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Information and Reference of What was Found in the Format Archive and the Police Evidence Stock

Would YOU store YOUR specialized 1986 Royal Wedding Uncut Press Sheets this way?

Example of how the 1986 Royal Wedding Police Evidence Stock was Stored

The regular issued tete-beches (First Series)

1986 Royal Wedding Tete-beche Block of Stamps
Marquee for Golowe's Reference Site on the Format International Security Printers


Recently in 2015 fake printings of the 1986 Royal Wedding issues are being placed onto the market. So far it is only the Western Hemisphere countries that seem to be effected. They are of the same inferior printing quality as all the other fakes and forgeries I have written about. Please visit my introduction page on Modern Fake Stamps to understand what to look for. I have purchased some myself and so I have created pages describing them. They all have the same characteristics as all the other forgeries. It is sad that one persons greed can effect the whole stamp market in such a way. As of 2017 I have not seen fake Mustique stamps. Apparently the material used to print them was destroyed entirely as they were never issued.


Until about 1970 the Format International Security Printers Ltd. handled printing of stamps the old fashioned way. Then a new way of printing stamps was developed. The process of using large sheets which we call today "uncut Press Sheets" was developed. The new process was and is to this day used in the following ways. 1. All regular and special issues are now printed on large uncut Press Sheets. 2. The same applies to miniature sheets (Souvenir sheets). They can be printed, depending on their size, 6 to 24 miniatures on one big sheet. 3. Small booklets can also be printed in two ways. a.) By inverting certain stamps in the large sheets, the result is plenty of small booklets for the convenience of postal users. b.) If they are printed on uncut regular sheets without inverting any stamps, the printers can still produce booklets by removing various lines of perforations. This method is rather cumbersome and seldom used.

The big development with fantastic results in the Format Archive was the decision to issue a set of 36 stamps, all dealing with the 1986 forthcoming wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. These 36 stamps in sets of 2, outline the history of their lives up through the wedding details. The idea must have taken about a year to develop.
Nine British Commonwealths were selected in the West Indies. These nine were all in the Western Hemisphere.
Nine more British Commonwealths were selected in the Eastern Hemisphere, specifically, the former Ellice Islands, which in older times had stamps under the name of Gilbert and Ellice Islands. The Ellice Islands broke away from the Gilbert group and reverted their country names back to their original names. Here is a list of the names and the Scott catalog numbers of the 1986 Royal Wedding stamps pairs issued.

Eastern Hemisphere Western Hemisphere
Tuvalu SC#381-2 Bequia SC#232-5
Funafuti SC#59-60 British Virgin Islands SC#537-40
Nanumaga SC#71-2 Grenadines of St. Vincent SC#539-40
Nanumea SC#65-8 Montserrat SC#615-16
Niutao SC#51-2 Nevis SC#498-9
Nui SC#63-4 St. Lucia SC#839-40
Nukufetau SC#58-9 St. Vincent SC#958-9
Nukulaelae SC#61-2 Union Island SC#228-31
Vaitupu SC#65-6 Mustique (not issued)

All were issued in 1986 except the ones for Mustique. The stamps for Mustique were cancelled by the authorizing country of St. Vincent. Only a few uncut Press sheets were saved of the Mustique issues and the rest were destroyed. Now we come to the most interesting discovery in the Format archive and police evidence stock. THE TETE-BECHE PAIRS!

Originally before the police evidence stock was released in 2008 a group of the full uncut press sheets of all of the issues were found in the archive. There were two different versions of sheets found in the unissued section of the archive. Full uncut press sheets of 80 with tete-beche stamps and panes of 40 with tete-beche stamps. Robson Lowe who took on the task of making an inventory of what was in the archive, wrote up a list on these issues. Accordingly stated that no panes of 40 (containing tete-beche pairs) were in the archive for the Western Hemisphere countries. All were in full uncut press sheets of 80. Here is what he wrote in his inventory list:

1986 Royal Wedding of the Duke of York
Sheets of eighty stamps 8x10, the central strip of 4 having

No. of stamps Tete-beche strips
British Virgin Is. 35c, $1 4160 260 + 260
Montserrat 70c, $2 4080 260 + 250
Nevis 60c, $2 4640 260 + 320
St. Lucia 80c, $2 4160 260 + 260
St. Vincent 60c, $2 4160 260 + 260
Bequia 60c, $2 4160 260 + 260
Grenadines 60c, $2 4080 250 + 260
Mustique 60c, $2 960 60 + 60
Union Is. 60c, $2 4160 260 + 260

I have modified a few number of stamp calculations because we believe he was not counting a few damaged stamps example being 4158 is now 4160. This makes the Mustique tete-beche pairs the rarest of all at this point.

Now to the pattern of the full uncut press sheet. Please see the image below.
1986 Royal Wedding Uncut Press Sheet of 80 Stamps
Mr. Kasimir Bileski was extensively collecting the Royal Wedding tete-beches starting in 1991. Before he could get to them, some had been sold through private sales and smaller auctions by Christie's to other dealers in the UK. He was able still to accumulate a large holding of them and DID find several of the dealers who had them. He bought them all and continued searching for them over a 16 year period. Most people do not know what they are and how rare they are. This is why I present this page on the subject. Many of the tete-beches have already been separated making the existing ones even more rare.

Mr. Bileski separated the uncut press sheets in a most intelligent way for collectors to be able to store and present these rarities. Looking at the Image, notice the wide gutters to the right and left of the central pane. When separated with the vertical pairs on each side, you thus have a gutter block that is just as rare or even rarer than the tete-beche pairs.
Mr. Bileski separated these gutter and tete-beche pairs as shown below:

11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111
11111 Straightu___pgutter tete-beche pairT e t ebeche gutter11111

The tete-beche pairs were either separated into pairs or blocks. Blocks are rarer than the pairs. Sadly, As I stated earlier, some of the gutter blocks and pairs have already been separated making them common stamps as issued. Also more tete-beche blocks and pairs can be obtained from the panes
The stamp blocks in the diagram with the 1111 are the stamps along the edge with large selvage only from uncut press sheets.

Now let's look at the panes of 40. Here is an image of one.
1986 Royal Wedding Pane of 40 Stamps Tete-beche
The reasoning behind these panes being cut as they are is simply for storage for resale. After acquiring a section of the police evidence stock a portion contained both panes of 40(with the tete-beches) and panes of 20 taken from each side of the uncut press sheets. Many of the progressive color proof sheets were cut in exactly this same way for easier storage. Also the panes of 40 are the next stage of cutting for booklet panes. Not very many of these were found in the archive. Neither were many in the police evidence stock.

1986 Royal Wedding Booklet Panes
All of the panes of 40 found in the archive were made for the Eastern Hemisphere Commonwealth countries. For Tuvalu and it's Islands and Atolls? None were found in the archive made for the Western Hemisphere countries.


Since the release of the police evidence stock I have discovered that quantities of the tete-beches are higher than what Mr. Bileski originally calculated pricing for. Firstly I will show his valuations to give you an idea of what they were originally based on. In the individual pages I will go more in depth on each country as with some countries not very many sheets were found whereas with other countries a substantial quantity was saved. Of the uncut press sheets that were found in the police evidence stock many were damaged severely from brutal storage conditions. Please understand the uncut press sheets are heavy in bulk and cumbersome to move. Thus over 20 years many were bent, torn, creased, etc;.

Mr. Bileski valued the tete-beche pairs at $100.00 each. Mustique at $250.00. Tete-beche gutter blocks and straight up gutter blocks (both of equal rarity) at $200.00 each. The gutter blocks from Mustique are valued at $400.00 each. These values are well below the range of what other tete-beches go for on the market in terms of rarity based on the numbers found in the archive. Check pricing on Canada's 1928 definitive series. The 1c, 2c and 5c tete-beche pairs. Each are priced between $350.00 to $600.00. Some of the 1986 Royal Wedding issues are much rarer even with the additional quantities found in the police evidence stock.

Despite the horrendous storage conditions in the police warehouse of the material many of the sheets found in the police evidence stock are in perfect condition! Many variations as in imperforates, SPECIMEN overprinted, 2nd series overprints in silver AND gold, missing value and progressive color proofs have been discovered!
Thus the previous numbers that exist written by Robson Lowe and Kasimir Bileski are no longer valid. This also reduces the valuations stated by Mr. Bileski on several of the countries. Still the stamps from this series in tete-beche and gutter form are much rarer than the normal issued stamps and much rarer than the examples of Canadian tete-beches etc;.


In December 2017 I was contacted by a person who had acquired a group of press sheets from someone connected to the Format Printers years ago. In that group of press sheets two proof sheets of the 1986 Royal Wedding issues were found containing many of the different country issue single stamps all attached on one press sheet! This formation was never known to exist until this newest discovery. One of the press sheets was damaged on one edge which destroyed two rows of the stamps on that edge.

Mr. Roger West was lucky enough to acquire the press sheets. I could not offer enough for the group. He contacted me after the acquisition and we concurred that indeed they are the only two press sheets known to exist in this form. Mr. West has broken the sheets into individual blocks of four showing various combinations of the almost unique combinations. Luckily before that happened the previous owner had sent me an image of one of the press sheets intact. this is the only image that will ever exist of it as the press sheets have been broken into the block formations. you can visit Mr. West's eBay store under the user name rogerpo99 to see and buy the blocks which he has set at what I would consider fair value as only nine of each combination offered exist!
A Newly Discovered Unique Combination Proof Press Sheet of the 1986 Royal Wedding Stamp Issues


In my acquisitions of the Bileski stock and the police evidence stock I have discovered that the reprints can be distinguished! The most pronounced difference is the color. For the Eastern hemisphere stamps the reprints are a deeper shade than the originals. More red was added on the reprints thus making the color of the couples hair more brownish and the faces more shall we say "livid". Also a touch more black was added causing deeper dark colors.
With the island issues of Tuvalu it seems the opposite. Less red was applied making the features less "livid". For the Tuvalu Islands this is basically the only way to tell the difference as the inscriptions are all black in color. There is not a lot of variance with the inscriptions for those countries.
Here is an example:

A comparison of a Tuvalu Island 1986 Royal Wedding reprint and original stamp
For the Eastern Hemisphere countries there is another BIG difference. The colors of the country name and denomination are very much different! Here is an example:

A comparison of the Fonts on 1986 Royal Wedding reprint and original stamps
I have also discovered that for Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands listings will have to be changed in regards to the watermarks. BOTH VALUES for both countries were watermarked and all have "inverted" and/or "reading up or down" varieties. The watermarked versions are from the first printing and unwatermarked versions are from the reprinting.

Because of the differences in quantities, information and variants of this series, the following link table is created for each of the eighteen countries so as to break down what exists and new valuations of the material.

Western Hemisphere Eastern Hemisphere

The study of the 1986 Royal Wedding issues for these Commonwealth Countries is fascinating and ongoing.

The stigma created by Scott Catalog and numerous biased opinions of some dealers and collectors needs to be changed as we are finally finding by the EVIDENCE that these issues are NOT as common as the above mentioned would like you to believe.
The generalized statements in Scott Catalog saying
"Large Quantities of these issues appeared on the market after the liquidation of the printers"
should not be believed in respect to many of the issues printed by the Format International Security Printers Ltd. This statement is to vague and was sloppily applied without due research into the subject.

One would think by the statement that millions of copies flooded the market whereas in actuality only hundreds or in some cases one to twenty thousand sets or singles were produced. Not a lot considering the millions produced by other countries including the U.S. and Canada. Not a lot considering the millions of stamp collectors out there.

Hopefully the new research into the issues printed by this printer will help collectors understand what REALLY was printed and can establish a new and fair valuation of this fascinating philatelic material.

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UPDATED LAST ON: 20-Jan-2018 10:44 AM