Coronation Covers of the BPA/PTS

Royal Mail, post offices around the Commonwealth, and the Crown Agents missed a trick by failing to provide official first day covers for the 1953 Coronation. It was left to philatelic societies, publishers, businesses, dealers and anyone with a little nous to satisfy demand. Everyone who could became a cachet maker. The eruption of envelope art resulted in hundreds of first day cover designs from every corner of the globe. But that's another story. This one focuses solely on the joint offering from the British Philatelic Association and Philatelic Traders’ Society (BPA/PTS) and the revised design produced under licence in New Zealand. These are the closest to official offerings given the industry heavyweights involved.

1953 Coronation type 1a and 1b BPA/PTS first day covers

• 1953 Coronation type 1a and 1b BPA/PTS first day covers (with and without halo respectively). Half a billion were produced for use in 80 territories

Some 500,000 examples of the all-pervasive design were produced by the BPA/PTS and offered blank to anyone anywhere who wished to service first day covers. Countless took up the challenge meaning the eponymous cachet exists used in all 80 Coronation stamp-issuing territories – a feat no other cachet maker can boast.

From Aden to Western Samoa, via Great Britain and Gold Coast, the BPA/PTS cachet is your only option if you want a complete set of matching 1953 Coronation covers. Well, almost...

The initial type 1a print run features a cream halo around the portrait. The design embellishment was removed for speed and economic reasons from the type 1b printing. Neither type is recorded used in every territory, but the latter comes closest as illustrated in the table below.

1953 Coronation BPA/PTS inserts

• 1953 Coronation inserts typically found inside BPA/PTS type 1 covers...

Great Britain 1953 BPA/PTS insert

•  Or not as many were substituted or removed for other purposes (including mailing as first day postcards)

Looking for ways to generate revenue for the 1955 International Stamp Exhibition in Auckland, the organising committee struck a deal with the BPA/PTS to reproduce the 1953 Coronation cachet in New Zealand. The repurposed design appears on two envelope sizes, the standard type 2a and the wider 2b. The cachets were intended for use in Oceania, but rare usage is known for Great Britain and Sarawak. It's probable other scarce usage exists.

1953 Coronation type 2b first day cover (wide envelope)

• 1953 Coronation type 2a first day cover (wide envelope). Note the paler colour scheme and thinner text compared to the original design

Unofficial BPA/PTS tribute cover

• An unofficial tribute to the BPA/PTS cachet in magenta which has so far only been reported used in North Borneo and Singapore. Its origin remains a mystery...

• Another unofficial tribute. This one in pale magenta and buff emanating from East Africa

Most of the type 1 covers can be found self-addressed to dealers E E Oatway of London or Minkus Publications of New York. In general both used main post offices in the various territories to cancel covers meaning all are available in abundance. Of course, finding them in fine condition with original insert is the difficulty. That aside, if you're looking for scarcity or a challenge, local-use covers with out-of-the-way cancel place names or unusual destinations are greatly prized. The table below shows most of the common cancels. Rare first day cancels and slogans is a topic for another day, but for an inkling consider Australia's Cooee, Canada's Coronation, Great Britain's Buckingham Palace, KUT's Johns Corner, New Zealand's Kill that Possum and Southern Rhodesia's Que Que.

Ceylon 1953 Coronation type 1b privately serviced cover

 • Ceylon 1953 Coronation privately serviced BPA/PTS type 1b cover with scarce first day BALAPITIYA cancels. Most have COLOMBO cancels

If you like your covers spicy then varieties come in various forms. Most are embellishments, including additional inscriptions, colours or design elements, and labels.

New York-based Overseas Mailers added a splash of colour to various BPA/PTS covers for sale to their North American clientele. Covers for Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Grenada, New Zealand, St Lucia, St Vincent, and Trinidad & Tobago are known. Others may exist. Each cover is unique given hand-painted elements and explains why few were produced for each country.

Many firms used BPA/PTS covers for opportunistic promotional purposes – although usually by way of inserts. Auctioneers Harmers went a step further and added a couple lines of text to the covers (including their address either in London or New York). Fruit of the Loom added a sticker to the sealing flap. Other examples exist. Any embellished cover can be considered scarce.

1953 Coronation BPA/PTS covers colour embellished by Overseas Mailers

 • 1953 Coronation BPA/PTS first day covers colour embellished by Overseas Mailers

Printing varieties are virtually unknown which is surprising given the complexity of the printing process and the quantity produced. The only readily-explained printing error is missing gold from the ornamental frame. Just one example from St Vincent has been confirmed.

Single examples used in Jersey and London exist with the frame in green and another used in Johore features the frame predominately in pale yellow with traces of gold around the edges. Both these are likely the result of partial failures of the gold printing process. 

Given the enormous quantity of covers produced and their subsequent spread around the world, it's very likely other gems await discovery. Not just printing varieties, but scarce usages, uncommon cancels, and unusual third party embellishments. 

But before all that there's the challenge of getting one cover from each of the 80 stamp-issuing territories. Happy hunting.

Great Britain 1953 Coronation cover

 • Great Britain 1953 Coronation type 1b BPA/PTS first day cover with green rather than gold frame probably due to oxidisation

St Vincent 1953 Coronation type 1b BPA/PTS cover missing gold. The only example recorded to date

 • St Vincent 1953 Coronation type 1a BPA/PTS first day cover missing gold from the frame. The only example recorded to date from the 500,000 examples printed. Surely not...


Explore BPA/PTS covers

Explore Committee of the New Zealand International Stamp Exhibition (BPA/PTS licensed) covers