this is that in Die 1 good old George goes to the barber. In Die 2 he has visited the barber and is looking quite dapper.


But what if the ink has faded somewhat or there is a ruddy great postmark over the top of the beard? Fear not. There is another way to distinguish between Die 1 & Die 2. Again I have created a diagram to help out. See below. This time we need to turn our attention to the decoration above the word 'HALFPENNY'. Inside the decoration, above the 'P' we can see a difference between Die 1 and Die 2. In Die 1 we can make out two shading lines. In Die 2 these lines become one fat line.

Still with me? Excellent. We can now identify Die 1 and Die 2 stamps. Pretty cool.


Now things get a bit more tricky. As I mentioned above, Die 1 can be broken down into two sub Dies, called 1A and 1B. So how do we find these differences? Well, to distinguish 1A from 1B a good magnifying glass is needed. Or better yet, a scanner. Below is another diagram to help us. This time around we must turn our attention to the dolphin at the bottom right of the stamp. Can you see the difference? In Die 1A the top scale is an extra large triangle, whereas in Die 1B there is an extra scale and the top scale is incomplete on the left side.


Again, if the above difference is blotted out by a postmark or too difficult to distinguish, we have a second chance at identification. For this difference - it's a tiny one - we need to look to the crown at the top centre of the stamp. See below again. Inside the crown there is a Maltese Cross, and right in the centre of that cross is a curved mark representing a jewel. In Die 1A this curved mark resembles a comma. In Die 1B this curved mark is a bit bigger and it looks more like a crescent.


After all this we can now not only distinguish between Die 1 and Die 2, but we can further identify Die 1A from Die 1B. That is pretty awesome, I reckon.

Now if your brain hasn't gone into complete meltdown, we need to briefly go back to those watermarks I mentioned right back at the beginning. That is which Dies have which watermarks. Below is a list, complete with Stanley Gibbons Catalogue Number, Dies, and watermarks for each Die.

SG# 321 - Die 1A - WMK Imperial Crown (type 49)
SG# 324 - Die 1B - WMK Imperial Crown (tyoe 49)
SG# 334 - Die 1B - WMK Simple Cypher (type 100) Found in Booklets only
SG# 338 - Die 2 - WMK Imperial Crown (type 49)
SG# 344 - Die 2 - WMK Simple Cypher (type 100)
SG# 346 - Die 2 - WMK Multiple Cypher (type 103)

We are done! I hope my method will help you sort your ½d green Downey Heads with a little more ease. If there's anything I missed - I am still a novice - please talk to me in the comments!

Until next time...

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