A B.E.E. IN MY BONNET
By Peter Griffin
The Wembley Stamps 1924 - 25
We are all familiar with the stamps from the Exhibition. Just the two values were issued, 1d and 1 1/2d, with a change of date for the 1925 issue. They were originally intended for issue and use at the exhibition offices only, but such was the demand from the general public that some main offices were issued a stock. Many dealers had stamps and stationery items mailed to them from the exhibition to satisfy collector demand. The price of these issues has fallen substantially in recent years as the early investors and collectors of that period are departing to that great stamping ground in the sky leaving behind sheets and smaller multiples that are now flooding the market. It is still worth the extra effort and expense in finding the freshest and best centered copies you can find.
The paper was watermarked Block Cypher and no inverted watermarks are thought to exist. The paper is generally of a uniform standard but occasionally a denser, harder paper turns up and is associated with more intense shades as less of the ink is absorbed into the surface.
The stamps can be found with both Specimen and Cancelled overprints, at a price. As with coil-joins (see below) these can be, and have been, faked - so beware.
It seems two plates were used for the 1924 1d and just one for each of the other three values. There were no control or plate numbers in the margins but some North East corner blocks are to be found with what are generally considered to be batch numbers (fig. 1) as not all corner blocks have them.
The sheets of 120 were separated into the Post Office issued panes of 10 x 6 at the guide crosses. Similar crosses appear in the corners as well. (fig. 1)
As with all recess-printed issues there are plenty of minor varieties to be discovered but there seems to be only one on the Wembleys that seems to rouse any sort of excitement. It is to be found on plate one of the 1924 1d in position 1/5 of the left pane. Known as the 'Tail to N' variety it commands a hefty premium but you could get lucky as I did and find it on a postcard. (fig. 2)
The first issues of the 1924 pair were line perforated. That is to say they were perforated vertically and horizontally in two separate operations that resulted in a tangle of holes at the corners of each stamp. These are readily recognised by the very tiny perf. holes and the blunted corners of the stamp. Later a comb perforator was used which produced larger holes and neater corners (fig. 3). Broken perf. pin varieties exist, I have found only one and believe they must be very scarce. Mine is on one of the line perf. 1d stamps. I also have a line perf. stamp which is one perf. taller than any others I have seen. Where there are tall stamps there may well be short stamps too, so keep an eye open.
The coil stamps were distributed by the grand sounding 'British Stamp and Ticket Automatic Delivery Co. Ltd.' who had seven machines installed at various points around the grounds. They made up the coils by separating standard panes into vertical strips with the lower selvedge being used to effect the coil join every tenth stamp. In most, but not all the examples I have seen the vertical separation seems to have been carried out with a guillotine. Evidence of this in the squared-off or blunted perfs. would do much to persuade me I had a genuine coil stamp and not something someone had faked. The only coil join I've seen that I'm totally convinced is genuine is a 1925 1d and 1 1/2d pair in vertical strips of four where each stamp is pierced by two holes caused by the missaligned feed mechanism that is supposed to co-incide with the perforation holes. Obviously the stamps must be considered damaged but it is a super variety and well worth keeping if discovered. I have a single 1 1/2d and a pair of 1d values but not a coil join I regret to say (fig. 4).
I always look at Wembleys on cover for coil joins. They are almost certainly going to be single stamps but one in every ten from the machines will have a narrow strip of selvedge under the top edge of the stamp. The only one I've yet seen was found by a dealer first and he wanted too much for it so I'm still without one. However I have found something that is perhaps more interesting.
I bought a collection of postcards several years ago as it included a number of early cards from my area. On checking the reverse I found two Wembley adhesives on cards tied by the official Wembley slogan. One stamp appeared to be faulty down the right hand margin and on closer inspection I could see the original perfs. had been somewhat raggedly trimmed and an extra piece of selvedge had been added to restore its fully perforated appearance (fig 5). It suggested that besides the recorded vertical delivery machines there must have been a sideways delivery type installed somewhere in the Exhibition Grounds, and I was looking at a coil join. Although it seemed most unlikely, the only other conclusion was that the sender of the card had produced this oddity for reasons best known to him/her alone.
It made an interesting write up but with just an isolated example no firm conclusions could be made. Then a couple of years later another one turned up. This one, completely trimmed to a straight edge on the right, again had a piece of selvedge added to restore the original width. One is a freak, two is a phenomenon! So I publicised my findings, and sideways machine theory, in the G. B. Journal. This prompted a responce from Alan Sabey (of "The Lion Roars" fame) who apparently has one as well and he put forward the most likely theory, that when the stamps were being guillotined into vertical strips the occasional miscut resulted in narrower stamps. Presumably this could have affected the smooth running of the coil machines, maybe some sideways fluctuation, thus causing a malfunction which could be corrected by the restoration of the stamp's original dimensions. This may explain the fact that later examples of coil stamps seem to have been separated by folding and tearing in the normal way thus avoiding the extra work involved after a mishap with the guillotine. As with single Coil-join stamps this variety has to be tied to a cover or card to be sure it is genuine. As few people are yet aware of it any piece of Wembley mail is worth an extra squint - just in case.
End of part three.
© Exhibition Study Group 1994