The GB 'Wilding' 3d deep lilac definitive

by Eunice Shanahan

It might seem an odd idea to concentrate on one stamp, but I was drawn to the idea for a competition entry. There were so many definitive stamps that it would have been impossible to condense the information to article size, so I chose the 3d as it had such a variety of issues.

This stamp first appeared on January 18, 1954, as part of the new definitive series. It was designed by M.C. Farrar-Bell, based on the portrait of the new Queen Elizabeth by Dorothy Wilding. The stamp was printed by Harrisons, and was perforated 15 x 14 on paper bearing the Tudor Crown watermark. A simple beginning, but the subsequent issues of this stamp form a digest of the "Wilding" definitives story.

Three watermarks seen on the 3d Wilding.

Tudor crown, Edward Crown, Multiple Crown


British stamps--overprinted--have been used abroad since Victorian times. The Elizabethan "Wilding" issues were used in the Persian Gulf, in various British Postal Agencies and in Morocco. (All of these Postal Agencies have since closed, and their functions have been taken over by local Postal Administrations). The 3d with the Tudor watermark was only used in Tangier, and. The "Tangier" overprint was issued on January 18, 1954. It was withdrawn from sale April 10, 1957, and the quantity sold was 386 880.

The first major change for this stamp was the watermark, from the Tudor Crown to the St. Edward's Crown. It first appeared in sheet form on July 17, 1956; in coils on November 22, 1957; and in booklets on October 1, 1957.

Graphite lines.


Edward Watermark - Graphite-lined issue

The increase in the mail handled by the Post Office was so great, that improved handling methods had to be developed. The most important of these was the introduction of a machine which could "face-up" the letters, and separate them into first and second class mail, in the same operation. The machine was used experimentally only in Southampton, using a method of electrical detection. For the machine to work, lines of graphite were applied beneath the gum, two lines on the 3d for first class mail.

Coil join on graphite-lined stamp.

The coils of 480 stamps were made up from the sheet printings, (12 rows of 20 stamps), being joined by the margin paper, after each 20th stamp

The next change was another alteration to the watermark from the St. Edwards Crown and cypher to the Multiple Crown watermark. The first appearance of the 3d with this watermark was in November 1958 in booklet form, and on December 9, 1958 in sheets.

The 3d Wilding definitive had more changes than most and the issue with the multiple crown watermark was the subject of most experiments over the years

The graphite lines were also applied to the stamps with the Multiple Crown watermark. The graphite was not successful, so phosphor was tried, in addition to the graphite. The 3d stamp bearing two graphite lines on the back, and two side phosphor bands on the front was issued November 18, 1959. The phosphor appeared successful, so the graphite was discontinued in favour of phosphor bands.

Cylinder block with phosphor lines

The phosphor lined stamp was issued on June 22, 1960. These phosphor issues are a study on their own, as three different types were used, emitting green, blue or violet phosphorescence. They cannot be demonstrated on an album page without the use of an ultraviolet lamp, as this is the only way to distinguish the colours accurately. However the bands can be seen on this cylinder block, as strips down the centre of the stamps, continuing on into the bottom sheet margin.

Multiple crowns - phosphor , se-tenant booklet panes

Se-tenant pane and illustration of layout.

This was the only se-tenant combination with the 3d stamp. The 3d could be either at the left or the right of the 1d stamp. This was because of the printing layout designed to facilitate the application of the phosphor bands. Although it may appear to be random the stamps were printed like this, so that the 3d received one phosphor band for first class mail, and the 1d 2 bands.

Cylinder numbers on booklet panes

Since 1956, most booklet stamps have been printed continuously from 21-row cylinders, and the cylinder number appears in the left hand margin. As the sheets are guillotined to make up the booklets, (in this case, every second row), the cylinder number will appear either on the upper or the lower stamp margin. As a result of the printing layout, the booklet pane which has the cylinder number will necessarily have an upright watermark.


This cylinder number K18 no dot, was used for the production of booklets with panes of 6x3d stamps, that is the 3/-, 4/6d, 5/-, 6/- and 10/- values.

Errors and varieties :

Most of the Wilding stamps had varieties, but this strip of three shows misplaced perforations. This would be a "one-off" variety, as only that sheet would have gone through the perforator out of line.

Misplaced perforations.

There is however, a constant flaw - the "Phantom R" and to see it, you do not need the Sherlock Holmes skill with the magnifier.

Phantom R flaw--phosphor.

During the printing, the multipositive had more images than were needed for a sheet of stamps, so the unwanted images were masked out. In this instance the masking was incomplete, resulting in the 'R' of the next stamp appearing in the 'jubilee line' of the last stamp in the row.

The flaw appeared in Cylinder 41 no dot, which had a thick jubilee line, and in Cylinder 37 no dot, which had a thin jubilee line, and on both phosphor and non-phosphor stamps.

Attempts were made by the printers to obliterate the 'R' by hand with horizontal straight lines, but as this example shows, the 'R' is still visible. Further attempts were made to retouch the unwanted 'R' and different stages of this retouch can be found.


The 3d multiple crowns watermark was also issued in coil form, for use in automatic vending machines, and this was the first issue of 960 x 3d stamps.

This type of roll with a code letter "AD," was issued on April 1, 1960, containing stamps which were produced by continuous printing, that means that there were no joins in the roll. The watermark, was normal and the stamps were reeled face inwards to the core, which was cardboard, and of ¾ inch in diameter, for lower end delivery from the machine.

Coil leader.
The details of the roll were printed on the coil leader, which is buff with green printing, has perforated edges, and Harrisons watermark. (Fig. 9 coil leader) The roll value £12, was shown for accounting purposes; the "9" is a printers mark, to identify the row on the web from which the roll was taken.

The last issue date for the 3d Wilding was November 1967. It was on multiple crown watermarked paper, with two phosphor bands and for use only in the 10/- booklet.

To sum up, although this is only one value of the definitive set, it has 3 different watermarks, and those watermarks can be upright, inverted or sideways. It was issued in sheet form, in booklets--including a se-tenant pane--and in two different types of coils for sale from machines. It had substances added to aid mechanisation in the form of graphite lines, phosphor bands with graphite lines, and then phosphor bands--in three different forms--and it was even used abroad overprinted "Tangier." So it is quite a challenge to collect one of each, but isn't that the fun of stamp collecting?

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This article was first published in Netstamps, a WebZine publication, no longer on the web.

Copyright 1998 By EARS Leisurewrite