When it comes to the possibility of a range of shades for any
particular stamp it sparks a debate of differing opinions that
may continue for decades. Union Philately offers a variety of
desirable shades such as the King’s head ½d Mossy
green and whilst it remains a very under-rated stamp, this shade
does vary in its intensity.
The January 1950 reprint of the commemorative 1d Ox wagon SG
131 has an interesting claret shade that is not listed in any
of the popular stamp catalogues such as Stanley Gibbons, the
S.A.C.C. or the KGVI Commonwealth editions. It is worth looking
for and is certainly not as common as the total printing figure
of 21 million plus might suggest. A more recent desirable shade
is a RSA no watermark 10 cent emerald green definitive SG 217a.
All the foregoing examples tend to be straight forward but the
object of my article is a shade that is misunderstood, confusing
and provides an ongoing headache for even the most experienced
Philatelists – The 1954 last reprint of the mono-coloured
screened 3d Groote Schuur definitive, I have enjoyed a fascination
with this shade for more than a quarter of a century.
During 2006 I wrote an unpublished article on the subject and
by co-incidence Bas Payne published an article in the April/June
2006 edition of The Springbok
entitled Short stamps, large, small, and drunken perforations
– a contribution to the printing history of the 3d pictorial
Groote Schuur Issue 5 (SG 117a) Since then I have had further
discussion with Bas and others on the subject and I believe
that I now fully understand the saga of the deep blue shade.
The History of the 3d Groote Schuur
The black and red unhyphenated versions: The
1927 issue was printed from two plates by Bradbury, Wilkinson
in London using the recess method.
The 1931-32 Pretoria printings were produced
by the Government printer using two rotogravure unscreened
cylinders, again in black and red but with a slightly different
frame feature and listed as SG 45 - Figure
The 1933-37 final unhyphenated reprints continued the use
of interior and exterior unscreened cylinders, printed in
blue and blue, thus creating the impression that they are
The 1940-49 hyphenated issues again printed
with two cylinders in blue and blue but with a new variation.
February 1940 stamps had a screened interior and an unscreened
exterior, they are listed as SG 59 - Figure
The April 1949 printing is an all screened issue listed as
SG 117. Illustrations in the Union Handbook allow us to appreciate
the relative differences. For this printing the cylinder numbers
appear on the sheet margins. The interior on the left margin
as Cylinder No 44A and the exterior on the right margin marked
Cylinder No 44B. (Carry on below)
I have traced only one contemporary
report on this printing, in the September 1954 S.A. Philatelist
on page 157 under Union Notes it reads:-
Current 3d Pictorial Stamp in Deep Blue shade: Mr J.B. Levy
of Bloemfontein records that the current 3d postage stamp printed
from cylinder No.17 is at present appearing in a very deep blue
colour which he considers is worthy of catalogue rank. They
were first noticed on sale towards the end of July and undoubtedly
much darker and have a comparatively brighter general appearance
than the 3d stamps previously available.
This S.A.P report is the only comment on a mid-1954 reprint.
The details of the delivery of 34,330 sheets for Job 17412 appeared
in the October 1954 S.A.P. None of the 1955-1986 Union handbooks
mention this printing.
The 1960 UHB
merely added a deep blue shade to the basic stamp and the
1979 - 86 editions modified the description to deep dark blue.
On page 96 in the 1986 UHB it states...one small printing
had the stamps in deep dark blue colour which is quite striking,
but as there were other printings in a fairly dark blue, collectors
should compare theirs with copies which are known to have
the correct colour before classifying them. The foregoing
is rather vague as it merely hints at one small printing
..... in a deep dark blue colour’ and ‘other printings
in a fairly dark blue.
It clarifies nothing and simply adds to the
confusion, thus the UHB intimates that there were only two
printings using cylinder 17 when in fact there were four.
In the S.A.C.C. it is described as No 116b blackish blue (Large
perf. holes). The Murray Payne KGVI catalogue lists it as
No 31b deep intense blue and I recall several discussions
with the Editors that resulted in the following footnote
31b an extremely deep dark shade with large perforation holes.
We previously considered the size of perforation holes to
be a reliable test for the shade, but this is not the case.
We now recommend an expert committee certificate be obtained
when purchasing this stamp.
For many years Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth catalogue included
a SG l17b Deep blue but for some inexplicable reason they
deleted it in 2004.
Two different deep blue shades exist on the
last printing and they vary in their intensity and what exactly
qualifies as the deep shade
is a matter that has been debated for some time.
An intense deep blue shade
One version is considered correct and the other I have dubbed
To confuse the matter even more I have had sight of a block
of twelve and its shade falls in between the other two. So
where do we go from here?
A dealer friend informed me that he had handled a full sheet
of the 1954 reprint and recalled that the stamps along the
bottom rows had much deeper shades than those on the top rows.
He said that he had submitted pairs from the top half of the
sheet which did not get a clear certificate whereas those
from the lower half were classified as the deep blue shade.
(Carry on below)