There is no doubt in my mind that the word “unique” is one of the most inappropriately applied words in the English language. The dictionary definition of the word tells us that it refers to something of which there is only one. It cannot be qualified with degrees of “uniqueness”; either an item is unique or there is more than one of it. In December 2014 Warwick and Warwick was instructed to sell a stamp which may well be unique. Another similar stamp is unknown – at least it remains unreported since it was issued in 1967. The stamp I refer to is a commemorative Great Britain stamp issued in 1967 as part of the Discoveries and Inventions set (SG 752-5). It is the 1/9d value which commemorates the invention of television, missing the orange colour used for printing the Queen’s head. The stamp is listed by Gibbons as SG 755b, but it remains un-priced. The lack of a quotation for this stamp is due to the fact that it has never been sold since it was discovered back in 1967.
The item is actually a vertical marginal pair, the upper stamp being normal and the lower stamp missing the orange. There is no paper fold to account for the missing colour and the assumption must be that the orange ink failed to print on the bottom row, or part of the bottom row of the sheet. This of course means that initially there may have been as many as 20 stamps printed with the colour omitted. However that was in 1967, 47 years ago, and to date the only stamp reported is the one which we auctioned. It is most probably a unique stamp. It realised £23,600 in our December 2014 auction. Our vendor purchased the vertical pair from the Spotland Road Post Office in Rochdale, Lancs. He went back when he realised that one of the stamps had a major error, but by that time the balance of the sheet had been sold.
Missing colours are very popular amongst serious collectors of modern G.B. and I can certainly see the attraction. The best of all, in my opinion, are those which omit the subject matter which is being commemorated. One that has been sold recently is the GB 1963 Red Cross 3d value with the red cross missing. A UM corner marginal block of four was sold in a Swiss auction and it realised close to £40,000. Only about 18 examples of this error are known, with one in the Royal collection. Another interesting and arresting error is the missing tower on the 3d value of the 1965 Post Office Tower issue. Here the olive-yellow missing colour leaves the stamp with a blank vertical panel where the tower should be. Around 30 mint and 15 used have been reported and one FDC. The Royal collection has a vertical pair, one missing the tower.
Perhaps the best of these major errors is the missing red on the 1966 British Technology 6d value. This stamp should feature iconic British car designs of the 1960s, namely the E type Jaguar and 3 Minis. A sheet was discovered in S.E. London with the red colour of the Minis omitted from 3 rows of 6 stamps. Subsequently a few used examples have been discovered and it is possible that they came from other sheets. Again the Royal collection has a mint example.
Another missing colour which I like is not in the same league as those quoted above, but nevertheless it is very appealing. The 1972 Silver Wedding 3p value is an elegant black and white portrait of the Queen and Duke of Edinburghin profile on a dark blue background with silver inscription and denomination. The silver omitted variety removes the entire inscription and leaves the portraits in splendid isolation. About 120 are known. Again one is in the Royal collection and it begs the question whether the Queen enjoys imperfection on an issue commemorating her silver wedding.
By Colin Such