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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Philatelic Terms Illustrated - G to Z

Inscription Block

Increasingly in recent years the sheet margins of most issues have contained inscriptions that give details of who printed the stamp, who designed the stamp, what the stamp depicts and so forth. A block of 4 stamps showing these inscriptions is called an inscription block. If it also contains a plate number, then it is a plate block. Inscription blocks now are usually found on all four corners of a post office sheet, though in the very distant past, prior to the 1970's they were often found in only one corner of a post office sheet, due to the fact that post office sheets were often mere portions of much larger sheets that were printed of between 200-600 stamps. 

Jubilee Line

On a large number of British Commonwealth stamps, there was a coloured border printed around the outside margins of the sheet in the main colour of the stamp. This border is called a "jubilee line". The purpose of the line was to enable the printer to assess the evenness of the plate wear. Sometimes, as in the case of the above block, the line is continuous. Other times, the lines were broken, with the breaks occurring in between the stamps. 

Line Perforation

When stamps were first perforated the main method used was to perforate 1 row and 1 column of the sheet at a time, using pins arranged on a wheel. The sheet was fed through the perforator while the wheel rotated, producing the perforations. However, quite often, when perforating a row or column and intersecting another row or column of perforations, it was quite common for the pins to either miss, or double punch the holes. Very seldom would the rows and columns ever meet perfectly. This can best be seen by looking at blocks and observing the appearance of the perforations at the areas where the columns and rows intersect. Interestingly, the above block shows both a corner where the perforations line up perfectly in the centre, and then one on the right where they do not line up at all. It is this feature that indicates that the block is line perforated. If you place two line perforated stamps directly on top of one another, the perforations will never line up perfectly on all four sides, whereas comb perforated stamps will always line up exactly on all four sides. Both types of perforations have been around since the late 1850's, so line perforating is not older than comb perforating, even though comb perforations were not in general use in some countries until the 1970's. 


The term overprint refers to any marking that has been added to a stamp design after the original printing was completed. In the above example, a "G" has been printed on top of the original design to designate these as being for governmental use only. A specialized type of overprint in which the face value of the stamp is either raised or lowered is called a surcharge by philatelists. 

Overprints as a group comprise a very troubling field for philatelists, as many are rare and as a general rule, many have been extensively forged, often very well, so that proving the authenticity of the overprint can be a major concern for philatelists. 

Panes, Pairs, Blocks and Strips

A complete unit of stamps, undisturbed and in the original format in which is was sold, is called a pane. The above NHL Hockey Issue from 2001 is an example of a pane, as this was the only form in which this stamp was issued, and the sheet is complete. This is different from a "sheet", as sheets were the unit produced by the printer and not necessarily what was sent to the post offices. For example, a sheet of the above issue would consist of several of the above panes. 

A block of stamps is a unit that consists of at least 3 stamps arranged in at least two columns or two rows, but which is not the size of a pane. So if the above pane was missing the bottom two stamps, it would be a block of 4. A strip is three or more stamps that are in a single row or column. Either column of the above pane is a strip of 3. A pair is just two stamps joined either vertically or horizontally. 

Phosphor Tagging

When post offices began to mechanize the sorting and cancelling of mail, they relied on machines
that used optical scanning technology. A method had to be devised to enable the machine to "see" the stamp on the envelope. The solution adopted by a number of countries was to overprint stamps with an inconspicuous chemical taggant that would be visible to the machines. The block of four of the 1962-1967 Cameo issue above shows a single band of this taggant running down the middle of the block. 

Most tagging like this at least in the late 1950's and early 1960's was phosphorescent, which means that it glowed when exposed to either short-wave ultraviolet light (the dangerous kind), or long wave ultraviolet light. Phosphorescent chemicals would also glow for a few seconds after the light source is removed, whereas later fluorescent tagging will stop glowing immediately after the light source is removed. 

Plate Block

A plate block is simply a block of stamps in which the plate number appears in the sheet margins, which are also called selvage. The above block of 4 halfpenny stamps from Lagos, issued in 1901 shows the plate number 2 inside a solid ball of colour. 

Plate Flaw

A plate flaw is a stray marking that is not part of the intended design, that appears on a stamp after printing. Plate flaws usually result from damage to the printing plate, such as scuffs or dents, and even pitting caused by corrosion. However, they can also be caused by over-inking or splattering of ink. The above 10c Queen Elizabeth stamp is from a stamp booklet that was issued as part of the 1972-1977 Caricature issue. The spots above the eye, next to the eye and above the eyebrow are not part of the design and these constitute a plate flaw.

The most desirable plate flaws from the perspective of a collector are those which are constant, which is to say that they occur in the same stamp from every sheet printed. These types of flaws are always caused by damage to the printing plate and will generally persist until they are corrected by repairing the damage to the plate. One of the reasons why they are so desirable to specialists is because they can provide proof of a stamp's position on a sheet as well as proof of a particular printing. 

Plate Guide Marking 

The plates used to print stamps were produced using what is called a transfer roll, which was essentially a cylinder of steel onto which the master design was copied and which was then transferred to the new steel printing plate. The production of the plate is known as the "laying down of the plate", and it is a job that was done by a person known as a sideographer. Occasionally the sideographer would make markings, often in the form of a cross on the plate to assist them in judging distances or other things. Usually, these markings were burnished off the plates before printing, but occasionally they were not, and you can find these guide markings on individual stamps. The 1c codfish stamp from the 1937 Coronation Issue of Newfoundland, shown above, has one such cross marking just visible inside the mouth of the fish. It is known to collectors as the "fish hook variety" and is highly sought after. 

Postage Due

Today if you fail to attach enough postage to an item you are sending through the mail, and this deficiency is caught by the authorities, the item will never reach its intended recipient, and will instead be returned to you. However, such was not the case until relatively recently in the 1980's and 1990's. Prior to this time, most countries utilized a system of taxing items that were shortpaid with double the deficiency and collecting the money from the recipient. Postage due stamps were affixed to such items to denote the amount of postage that the recipient was required to pay in order to pick up the item. Occasionally, the stamps would be affixed to a receipt that would be left at the recipient's address, along with the item, and instructions to pay the deficiency at the post office, as shown above. 

The system for taxing deficient postage on international mail was developed in Switzerland and is interesting in and of itself. The country from which the item was being mailed, if it caught the deficiency would mark the item with a "T" in an handstamp usually. This symbol was universally recognized by UPU member nations as indicating that an item was shortpaid. Often, the deficiency in local currency would be indicated on the envelope as well. However, the postage due stamps would be affixed in the recipient country, which used a different currency in most cases. So what would usually happen is that the clerk in the recipient country handling the item would convert the deficiency into a common currency, which for the postal system was Gold Francs and Centimes. This amount would then be doubled and converted back to the currency of the recipient country, and then the appropriate amount of postage due stamps would be affixed. 


A precancel is a stamp on which the cancellation has been applied in the form of an overprint, by the post office prior to the sale of the stamps. The first precancels appeared in the 1880's and very closely resembled regular cancellations. Later, the precancels were distinctly different and appeared in the form of vertical or horizontal bars, like the stamp shown above, town names between bars, numerals between bars and many others. They were issued as a means of saving labour, since they did not have to be cancelled after use. However, they were not sold to the general public, but only to organizations that had a permit to buy them. Part of the reason for this is that they were sold below face value usually. 

Registered Cover

Registration is a service offered in most countries, in which a letter, or parcel is tracked through the postal system. A registered item is assigned a specific identification number so that it can be tracked through the postal system, which is supposed to provide some additional security over the item and reduce the chances of loss, though it also provides proof of sending. 

Thus in the 19th century, most registered letters either contained important legal documents, or money. In those days, their registered status would be indicated by a handstamp that would say "R" or "Registered", or the cancellation itself would indicate the status. The identification number of the item would also appear right on the front of the envelope in pen. Quite often the number would change as the letter made its journey through the system, in which case you will see several numbers on the envelope, with the earlier ones crossed out. 

In recent years, self adhesive labels are attached to the envelope that bear the letter "R" and have the tracking number and a barcode printed right on them. This is generally scanned by an optical reader at several transition points along the item's route, and the information gets uploaded to the post office server. This allows the sender, or the recipient, who has the tracking number to go online and actually see where in the system their item is, and approximately when they can expect to receive it. 

There is a common misconception that registering a mail item makes it pass through the postal system faster. This is NOT the case. All registration does is provide a record of the items journey through the postal system. The risk of loss is only lowered because the tracked nature provides some deterrent against theft. However, registering an item does not eliminate the risk of damage through accidents nor genuine accidental loss. The increased security and handling means that most registered items actually take longer to reach their intended recipient. 


Stamp designs used to be printed one design per sheet, with all stamps in a sheet being exactly the same. Starting in the 1950's many issues, usually commemoratives, consisted of three of four designs, which would all be printed in rotation on the same sheet. These are called se-tenant designs. They are not uncommon in mint condition, but properly used se-tenants on cover, used in the proper period of time (i.e. when on sale at the post office) are some of the most challenging items in modern philately.

The above scan shows the 2000 "Stampin the Future" issue, which consisted of four se-tenant designs.

Souvenir Sheet

A souvenir sheet is a small sheet consisting usually of fewer than 10 stamps, which has a very large decorative border. These sheets were first issued just before World War I, and have continued to increase in popularity over the years. Originally the sheets issued in the 1920's and 1930's were generally only available at philatelic exhibitions and you could only buy one sheet with one exhibition ticket. As a result the issue quantities of early souvenir sheets were quite low and these are worth a lot of money today. By the 1960's most souvenir sheets are only worth a small premium over the basic stamps contained in them. Once again, mint sheets are not uncommon, but used ones on cover, used when on sale are rare, and highly desirable.

Special Delivery Cover

One service that used to be offered in most countries, that no longer is in many, is special delivery. Special delivery was simply a faster delivery of a mail item than the regular first-class mail stream. There was no tracking and no additional security for the item. The post office would generally charge a fee for this service and would attach a label to the envelope to indicate the payment of this fee, such as the cover shown above.

Most countries have discontinued special delivery services and have replaced them with courier services or quasi-courier services, such as Expresspost (in Canada), which have built-in tracking and insurance, and which cost A LOT more money. 

Surface Cover

A surface cover is one that traveled exclusively by land and sea. Surface was the standard method of transmission until airmail became popular and affordable in the 1950's. However, airmail did not become the standard method of transmission until the 1970's, with surface still being offered as a less expensive option. Today, surface is generally not available in many countries for lettermail, though it is often still offered for parcels.

Envelopes sent by surface were generally not marked, though sometimes "by sea" or "sea mail" will appear on the envelope. Most of the time though, the only way to identify a surface cover, particularly for modern covers, is to know the postage rates. Quite often, pre-printed airmail envelopes were used for surface mail, such as in the case of the above cover to the Canary Islands. This can mislead the unwary collector into thinking that the cover went by air when it did not.


Tete-beche refers to a unit of two or more adjoining stamps in which the design of one stamp is inverted in relation to the other. The above pair issued for the Calling of an Engineer in 2000, is, as far as I know, the only regularly issued tete-beche pair issued by Canada.

Traffic Lights

When stamps are printed using multi-colour photogravure or lithography, there has to be an easy way for the press operator to ensure two things:

1. That all the required colours for the stamp have been printed, as oftentimes, several runs through the presses are required to get all the colours printed., and, 

2. That the correct density of ink is being printed. 

These two things are partially achieved by having the printer place markings on the side margins of the sheet in the various colours that will allow the press operator to see instantly that the colour has been applied, and to the correct depth. These markings are usually in the form of coloured dots, like the ones shown in the block above. Collectors have come to refer to these as "traffic lights".

Warning Strip

This is another term that may be specific to Canada, through many issues of the US have similar items to warning strips. Precanceled stamps issued by Canada post were only made available to qualifying organizations at a discount from the face value. Consequently it was not legal for unauthorized individuals to use them. Each sheet of stamps sold accordingly contained a warning to this effect. Vertical strips of 20 from either the right or left side of the outer panes that contain the full warning, are called "warning strips", and are highly collectible. 

This concludes my rundown of the first 21 philatelic terms of many which I will write about over the next few weeks. After I have completed these posts, I will return to my posts about the issues I was writing about before. 


A watermark is a design that is impressed into paper when that paper is manufactured. The design actually results from the fact that the paper is thinner than the surrounding paper at the points where the design is. The watermark is produced using an dandy roll, which is run over the paper pulp under very high pressure. The parts in the dandy roll that comprise the actual design of the watermark are called the 'bits". The above scan shows a commonly used watermark within the British Commonwealth that was in use from 1880 until about 1903: the Crown CA watermark. 

Wove Paper and mesh

Wove paper refers to the majority of stamp papers which do not show laid lines or batonne lines. It is manufactured in much the same manner as laid paper, except that the wire mesh over which the pulp is laid prior to being pressed, has evenly spaced gaps and hence the paper will not show lines as such. However, if the gaps in the wire mesh are large enough, the paper will exhibit what we call mesh, which is the term we use to refer to the distinct grain that is sometimes visible in the paper. On the half cent black Large Queen stamp shown above, you can see a clear horizontal grain. This is referred to as horizontal mesh. On other papers, particularly on modern issues, the paper is manufactured in such a way that there is no visible grain at all. 

Philatelic Terms Illustrated - D to F

Definitive Stamp

A definitive stamp is a stamp issued for regular, utilitarian postal use, and is often in use for many years before being replaced by a new series. Definitives usually depict the ruler of the country, but they can also depict a common theme, such as fish, plants, or industries, like the 1k Nigeria stamp shown above, that was issued in 1973. Most stamps that are issued in booklet form are definitives, with that trend changing in recent years as many countries have begun to issue commemoratives in booklet form as well. 

Dextrine Gum, Dextrose Gum or Gum Arabic

The substance on the back side of the stamp that allows it to be fastened to the envelope, is called the gum. Up until the late 1960's and early 1970's, stamp gum was made with dextrose - a cellulose based, natural substance. Such gum was often very shiny, yellowish and had a flavour that many found unpleasant. The 1927 Confederation stamp shown above is an example of this type of gum. Some countries that produced this gum also added other compounds which caused it to attack the paper it was on, resulting in damage to the stamps if not removed. Germany during the 1930's is an example of a country that did this by adding sulphuric acid to the gum. 

By the late 1960's synthetic alternatives in the form of Polyvinyl Alcohol, also known as PVA gum became available and started to come into general use. However, there are still many countries, most notably France, that have continued to use dextrine gum on their stamps up to the present day. 

Die Cut

The the term "Die-Cut" refers to a method of separation used for modern self-adhesive stamps, in which a cutting mat is laid over the stamps, and perforations are cut into the stamps, so that they can simply be peeled apart from their backing individually. In recent years, postal administrations have moved away from printing stamps on gummed paper, so that perforating has become obsolete, and perforated, gummed paper stamps are gradually being replaced by self-adhesive die-cut stamps. The above image shows  pair of die-cut stamps issued for the Tall Ships Visit to Halifax for 2000. The die cutting is very visible at the top and bottom of the pair, but much harder to see between the two stamps, due to the nature of the stamp design.


Embossing is a process, whereby a part of the paper is pressed through a narrow opening to produce a raised design in the paper, called a relief. The snake of the above stamp is raised from the surface of the rest of the stamp. If you turn the stamp over, there will be a large depression where the snake is. Embossing was first used on the 1847 stamps of Great Britain, and then very rarely after that, until the Cameo designs of Gambia were issued in 1869. Since then, embossing has been used to print many modern stamp issued, although it is usually employed in combination with other printing methods. For example the 2001 Year of the Snake stamp above was printed using both lithography and embossing.

First Class Mail, Second Class Mail and Third Class Mail

First Class refers to the standard mail stream with normal delivery and handling times. Envelopes which were not marked in any way and sealed at the flap on the back are referred to as "first class letters". The distinction is lost today because the only option in most cases for sending a letter is first class.

However, until about the early to mid-1970's cheaper second and third class options also existed. Mail sent in this manner was often required to be marked "second class mail" or "third class mail" and in some cases you were not permitted to seal the envelope. Apart from this, the main difference between first class and these two options was that the delivery time was slower. By the mid to late 1970's these services were generally abolished, though some countries still have a bulk rate which businesses sending out very high volume mailings can take advantage of.

First Day Cover

A first day cover refers to a cover that was sent on a stamp's first day of issue. Most first day covers until the 1970's were produced by private individuals who would take an envelope and print, draw or paint a design onto the envelope, called a cachet, address the cover to their customers and then take them to the post office where the issue of the day would be affixed and cancelled with the first day of issue postmark. Of course any cover at all, even those without cachets that happened to be used on a stamp's first day of issue would qualify as a first day cover, and as a matter of fact it is these covers that today are the most valuable and highly sought after. However, some of the hand-painted cachets can also be worth many hundreds of dollars each, even on what is normally a very inexpensive issue.

By the 1960's larger companies started producing first day covers, with standardized, pre-printed cachets, The Art Craft first day cover above is one such example. Then in the 1970's the postal authorities themselves began mass producing their own first day covers. These are of extremely high quality and their existence essentially killed the market for individual cachet-makers who simply could not compete with the economies of scale that were enjoyed by the post office.

Frameline, Spandrel, Vignette and Value Tablet

All stamp designs, with very few exceptions are contained within an outer line, or group of lines. This outer line or group of lines is called the frameline (s). Usually, but not always , a stamp will have both an outer frameline, and an inner one. The above stamp from Lagos issued in 1894 has both an outer frameline, that surrounds the entire design, and an inner one that surrounds most of the design as well. 

The main portion of the design within the frame and frame ornaments is called the vignette. On the above stamp, the vignette is the bust of Queen Victoria. The corner portions of the design that lie outside the vignette, but within the framelines are called spandrels. The leaf ornaments on this stamp in each corner are the spandrels on this stamp.

The space enclosing the words of value (denomination) is called the value tablet. It is usually rectangular, although it really can be any shape at all. 


The term "franking" refers to the combination of stamps that has been affixed to a cover to pay the postage.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Philatelic Terms Illustrated - A to C

Today's post will be the start of what I hope will become a series of posts where I illustrate important philatelic terms that I use in my blog posts. It comes after one of my regular readers suggested to me that it would be useful to have an illustrated glossary. I couldn't agree more and I have to admit that I tend to assume that my readers know what I am talking about when I use certain terms. However, I realize now that that assumption is not always valid. So that is the basis upon which I have come to write this series. It will eventually be several posts arranged alphabetically. I will add to it and move content to other posts, as I expand it an each post reaches a certain length.

I will start today with some of the terms that I have good scans for, and then will continue to add to it as terms come to mind.

Air Mail Cover

An airmail cover is any cover that has been sent by airplane for at least a portion of its route, as opposed to travelling exclusively on land or at sea. Nowadays airmail is the standard method of travel for mail going outside the country of mailing, but up until the 1970's this was not the case in most countries. Up until this time, airmail was a premium service that cost more money to use and in the 1930's when it first introduced, it was very expensive, especially if you were sending to a very unusual destination. 

Airmail items would generally either have a bilingual blue and white label attached that would read "By Air Mail Par Avion", or the envelope itself would be pre-printed with that label, as well as a blue and red striped border, such as on the cover shown above. 

Booklet Pane

A booklet pane refers to the block of stamps that is contained inside booklets of stamps that are sold to the public. All booklets usually consisted of a cardboard cover, one or more panes of stamps and often some wax paper interleaves to keep the stamps from sticking together. Nowadays the panes are glued right onto the covers, usually by way of a flap or tab. These are called integral booklets. However, up to the late 1960's in most countries, and sometimes later, the panes and booklet covers were either stapled or stitched together, as is the case with the 1962 5c Cameo booklet pane shown above. 


This term as far as I know is unique to Canadian philately. Between 1961 and 1967, Canada Post experimented with issuing stamps in larger sheets of 20 or 25 stamps and shrink wrapped them in cellophane packages. Collectors have come to know these as "cello-paqs". The packs were only current for just over 6 years and I suspect they were discontinued due to the lack of protection that the packaging afforded the stamps.

Circular Date Stamp (CDS)

A circular date stamp, or CDS for short, is a type of cancellation in which the town name and date appear within a circle. Usually the circle is a single circle as is the one shown above, but occasionally, the ciurcle can be a double, or even triple circle. They are the preferred form of cancellation for most collectors because of the fact that they tend not to deface the stamps as much, and as a matter of fact, can even enhance their appearance. The first CDS's appeared in the 1870's, though they were not common until the 1890's and they were popular until the 1980's in many countries. Since then, they have fallen largely out of favour, much to the dismay of collectors who are finding very recent stamps very challenging to find in attractive used condition. 

Coil Stamp

One popular form in which stamps started to be issued, just before World War I is in roll form. Such stamps are called "coil stamps". Coil stamps will always have perforations on two of the four sides only - either vertically or horizontally. Vertical perforations are the most common, though a few issues are horizontally perforated, such as the 1962 Cameo Issue 5c stamp shown above. 

The first coil stamps were only sold by vending machines and had to be purchased one stamp at a time. However, many postal authorities eventually started selling complete rolls of 100 or in some cases 500 stamps, as with the above issue, to the general public. Companies started selling dispensers in which you could store the roll on your writing desk, and these dispensers would often come with a small water well and roller that would enable you to moisten the stamps without having to lick them. 

They are still a very popular issue format today, though many are now die-cut self-adhesives. 

Comb Perforation

A comb perforation is one where the sheets of stamps are perforated either by a single stroke, or a few strokes of a perforating comb, in which the pins are all pre-spaced. This is in contrast to the more traditional line perforation in which the sheets are perforated one row at a time. You can recognize a comb perforation by the fact that there is always a perfect intersection of holes where rows and columns meet, as shown in the centre of the above block.

Commemorative Stamp

A commemorative stamp is stamp that is issued to commemorate a specific event, person, place, or organization. Usually there will be anniversary dates or some other indication of what is being commemorated. The above stamp was issued in 2000 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Department of Labour. This type of stamp is in contrast to a definitive stamp, which generally features either a portrait of the ruler or depicts a common theme. Commemorative stamps are usually only sold for a short period of time, usually 6 months or less, while definitive stamps are on sale for several years. 

Complete Booklet

Ever since the turn of the 19th century, stamps have been available for sale in booklet form. A complete booklet consists of a front cover, a back cover and one or more stamp panes. The above booklet is a self-adhesive booklet from the year 2000 of stamps featuring Canadian rivers. For this particular booklet, the backing of the self-adhesive stamps is folded over to form the front and back covers of the booklet. 

Cork Cancellation

Cancellations for a long period between the 1860's and 1890's were often fashioned by local postmasters using corks that they would carve patterns into. These would then be dipped into the cancellation ink and then used as handstamps. Segmented geometric designs, such as those shown above are the most commonly seen, but occasionally some postmasters with superior carving skills got very creative indeed, producing highly sought after designs, such as the Waterbury Running Chicken cancel shown below:

Image result for waterbury running chicken

Counting Mark

On Canadian stamp booklets printed by the British American Bank Note Company, every 50th booklet was marked on the cover with a solid rectangular marking as a way of keeping track of how many booklets were printed. The above booklet cover shows an example of such a marking at the top centre, in the form of the solid red rectangle. These are highly sought after by specialists, due to their scarcity.


A cover refers to an entire envelope which has been sent through the postal system, complete with the original stamps used to pay the postage, called the franking. In the very earliest days of stamps, up to the 1850's, envelopes were not used. Instead the letters were folded, sealed with wax and then the outside was addressed and sent. These are also covers.

Cutting Guide Line

With many stamp issues, the stamps are printed in much larger sheets than what gets distributed to postal counters for sale to the public. For example the above commemorative issue from 1948 was printed in sheets of 200 divided into 4 panes of 50 stamps each. So some method has to be devised to separate the panes of 50. Usually they are simply guillotined apart.

However, guide markings are usually placed in this case in the margins of the sheet so that the guillotine operator knows where to position the stamps, so as not to damage them of leave a margin around them that is too small. If the guillotine operator lines the markings up perfectly with the guillotine, the cutting action will split the guide line down the middle, and it will not be visible on the resulting pane. However, the markings and guillotine are sometimes not perfectly aligned, with the result that the cutting guideline is visible, as on the block shown above. These varieties are usually quite sought after by specialists.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Printings of the 7.5d Lilac and Carmine Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp From Lagos 1894-1901

Today's post continues my examination of the three stamps issued in 1894 by Lagos to facilitate payment of insurance charges on registered parcels: the 5d, 7.5d and 10d. Last week we looked at the 5d lilac and dark green and concluded that there were approximately 18 printings. Given that only 55,620 stamps of the 7.5d were sent compared to 92,160 of the 5d, I would expect there to have been fewer printings, although it is entirely possible that there were as many printings consisting of fewer stamps each time. Like the 5d, there were a lot of unsold remainders that were eventually destroyed - 32,760 out of the original 55,620, leaving only 22,860 stamps that were sold and either preserved in mint form, or used.

I have 78 mint and used stamps of this value, which I sorted into the same five groups that I had identified in last week's post. This is the starting point for this week's post. I will now sort each of these five groups further by the shades of the head plate and duty plates (words of value) into printings. Once identified, this post will illustrate them and describe their characteristics. Once again, I do not have a sufficient number of dated used examples to be certain about the order of the printings, so when I refer to a printing as the "fourth printing", I mean the fourth printing that I identified - not necessarily the fourth printing made.

Group One - Printings 1-3

Like the first printings of the 5d, these first three printings show only minimal plate wear, with slight merging of the first three lines at the very top of the hair. Most all of the other details are clear.

First Printing

I am fairly confident that this printing is actually the true first printing because the date on two of the used examples that I have are March 24, 1894 and June 27, 1894, and this stamp was first issued in January 1894. The head plate is printed in  colour that is closest to reddish lilac on the Stanley Gibbons colour key, but lighter and slightly duller. The duty plate is printed in a deep aniline crimson that shows mildly through the back on mint examples and strongly through the back on used examples. 

Here are all eight examples of this printing that are currently in my stock:

Second Printing

On this printing the lilac of the head plate is less reddish, being closest to slate lilac on the Gibbons colour key, but once again, it is lighter. The duty plate is also printed in a deep crimson, which is not aniline this time, as evidenced by the fact that it does not show through the back this time . However, from the few used copies where the crimson has run on exposure to water, it would appear that it was a doubly fugitive ink, rather than a singly fugitive one. 

Here are all eight of the mint and used examples of this printing that are in my stock:

Note that there are some very late dates here like November 1901 and August 1902. That is to be expected given that this was not a very heavily used stamp. There were bound to be a small number of early printings on hand at several post offices until well after the late 1890's. 

Third Printing

On this printing, the head plate colour takes on a hint of brown, being closest to the dull purple swatch on the Gibbons colour key, while the duty plate colour is less deep than on the prior printings, being closest to crimson.

Group 2 - Printings 4-7

In this group of printings, like the 5d value, there is a slight loss of sharpness, with the most noticeable being the first shading lines near the jewels of the crown.

Fourth Printing

Both the head plate and duty plate colours of this printing are the same as the third printing: dull purple for the head plate, and crimson for the duty plate. The duty plate ink is not aniline, as it does not show clearly through the back. 

Fifth Printing

On this printing, the head plate colour is dull purple, as it was in the fourth printing. The only difference is the duty plate which is a deeper crimson ink, which is also aniline, as it shows clearly through the back. 

Sixth Printing

The head plate colour of this printing is closest to slate lilac, but is just a touch more rosy than the swatch in the Gibbons colour key. The duty plate colour is a deep aniline crimson, and does just show through on the back.

Seventh Printing

On this printing the head plate colour is closest to slate lilac on the Gibbons colour key. It lacks the rosy undertone that sixth printing had. The duty plate colour remains unchanged at deep crimson. It appears to be a non-aniline ink as evidenced by the fact that it does not show through the back. 

 I currently have ten mint and used examples from this printing:

Again the dates on the cancels are very far apart, with my earliest cancel being January 1897 and my latest being January 1908. 

Group 3 - Printings 8-11

Like the 5d last week, the printings of the third group are characterized by the lack of detail in the hair in the back of the head, the merging of the top four or five hairlines at the top of the head, and the merging of most of the lower hairlines up to about half way up the jewels in the crown.

Eighth Printing

On this printing the head plate colour is closest to the dull purple swatch on the Gibbons colour key, but is noticeably paler. The duty plate colour is crimson, which is not aniline, as it does not show clearly through the back.

This is one of the more common ones in my stock, with 9 mint and 2 used examples. Here they are:

Again there is one used example that is dated April 1902, which is well after this printing was made. However, there is one cancelled with an 8-bar oval killer, which is more in line with the late 1890's when this printing was made. 

Ninth Printing

This printing is the palest of the 18 I have identified. If this stamp wasn't mint with full gum, I might be tempted to conclude that it is an extremely faded example. The head plate colour is closest to the dull mauve swatch on the Gibbons colour key, but is just a bit deeper and a touch more bluish. The duty plate colour is non-aniline crimson, as it does not show through the back of the stamp. 

Tenth Printing

The head plate of this printing is almost an exact match for the dull purple swatch on the Gibbons colour key, while the duty plate colour is non-aniline crimson. 

I have four examples of this printing, all of which are mint:

Eleventh Printing

It is interesting and curious that all three of the specimen stamps that I have of this value are from such a late printing as this. The degree of plate wear apparent on these is too great for these to be from the first printings. Their existence supports the notion that specimens were produced and given out for purposes other than just UPU distribution, or they were given to new member nations that joined after 1894. 

The head plate colour is about half way between the dull purple swatch and the deep dull purple swatch on the Gibbons colour key, while the duty plate colour is non-aniline crimson. These are the deepest shade of dull purple of any of the 18 printings that I have identified thus far.

Group 4 - Printings 12-16

These printings are characterized by the fact that while nearly all the detail in the hair up to the top of the crown is gone, there is still a narrow band of detail visible between the top of the crown and the top of the head. Also, the horizontal shading lines in the lower horizontal band of the crown are still visible, but just beginning to merge into one another.

Twelfth Printing

The head plate colour of this printing is closest to the grey lilac swatch on the Gibbons colour key, but it is just a bit rosier. The duty plate is printed in a non-aniline crimson. 

Thirteenth Printing

This printing looks very similar to 12, except that the head plate colour has less grey and more rose to it. It is very similar to what the slate lilac swatch would look like if it were made paler by adding a small amount of white to it. The duty plate colour continues to be a non-aniline crimson. 

I have six mint examples and one used example of this printing:

The cancel on the used example looks very strange, and there is better than even chance that is not actually genuine, given that used examples of this stamp are worth more than ten times as much as mint examples.

Fourteenth Printing

This printing does match the slate lilac swatch of the Gibbons' colour key almost perfectly. The duty plate colour once again is a non-aniline crimson that does not show through the back of the stamp. 

Fifteenth Printing

This is the first printing of the 18 where the duty plate colour is not either crimson or deep crimson. The duty plate colour on this printing is a deep magenta, while the head plate colour is a pale, dull and dirty purple. 

Sixteenth Printing

This unique printing is affected by tropical age toning, but nonetheless, it is very clear that both the head and duty plate colours are quite unlike any of the other printings. The duty plate colour is  clear match to the magenta swatch of the Gibbons colour key, while the head plate colour is a pale dull reddish purple. There is no swatch on the colour key for this, but you can clearly see that it is too reddish to match the dull purple swatch and too pale and dull to match the reddish purple swatch. 

Group 5 - Printings 17-19

These last three printings all possess a coarseness of appearance that none of the preceding printings have. The detail in the hair at the top of the head is almost completely gone, and most of the shading lines in the lower horizontal band of the crown are completely merged together.

Seventeenth Printing

This is the last of the printings to have the duty plate printed in a deep magenta colour. The head plate is closest to slate lilac on the Gibbons colour key. The used example next to the mint one is postmarked June 24, 1902, which is perfectly consistent with its classification as a printing made between 1900 and August 1901, which is when these last printings were likely made.

Eighteenth Printing

The duty plate colour on the last two printings reverts back to non-aniline deep crimson. On this printing, the head plate colour is a slightly duller version of the reddish lilac on the Gibbons colour key. 

I have seven examples of this printing, of which three are used. All of these are shown in the scan below:

The dates on the cancellations are difficult to read, but they all dated between December 1902 and September 1903, so there is a good possibility that this is the last printing that was sent to the colony on August 19, 1901.

Nineteenth Printing

On this printing, the head plate colour is pale dull purple, while the duty plate colour is non-aniline crimson.


After careful examination of the stamps and careful study of the degree of plate wear, it appears that this stamp had almost as many printings as the 5d. In fact, it seems as though it had one more, with 19 printings made during the seven year period that it was printed. It is not a common stamp to find in used condition, which makes dating the printings difficult. For instance, almost none of the stamps in groups three and four of this value are used.  Despite this, it would seem, that the approximate date ranges that I gave for the five printing groups of the 5d would apply here also. They were:

  • Group one stamps would appear to be from early to mid 1894.
  • Group two stamps would seem to be from late 1894 to mid 1895.
  • Group three stamps would seem to be from mid 1895 to about the end of 1897.
  • Group four stamps would appear to cover the period from, 1898 to the end of 1899.
  • Group five stamps would appear to cover the period from 1900 to the the last shipment in August 1901. 
The only difference I notice between this value and the 5d is the large number of late dates, with many of my 1894 printings being cancelled after 1898.

Next week I will look at the last of these three stamps: the 10d lilac and yellow orange. This should enable me to reach some pretty solid conclusions about what the main groups of printings were between 1894 and 1901 and their identifying characteristics. Armed with this information, I can begin looking at the 3d and 2.5d stamps that were issued in 1890-1891 with a view to identifying the pre-1894 printings, and then doing a good sort of the 1894-1901 printings.