The 1d Double Head: The greatest stamp of the British Empire?

Around twenty years ago, the noted Double Head collector and connoisseur, Bob Gibbs, reflected that the 1d Double Head was the greatest stamp of the British Empire. Bob will be the first to state that all the research of today is built upon the shoulders of some fine Rhodesian philatelists of yesteryear –  such people as C.C. Woolacott, Oswald Marsh, H.C. Dann, Alan Deal, Arthur Strutt, David Forgan, Bernard Livermore, Vivien Ellenberger and Ian Hamilton.  In their collecting, research and writings, they leave a rich legacy upon which the current era of interested philatelists (Keith Watkins, Andrew Wilson, Arnold Brickman, Bob Looker, Stephen Reah-Johnson and, of course, Gibbs) build and broaden.

With over 14 million of these stamps printed from two plates between 1910 and 1913, their colours and the multitude of flaws, provide a rich field for research. Literally dozens and dozens of printings from the two plates occurred.  The multitude of printings resulted in a deterioration of the plates which, along with the use of many different inks, resulted in many flaws and a wonderful spectrum of colours.

SG 123

SG 124

SG 125

The current state of classifying the 1d is diverse and large with the present Gibbons classifications probably requiring an update. Here is a brief summary of the current situation:


S.G. Perf. Colour
123 14×14 Bright Carmine (aniline) (shades)
123a 14×14 Imperf. Between (vertical pair)
123b 14×14 Imperf. Between (horizontal pair)
124 14×14 Carmine-Lake (shades)
125 14×14 Deep Rose-Red
170 15×15 Carmine (shades)
170a 15×15 Carmine-Lake (shades)
170b 15×15 Carmine
179b 15×14 Scarlet (shades)
183 13½ x13½ Bright Carmine (shades)
Gibbs 14×14 Rosine (shades)
Gibbs 15×15 Rosine (shades)

The ‘OD’ Flaw

One of the real challenges for the new collector surrounds the plating and positioning of the stamps. From the Master Plate, it is believed that an electroplate was produced (Plate B.) So, a collector is faced with three options: The Master Plate, Plate A (which was originally the Master Plate) and Plate B (the electroplate.)

There are not many full sheets in existence. Bob Gibbs has kindly had high resolution copies made of the full sheet of his Master Plate (the only one known), a Plate A and a Plate B. He has made them available to RSC members via a Dropbox link. If you would like to receive a copy, CONTACT US and you will be sent the link.

Here is some useful reading:

Gibbs, R.M., The 1d Double Head – “The Greatest Stamp of the British Empire”. Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle (June, 2016) No 257, pp. 64-65.

Gibbs, R.M., Brickman A., Burke, S., Memoir 34: Postmarks on the 1910-1913 Double Head IssueParadise Revisited. (2018)

Hamilton I.T., Rhodesia. 1d. The Double Head Issue of 1910. Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle (September, 2016) No 261, pp. 172-177. (This paper was originally written in September, 1952, but not published.)

Livermore, B., The King and Queen Issue of 1910 One Penny with Compound Perforation. The Philatelic Journal, April/June, 1963, pp 39-40.

Looker, R.J., The Penny Double Head – where are we now? Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle (December, 2016) No 262, pp. 219-220.

Reah-Johnson, S., Observations on the Colours of the 1d Double Head.  Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle (September, 2003) No 251, p. 81.

Reah-Johnson, S., The 1d Double Head – S.G. 123, 124 and 125. Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle (June, 2014) No 208, pp. 100-110.

Watkins, K., A Penny Passion – 1d Double Head. Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle (June, 2004) No 211, p. 67.

Watkins, K., A Penny Double Head Analysis. Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle (December, 2003) No 209,