Delta Stamps Fact File No. 11

The Rory Matthews Head
used for Litho printings

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The Rory Matthews Head

The first Litho printings appeared in 1980 and were produced by Questa and Waddington (the first time Royal Mail had used these printers for Postage Stamps). Questa originally used just one plate for their printings while Waddington used two. The resultant images were a poorer standard to their Harrison counterparts, typically, they lacked contrast and gave a washed out appearance. For these early printings, Harrison was the source of the images used - Questa reproductions being a close match while the Waddington versions were the subject of various degrees of retouching in many instances (see Fact09 page).

The original artwork of the Rory Matthews rendered Head was a pencil drawing made in May 1982 (this was first reported by Don Staddon in a Stamp Magazine article May 2002 Page 47-49). Its unclear what source he used for the artwork ~ the Head has the two curves in the Queens hair and the base of the dress is flat and clearly delineated against the background; a possible contender could be the 10p Country (Regional) definitive that appeared in 1978 (S.G do not highlight this and provide a separate classification code ~ only designating it as a Head A).

Two Curves in Hair
below band of diadem

The exact circumstance for producing this artwork is unclear. One story has it that Harrison had mislaid the image, while this may be true it does not explain why this would have affected both Questa and Waddington who were already producing printings. Another possibility was to produce a new image that would improve on the prevailing quality of reproduction.

The Rory Matthews Head has only been used for Litho printings - with Questa producing the bulk of these printings. The first versions of the Head started to appear in 1984 and continued to be used until 1997. The following printers have used this Head :-

Example Value
Date Note
14p Dark Blue
Facsimile on window book cover
12p N.Ireland
Dark background
31p N.Ireland
Gradated background
20p Dull purple
Light background
12p Scotland
14p Dark Blue
From Great Expectations Booklet

The Head can be found on the three differing backgrounds namely - dark, gradated and light.

Dark Background
31p Wales
Gradated Background
Light Background


Harrison did not use the Litho process for Machin definitives but when Mark III window booklets were introduced a version of the Rory Matthews Head was used for the stamp facsimile on booklet covers. This closely matches the Questa version including the shaded area on the chin / jawline (see image in Questa section below).

Harrison Booklet Cover Facsimile


The Questa version of the head may exhibit a shaded area along the chin / jawline. This does not necessarily appear on all printings and is not apparent on the reduced head size used for the country (regionals) stamps.

Questa - shaded area chin / jawline

National Definitives (with S.G numbers)

2p Dark Background 13p Light Background
S.G Head H
20p Light Background
S.G Head F
National Definitives (with S.G numbers)
1p UG1 20p Bright green UG51
2p UG7 22p Yellow grn UG56
4p UG14 22p Flame UG57
6p UG22 24p UG60/61
10p UG28 25p UG66/67
13p Lt Chestnut UG33/35 26p UG68
14p Deep Blue UG36 30p UG79
17p Deep Blue UG38 33p UG84; 87/88
18p Olive green UG39/40 34p UG89
18p Bright green UG41/43 35p UG95
19p Flame UG44 39p UG101/102
19p Bistre UG46/47 41p UG111
20p Dull purple UG50 75p UG134
2nd Bright Blue UQA1 1st Brown Black UQB1
2nd Deep Blue UQA2 1st Flame UQB2/B10; B12
2nd Bright Blue UQA3/A9    
~ 13p and 20p are both on a light background

Country (Regional) Definitives

Generally, the head has fairly close matches through the value range, however, some variations can be identified. For example, from 1988 a change started to appear on the Country definitives with the dark background which effects the central cross of the diadem (this did not occur on the corresponding National definitives). This takes the form of the background colour showing through the upper segments of the cross (to 1988) and then being shaded subsequently (1988 onwards including 23p).

14p N. Ireland (1988)
No shaded background of cross
17p N. Ireland (1990)
Shaded background of cross

Northern Ireland Country (Regionals) Definitives

14p Dark Background
28p Gradated Background
13p Light Background
Northern Ireland Country (Regional) Definitives
12p XNL2/L3 24p Indian Red XNL41
13p Type I XNL7 24p Chestnut XNL42/L43
13p Type II XNL8/L9 25p XNL44/L46
14p Dark Blue XNL11 26p Rosine XNL49
15p XNL12 26p Drab XNL50
17p Type I XNL17/L18 26p Red brown XNL51
17p Type II XNL19 28p Type II XNL53
17p Deep blue XNL20 28p Bluish grey XNL54
18p Olive grey XNL22 30p XNL55
18p Bright green XNL23/L25 31p Type I XNL57
19p Flame XNL26 31p Type II XNL58
19p Bistre XNL27/L30 32p XNL59
20p Black XNL32 34p XNL60
20p Bright green XNL33 37p Rosine XNL61
22p Yellow green XNL38 37p Bright mauve XNL62
22p Flame XNL39 39p XNL63
23p XNL40 41p XNL64
    63p XNL65
~ 13p and 17p are both on a light background
~ 28p and 31p are both on a gradated background

Scotland Country (Regional) Definitives

22p Dark Background
31p Gradated Background
13p Light Background
Scotland Country (Regional) Definitives
12p XSL3 24p Indian red XSL47
13p Type II XSL7/L8 24p Chestnut XSL48/L50
14p Deep blue XSL10/L12 25p XSL51/L53
15p XSL13 26p Rosine
Type II
17p Type II XSL19 26p Drab XSL57/L58
17p Dark Blue XSL20 26p Red brown XSL59
18p Olive grey XSL22/L23 28p Perf 15 XSL61
18p Bright green XSL24/L26 28p Bluish grey XSL62/L63
19p Flame XSL27/L29 30p XSL64
19p Bistre XSL30/L32 31p XSL67
20p Black XSL34 32p XSL68
20p Bright green XSL35 34p XSL69
22p Yellow green XSL42 37p Rosine XSL70/L71
22p Flame XSL43/L44 37p Bright mauve XSL72
23p XSL45 39p XSL73/L74
    41p XSL75
    63p XSL76
~ 13p and 17p are both on a light background
~ 28p and 31p are both on a gradated background

Wales Country (Regional) Definitives

19p Dark Background
31p Gradated Background
17p Light Background
Wales Country (Regional) Definitives
12p XWL2/L3 24p Indian Red XWL42
13p Type I XWL6 24p Chestnut XWL43/L46
13p Type II XWL7/L8 25p XWL47/L49
14p Dark Blue XWL10 26p Rosine XWL51
15p XWL11 26p Drab XWL52
17p Type I XWL15/L16 26p Red brown XWL53
17p Type II XWL17 28p Type II XWL55
17p Deep blue XWL18 28p Bluish grey XWL56
18p Olive grey XWL20/L21 30p XWL57
18p Bright green XWL22/L26 31p XWL58/L59
19p Flame XWL27/L28 32p XWL60
19p Bistre XWL29/L30 34p XWL61
20p Black XWL33 37p Rosine XWL62
20p Bright green XWL34 37p Bright mauve XWL63
22p Yellow green XWL38 39p XWL64
22p Flame XWL39/L40 41p XWL65/L66
23p XWL41 63p XWL67
~ 13p and 17p are both on a light background
~ 28p and 31p are both on a gradated background


The Waddington version of the head only appears on one value - the 12p Scotland (Perf 13¾ x 14).

12p Scotland


Walsall have also used the Rory Matthews head, but only for the National definitives for which two variants occur. The original version used by Walsall differs from the Questa version, however, from 1993 a revised version was used which is closer to the Questa counterpart.

2nd NVI Dark Blue
Head G Head F
  • Break between front jewels and central cross is more pronounced.
  • The central part of the rear jewels has a distinct break.
  • Break between the front jewels and central cross is less conspicuous.
  • The rear jewels appear as a consolidated unit.

Walsall Head - Original Version (S.G Head G)

The original version of the Head by Walsall has various retouched features within the diadem area - notably on the front and rear jewels (see comparisons above). The values in this group include :-

Walsall Head - Original Version (S.G Head G)
14p Dark Blue UG37 31p UG80
19p Flame UG45 33p UG84/86
29p UG76/77 39p UG101
2nd Bright Blue UWA1 1st Brown Black UWB1
2nd Dark Blue UWA2 1st Flame UWB2/B9
2nd Bright Blue UWA3/A5    

Interestingly, the NVI values were never changed to revised version of the head and so the 2nd Bright blue and 1st Flame values ran concurrently with the revised version.

Walsall Head - Revised Version (S.G Head F)

This Walsall version of the head is a closer match to that of its Questa counterpart and started to appear in 1993. The values to be found for this group include :-

Walsall Head - Revised Version (S.G Head F)
2p UG8 37p UG96
24p UG62 41p UG108/110
25p UG65 60p UG121/123
35p UG90/94 63p UG124

Note :-

The reintroduction of Litho printings primarily in Prestige Booklets (from 2008) saw a change to using a digitally remastered Head. This, in conjunction with using a very fine screen produces an image curing the previous weakness of the litho process


© Delta Stamps 2009