George VI Half Penny Issues

Stephen Prest was our speaker for the first March meeting, and continued his series of presentations on the work he and Pat Skinner have done investigating the New Zealand George VI issues. This talk began with mention of a Study Paper that Stephen and Pat are preparing, which aims to systematically identify the George VI period half penny postal rates, link the half penny issues to postal purposes during the period, and review attendant operational challenges faced by the Post and Telegraph Department.

Stephen noted that demand for the half penny stamp reduced in October 1939, when postal rates were changed. Prior to October the demand was for 13 to 15 million per month, but there was a huge 90 per cent reduction after October 1939. July 1950 saw the end of half penny mails, although half penny stamps were still needed for up-rated postal stationery and for overweight categories. When demand for the half penny stamp fell in October 1939 the existing stocks ballooned to the point where there was a six year supply. Surplus George VI green halfpenny stamps were overprinted one penny, and use of the half penny Centennial issue was extended until 31 May 1946. Half penny George VI stamps were available in coil form until 1947.

A further impact of changes in October 1939 was that a postcard up-rate was required. This amounted to half a penny for inland postcards, and a full penny for overseas postcards. For a brief period surplus half penny postcards were overprinted one penny, but Stephen noted that examples used from this period are scarce. In July 1950 a half penny George VI wrapper up-rate was required.

Stephen talked about the half penny rates for postcards. The surface rate was one penny for an overseas postcard from December 1936 to September 1939. The rate became a penny half penny from October 1939 to December 1952, and two pence half penny from July 1953 to February 1954. Overseas up-rated postcards from 1939, using the half penny George VI (Green) are rare, and there are possibly none surviving. Overseas postcards up-rated using the 1940 one penny George VI carmine and overprinted, and the 1953 two penny George VI orange and overprinted are difficult to find, while use of the 1935 half penny fantail and the 1941 one penny George VI green are uncommon.

Half penny stamps were used to up-rate postal stationery, the overseas letter (surface) rate being two pence half penny from December 1936 to September 1939. The All-up Empire air mail rate was one penny half penny from July 1938 to September 1939, and Stephen noted that up-rated one penny lettercards (the 1935 one penny kiwi to May 1939, then the one penny George VI) are difficult to rare. Also difficult to find and rare are up-rated one penny commercial sized envelopes (the 1936 one penny George VI to November 1938 and the 1938 one penny George VI). Up-rated one penny social sized envelopes (1936 one penny George VI to November 1938, thereafter the 1938 one penny George VI) are rare, and possibly non -existent.

Overseas postcard air mail rates in this period had a variety of rates, determined by the destination distance, whether the mail was to an Empire or other foreign destination, and the carrier and route selection. Overseas air mail half penny wrappers became second class air mail as of February 1950 and a halfpenny stamp was required. Again there were a variety of rates depending upon the destination.

Stephen then went on to talk about half penny stamps used to up-rate postal stationery. Up-rated half penny fantail Department of Education postcards are difficult to come by, whereas up-rated half penny George VI postcards are very common. There was a one penny inland letter rate for Department of Education envelopes from December 1936, a-one penny printed papers or postcard rate from October 1939, a one penny half penny commercial papers rate from March 1952 and a two penny commercial papers and postcard rate from January 1953. Rates for printed matter postcards and newspapers rose to one penny half penny from January 1953.

In conclusion, Stephen noted that the July 1938 rate change was well planned in advance, but the October 1939 changes were effected with very short notice, meaning that there were large stocks of half penny stamps and postcards. There was an emergency overprinting of the 1939 Health issue, and the Court Woodford half penny envelopes had a very short shelf life. The rate changes in January 1953 were well planned in advance.

The other major finding to emerge from this study is the previously unrecognised degree of scarcity for some categories. As always, this was a well-researched Stephen Prest (and Pat Skinner) presentation, with plenty of detail. (Pat was unfortunately not able to make this meeting).