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Information and Reference of the Designing, Printing and Distribution of the Stamps Through the British Crown Agents Philatelic Services

Scott Catalog 488-92 Stanley Gibbons 514-518

Saint Helena 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth Stamps
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In my acquisition of the documents used in the trials against the Format International Security Printers Ltd. and the associated companies including the British Crown agents philatelic agency, I found 27 documents in reference to the creation and distribution of the 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary overprint issue of Queen Elizabeth II 60th Birthday common design stamp issue.
These documents give a much clearer look at how stamps are created, produced and distributed to collectors around the world.
This group of documents gives us a basic idea of how all Saint Helena stamps were produced during the 1980's and 1990's and how varieties were commonly requested by the philatelic agencies to promote collecting and increase revenues.

For the Saint Helena 40th Wedding Anniversary overprint set which many call the Royal Ruby Wedding set I have made the new discovery of who actually printed and overprinted this issue. The original 60th Birthday common design issue for Saint Helena was printed by none other than The House of Questa. What I have discovered through the documents is that the Format International Security Printers not only overprinted the 60th Birthday stamp issue with the "40th Wedding Anniversary" silver overprint, but also reprinted the stamps themselves! No catalog nor collector knows this because as is the usual procedure, all documents are usually destroyed after a certain amount of time after stamps are issued. These documents not only show us how stamp issues are shared between the printers but also show us more evidence of the ties between the Format Printers and The House of Questa.

This page will show you not only what was documented on this issue but will also show you proof of the reprinting along with some high resolution images that compare the original printing with the reprinting. The evidence shows proof that the printers shared the plates which was simply walked next door.

These documents were originally intended to prosecute the above mentioned companies for illegal intentional production of errors and varieties where in the end of the trials it was proven they did nothing illegal and produced varieties of stamps legally and under contract to do so.

Anyone who contests the facts given can request a pdf file of all the documents for a fee.

The Order

On August 3, 1987 a telex was sent to the Crown Agents from the Saint Helena postmaster Mr. R. Legge agreeing to produce the Royal Ruby Wedding overprint issue subject to issue by other territories. The requested requirement was for 20,000 stamps of each value of the 60th Birthday issue to be overprinted. A first day cover was suggested and the postmaster requested that 2,500 be produced.

The telex further states that the Saint Helena post still had 17,000 sets of the queen's 60th birthday stamps and wished to be advised as to how many sets by return quantity they should send to the Crown Agents. The intent was to ship to the Crown Agents on August 8 and to have them returned with the overprint applied.
This is what most collectors believe to occur with stamps that are overprinted but the following will change your view on that myth forever!

A responding telex from the Crown Agents representative Mr. Tim Underwood was sent but was not in the documents. In response to that telex the postmaster sent a telex on August 7 stating 10,000 sets of the 60th birthday issue had been forwarded to the Crown Agents for overprinting and return. This was 200 panes of each value.

On September 2, 1987 a Mrs. S.P. Dow of the Crown Agents Stamp Company sent a telex to the Saint Helena postmaster stating that certain parcels were being held in customs and requesting what was in them. In this telex the postmaster was also informed that the Crown Agents Stamp Company Ltd. had changed their name to CAPHCO as of August 17, 1987.

On September 3 the postmaster in an urgent telex responded that the parcels contained the 60th birthday issues that were sent to be overprinted. The postmaster wondered if the parcels were being held in customs through omission on their part.

On October 27, 1987 (almost two months later) Mrs. S.P. Dow telexed the postmaster that 10,000 sets had been received and that the holding was just a random check.

The Reprinting

The following imaged document shows us proof of reprinting. The reason for the stamps being reprinted is that the Crown Agents did not wish to use any of their own remaining stock of 60th birthday issues because sales of the issue were good. It is at this point that things got shady. The referenced 10,000 sets "disappeared". The order was placed to Format to reprint 20,000 sets and to overprint them. Here is the document.
Saint Helena 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth Reprint Contract
You can see that the order was placed on November 9, 1987. There is no reference to overprinting existing stocks. At the bottom you can see the agreed price for reprinting the sets.
This image shows you how secrecy of practices of the printers confuses everyone when understanding who printed stamp issues. Saint Helena 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth Reprints with Questa Logo
The reprinted stamps have the Questa logo and therefore you do not know they were made by the Format printers. Interesting yes?

The Distribution

On November 13, 1987 a telex was sent to the postmaster from CAPHCO confirming supplies for the Ruby Wedding Anniversary set were on the way. It is stated in this telex that 425 blank white envelopes were included and the request was made for full sets to be affixed to 400 and canceled with the first day of issue cancel. The extra 25 being sent for possible damages.

On November 18 a telex was sent to the postmaster confirming that 8,885 of the 4 lower values and 8,785 of the high value were dispatched to Saint Helena. Also 565 sets were sent to the U.P.U..

Oddly enough on November 25, 1987 Graham A.J. Tapp of CAPHCO telexed the Saint Helena postmaster stating they had underestimated demand for the issue and could use another 5,000 sets! This is before the stamp set was even issued!

We now need to look back. Remember that originally the Saint Helena postmaster requested to have 20,000 sets and 2,500 FDC's? We can see that that must have been thrown out the window.

On November 25 another telex from Graham Tapp requesting specific positioning of the stamps on the first day covers be used.

On November 26 a handwritten note by the postmaster described the distribution
CAPHCO 9,000
CAPC 1,000
UPU 565
CA Special use 550
St. Helena 8,885

The handwritten note also stated they would send 2,500 sets back to CAPHCO. So what is the CA special use about?

On december 12, 1987 the postmaster telexed CAPHCO that they indeed they sent 5,000 sets and 400 FDC's. I guess sales were not so good in Saint Helena.

Odd things happened after that.

On January 22, 1988, 400 sets were sent to CAPHCO which in another telex were marked as received on February 2, 1988.

On February 25, 1988 Mrs. Dow requested fees for making FDC's.
On February 29, the postmaster confirmed stamps affixed and cancelled "gratis". No quantity specified.
On May 25, 1988 Mrs. Dow stated in order to account for stock used for FDC's, she took charge of 400 sets on the computer.
On March 29, 1990 a certificate of destruction shows 11 sets were destroyed.

The Technical Aspects of the Reprinting

Here are some 1200dpi images of the differences.

Format screens appear a tad bit coarser. the image colors a bit lighter.

The 10p Comparison
Saint Helena 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth 10p Stamp Comparison
The 65p Comparison
Saint Helena 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth 65p Stamp Comparison
Missing overprint errors exist for the 15p. Because these are being sold by a number of sellers and because the stamps were produced in 1987 in a hurry it is probable that at least 100 or more exist. Probably the whole printing in which case 400 exist. Value should be around $20-30.00.
I could be wrong though. Show me examples of upper right corners of panes with the overprint and this status could change

Saint Helena 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth 15p Missing Overprint Error
It was stated in one document by the British Crown Agents philatelic agency when they were promoting contracts to various countries that it is inadvisable to retain a philatelic agency that is a stamp dealer claiming the Crown Agents were not. One reason being that the dealer run agency would retain errors and varieties getting the "jump" on other dealers thus hurting philatelic popularity of the country.
This section of documents and evidence shows that the Crown Agents were involved in creating very limited first day covers and ordering reprints and basically moving the majority of the printed quantities through dealers rather than what was postally needed or sold by the Saint Helena Post. This is supposed to not happen according to their own standards and collectors beliefs. This information has either been overlooked or ignored by collectors, dealers and "experts" alike. In most cases probably because of the fear of devaluing the stamp issues and varieties they hold.
Instead of looking at the evidence presented in the trials against the Format Printers in the sense that all printers and agencies were doing the same thing, they singled out one printer and their associates and ignored the others.

So the question is who is at fault? The Saint Helena Post or the British Crown Agents Philatelic Agencies....or us for not delving deeper into what really goes on behind closed doors of philatelic bureau's and agencies and the printers they use!?!

As for British Crown Agents Stamp Company not being a stamp dealer...well, what were they going to do with all those stamps....store and admire them? I never saw anywhere that they were a "non-profit" organization. Have you?

This basically sums up the development, production and distribution of the Saint Helena 1987 40th Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II stamp issue.

References taken from:
Stanley Gibbons Saint Helena and Dependencies
Scott Catalog
Trial Exhibit #477

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UPDATED LAST ON: 05-Feb-2017 07:16 AM