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The London Issue of Norway - February 1999
By Frederick Brofos



Figure 1What has become generally known as the "London Issue" is an interesting set of stamps issued by the Norwegian government in exile in England during WWII. Beautifully steel-engraved and printed by Thomas De la Rue & Co., London, they were issued in sheets of 100 stamps, perf. 12 3/4. The paper was supplied by Samuel Jones & Co. Ltd., London, and was unwatermarked.

The stamps were issued on January 1, 1943 for use by the Norwegian Merchant Marine and Navy, as well as on the island of Jan Mayen in the Arctic. They were also briefly used by the Norwegian Army on May 17, 1943 only. The six designs showed patriotic subjects together with the King's royal monogram "H7".

The quantities printed ranged from 1 million of the 30 øre value to 22,275,000 for the 20 øre ordinary letter rate value. Two additional denominations, 5 and 7 øre (reusing 2 of the previous designs) were added when the set was reissued in Finnmark, the first liberated province in Northern Norway towards the end of the war.

The set was also used for a while at the Norwegian Legation's post office in Stockholm, Sweden, from February, 1945 on. The stamps were accepted for franking all over Norway from May 8, 1945 but the official first day of sale in Norway was considered June 22, 1945.

The Norwegian postal authorities, however, did not accept as valid for use certain of the original issue which had been previously overprinted in black "London, 17/5/43", together with a serial number. Around that time, 4000 sets had been overprinted in England with the date of Norway's National Day and sold for the benefit of the Resistance. Nevertheless, some of the overprinted stamps were later favor-cancelled in Norway.

In spite of the unofficial status of these overprints, they have maintained a high catalog value for both unused and used examples. One might have thought that this would have encouraged forgeries to be produced. This has fortunately not been the case, although a small attempt was made around 1946. However, certain mistakes occurred making it clearly distinguishable. The genuine overprint ran horizontally across the middle of all stamps except the 60 øre --- where it was placed vertically -- so as not to mar the monarch's face. This consideration was over-looked on the forgeries. Furthermore, the 5 øre stamp was also falsely overprinted. This value did not occur in the original overprint set. As sometimes happens, the forgeries in this case are actually much scarcer than the originals. Which is just as well, I suppose.

Figure 2

 

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