“Double Heads” of Rhodesia – the Levin Collection

The Rhodesian Double Heads of 1910 to 1913 are so named because they depict the heads of both King George V and Queen Mary, his wife. They are engraved stamps and the majority of the denominations were printed in two colours. In my opinion they are amongst the most attractive stamps issued anywhere in the world. You can imagine my delight when I learned that Warwick and Warwick had been selected to auction what must be one of the best collections of covers and postmarks on Rhodesian Double Heads ever assembled. The collection was formed by the late Norman Levin and he concentrated on obtaining first day cancels as well as village postmarks. Double Heads on cover are rare. It must be remembered that the number of letters being sent through the postal system of a remote African colony at this time was very limited. 

First day cover of the 1910 Double Head ½ d.


Norman managed to obtain 2 first day covers, as well as 21 first day cancels on stamps off cover. When the Gunnar Strehmel collection was auctioned in 1994, it was thought that only 3 or 4 first day covers had been recorded.

Cover collectors place great store on non-philatelic (commercial) covers, which bare the correct rate of postage and Norman Levin’s collection of Double Head covers is thought to have included more commercial covers than any other collection ever assembled. Amongst the covers in the collection was a commercial cover toU.S.A., franked with the perf.14 ½ d and 1d singles and a 1d pair tied by the rare “T.P.O. UP /S. RHODESIA” postmark of the Rhodesian railways. The perf 14 2d was represented by a cover toCape Provincewith the correct franking. A 1912 cover toU.S.A.was franked with the perf 14 1d pair and the perf 15 3d, the latter a great rarity on cover. Another commercial cover bore the perf 14 5d, which was made even more desirable by the fact that the stamp had the “gash in ear” variety, so called because the Queen’s ear has a tiny horizontal mark, resembling a gash.

A 1913 cover bore a perf 14 5d and had been posted from the tiny settlement of Shamva, near Salisbury, to the tiny settlement of Rehoboth in German South-West Africa. Imagine the journey this cover has taken! It would certainly not have been by the shortest overland route, as roads did not exist.

1919 cover bearing 3d deep reddish purple and ochre and 5d purple-brown and ochre error of colour. Ex Gibbs. This cover realised £10,062 in February 2009.


Regarded by many collectors as the finest Double Head cover is existence, is the 1919 registered envelope bearing the perf 14 3d and the rare perf 14 5d purple-brown and ochre error of colour. This cover was formerly in the Robert Gibbs collection. A further cover, ex Gibbs and also ex Simpson, is that bearing the 7/6d value. Although overfranked, this cover is very rare, with possibly only 2 in existence.

The “Norman Levin” collection was offered in our February 4th 2009 auction.


By Colin Such

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