Multiple Crown Script ca watermark - Lin Yangchen
©Lin Yangchen

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Paper supplied to De La Rue bore the Multiple Crown Script CA (“Crown Agents”) watermark impressed on the pulp using a dandy-roll. This watermark featured a stylization of the generic crown symbol used from 1902 to 1953 as the monarchy's official emblem. It is variously referred to as the Tudor Crown, King's Crown or Imperial Crown. The crown is accompanied by the letters CA in an artistic 'signature' script typeface that mimicked cursive handwriting and was harder to forge.

Interestingly, the horizontal and vertical periodicities of the watermark are both slightly out of sync with the standard British Empire small-definitive stamp dimensions; the watermark repeats at slightly greater distances. Occasionally, the sheet was fed into the press the other way round, producing inverted watermarks (Peters 1994a) now highly sought by collectors.

When Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne, she asked for the emblem to be changed to the Saint Edward's Crown, which she had worn at the coronation. Made of solid gold and studded with 444 jewels, the crown reaches almost a third of a metre in height and weighs more than 2 kilograms. The QEII coconut definitives, however, were printed on existing paper bearing the Imperial Crown watermark. Photo: government of the United Kingdom

One night sometime between 1950 and 1952, the Crown Agents' Paper Inspector was supervising operations at the paper mill. Seeing that everything was in order, he went back to his hotel at 10pm (Faux 1986). But a mishap took place. Two crowns fell off the dandy roll, one from a crown-CA row of the watermark pattern, the other from a crown-only row (Stanley Gibbons 1995).

There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. Faux (1986) says that the mill was applying two different types of watermark concurrently, the Imperial Crown and the Saint Edward's Crown. The papermaker, discovering that crowns were missing from the Imperial Crown dandy roll, decided to fix it himself rather than wait for the engineer to come in next morning. He took replacement crowns from the wrong box.

This chain of events seems unlikely to me. If it did happen between 1950 and 1952, QEII would not yet have asked for the crown to be changed, and there would not have been two types of watermark being applied. Furthermore, the 'wrong' crowns are different from those in the actual Saint Edward's Crown watermark, and have not been seen on any other occasion.

Stanway (2009) says, more plausibly, that the replacement crowns were in fact "crudely made bits". They did somewhat resemble the Saint Edward's Crown, and philatelists came to refer to the incident as the Saint Edward's Crown watermark error.

Affected coconut definitives include the Johore 6¢, Perlis 10¢ and Singapore $1 and $2 (Peters 1994b, Stanway 2009, auction catalogues), indicating that these were printed together. Some issues of St. Kitts and the Bahamas were also affected (Faux 1986). The coconut definitive was one of the few that struck jackpot.


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