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The Crown Agents, Philatelic and Security Printing Archive

The Archive was deposited with the British Library from the 1960s, and consists of a wide range of philatelic and written material which were the Crown Agents original working records. It must be regarded as the most comprehensive record of British Colonial and Commonwealth issues of the last 100 years.

Omnibus Issue for countries of the British Empire: 1935 Silver Jubilee of the reign of King George V master die proof in green and sepia.

Omnibus Issue for countries of the British Empire: 1935 Silver Jubilee of the reign of King George V master die proof in green and sepia.

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These include an extensive range of the black and white proofs, colour proofs, colour trials, artists essays, sketches, drawings and paintings, especially for the modern issues, and examples of the issued stamps. The postage stamps in the Archive are usually taken from the first printing, copies being held by the Chief Inspector of Stamps and the Crown Agents Bureau. These copies are used as colour guides for comparison against the production run, and form part of the quality control process. The Archive is not written up in an accepted philatelic sense, but exists in its original form with many notes and remarks about the printings in the Crown Agents inspector’s own handwriting.

British Guiana - Paper Money: 1941 unissued $5, the whole consignment was lost at sea. A replacement note in new colours was issued later the same year.

British Guiana - Paper Money: 1941 unissued $5, the whole consignment was lost at sea. A replacement note in new colours was issued later the same year.

Because of its unique composition the Archive contains a number of the World’s great postage stamp varieties, including for example, the Fiji 1878-99, 2d error of colour, being blue instead of green, and the Gold Coast 1889-94, Queen Victoria 20s. green and red.

Gilbert and Ellice Islands: 1971 1c. 'Cutting Toddy' original artwork

Gilbert and Ellice Islands: 1971 1c. 'Cutting Toddy' original artwork

Some stamps remain as un-issued items and examples of these are also retained in the record albums. These include the Malayan Union and Singapore Peace Commemorative stamps of 1946, which were not issued for local political reasons, and the Jamaica 1954 £1 Queen Elizabeth definitive in the design of the earlier King George VI issue.

The Archive also houses a large number of revenue stamps from many territories, which because they were often only printed in small quantities, and few survive, must also be classed amongst the World’s great philatelic rarities. Examples of these include the Nyasaland 1938 £10 King George VI revenue stamp, and the Swaziland £5 Queen Elizabeth II revenue stamp of 1956.

 

British Commonwealth: 1952 Queen Elizabeth II, different portrait styles prepared for general use, composite die proof mounted on card.

British Commonwealth: 1952 Queen Elizabeth II, different portrait styles prepared for general use, composite die proof mounted on card.

The stamp material is supported by a wide range of written records which are of vital importance to any research. These include Requisition Books for colonial government orders from about 1921 to 1968, The Plate Issue books for a similar period, and paper issue records from 1940 to the late 1960’s.

The Archive also contains many examples of postal stationery, again including some rare examples, postal orders and paper money printed in the United Kingdom mainly for British Commonwealth countries.

It is also important to note that this Archive is not closed, it is continually being added to, mostly in the form of stamps, miniature sheets, stamp booklets, and colour proofs.

Contact

Philatelic Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7635
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7780

E-mail: philatelic@bl.uk