Search This Blog

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Philately Versus Stamp Collecting - Two Very Different Hobbies and The Appeal of Stamps

In normal parlance the term "philatelist" and "stamp collector" are used synonymously, with many non-collectors often saying "what is that fancy word used to describe stamp collecting? I know it is "phil-a something. I can't pronounce it". Most collectors will then tell the person that a stamp collector is a "philatelist" or will otherwise agree with the person who equates the two, as if the two were playing a game of Trivial Pursuit.

But as a dealer and professional philatelic blogger, it has occurred to me that philately and stamp collecting, though very close to one another, are not, in fact, the same thing. In the rest of this post, I will explain the difference between the two, and then I will conclude with some more reasons why I believe that both are the most rewarding of hobbies, and why I believe they are misunderstood by most people in general.

Stamp Collecting

Stamp collecting involves the pursuit and accumulation of stamps for their pure artistic and overall historic merit only. Most collectors love to look at the design and workmanship that went into the stamps, the pretty pictures, the portrayal of cultures from far away lands, and to see a slice of history captured in long-dead countries and colonies that no longer exist as what they once were. The vast majority of collectors are in the hobby for the pure enjoyment of collecting, while some are in it for both the enjoyment and the possibility of financial gain through the appreciation in value of their stamps. Still others are in it only for the financial aspect. I tend to regard this later group as not really being involved in a hobby at this point, but really only another form of investment.

Collectors can be interested in collecting the entire world, which is much less common now because of the proliferation of modern stamp issues in the last 60+ years, or they tend to limit themselves to a single country, or group of countries that they find most interesting.

Because the emphasis is on the overall appearance of the stamps, most collectors are not concerned with differences in paper, shade, perforation, or printing that are not extremely obvious to the naked eye, and are not listed in major catalogues as basic "numbers". Perforation differences, which are not obvious is about as detailed as most collectors are willing to get. Many will collect basic differences in watermarks and in very significant colour differences, but will not be interested in all of the subtle varieties that can be found in all the attributes of that stamp.

Also, collecting is highly personal, and so a collector can be very passionate about classic stamps from before 1940, while having no interest whatsoever in the stamps issued in the modern era.

Condition and value are very important to collectors. I have noticed that most collectors can be extremely fussy about condition to the point of being perfectionists, and that can often limit what they chose to collect. These collectors tend to be more concerned with the financial aspect of the hobby than the pure artistic aspect, but even casual collectors will often insist on a minimum standard of condition with the stamps in their collection. Most collectors are very concerned about not paying too much for their stamps relative to what they perceive the value of their stamps to be. The only collectors who tend not to be concerned at all about this are those who are completely uninterested in the financial aspect and who view collecting as only a hobby and nothing more. The sad irony that I see as a professional dealer is that most collectors who focus too much on the financial aspect of collecting tend to be disappointed when the time comes to sell their collections, as they do not understand the economics of the hobby, and their stamps when sold all at once, are worth much less than they think.

Finally, the notion of "completion" figures very highly into stamp collecting, with most collectors pursuing the goal of acquiring one of each stamp from their chosen area in either mint or used condition, depending on their preference, and stopping when they have reached it. Then, generally, most collectors will start up on a new collection, doing the exact same thing again.

Although there may be some passing interest expressed in the backstory of the stamps they collect, most collectors do not get heavily into the study of this backstory at all.


Philately

I can best describe philatelists as forensic historians.

They are historians in the sense that they tend to be interested in learning as much of the story behind the stamp issue as they can, from the very first conception of the issue, through the rejected designs, through the final acceptance of the design to be used, through the production, including all the printings made, and finally the actual use of those stamps throughout their lives. This final branch of philately is often completely separate from the others, and these philatelists are generally known as postal historians. Philatelists use their stamps and covers to tell the story. They further recognize, as they gain more and more experience that the official records of a typical stamp issue only tell half the story. The reason for this is that stamps are a product of human endeavour. They are designed and printed and distributed by organizations, and organizations by their nature are not perfect. Problems occur. Mistakes are made. Then these problems and mistakes are corrected. Sometimes, but not often, these corrections will be documented. More often than not, though, they will not be because reputations are at stake, careers can be affected and these solved problems are often swept under the rug in these organizations.

This is where the element of forensics comes in. A philatelist can unravel the remainder of the story by carefully studying the physical attributes of the stamps themselves, which include:


  1. The paper, and all physical aspects of that paper.
  2. The design, including any minute changes made to it, or imperfections.
  3. The ink used to print the stamp, and any minute differences.
  4. The perforation, including any minute difference in either the measurement, or the method used.
  5. The gum on the back of the stamp, including its physical characteristics.
Often, these attributes will involve very, very subtle differences that are nonetheless consistent across a very large number of identical stamps. Thus in unraveling the story, the philatelist studies individual stamps, and looks for these differences, then using these differences to form hypotheses about the story (i.e. the order of the printings for example), which if they are very disciplined, they will test statistically. 

In order to statistically test these hypotheses, one must then study a very large number of stamps from the overall population of stamps, in order to reach statistically valid conclusions. Very few philatelists actually take their interest this far, as most never really get past the study of the individual stamps. 

Thus philately is really a discipline, and while individual philatelists will choose the issue of their specialization, based on their personal interest level, generally speaking, budgetary considerations will force them to consider collecting issues that may not have been their first preference. In that sense, a true philatelist will be as open to collecting a stamp issue that was released five years ago, as they are to collecting Penny Blacks from 1840, provided that they find the actual stamps sufficiently interesting to want to tell the story behind them. 

So, because of this, philatelists are highly concerned with every significant variety they can find, and as a result, the notion of "completion" is neither important, nor necessarily desirable to them. I know several philatelists who have been involved in collecting the 1967-1973 Centennial Issue of Canada since 1967 when it came out, which is 50 years now. These collectors absolutely love the fact that even after 50 years and tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of stamps later, they are still able to make new discoveries. For this reason most philatelists are not generally concerned with whether an item fits into an album page, or whether it is listed in a catalogue in deciding whether or not they want it for their collection. That decision is usually driven only by the consideration of whether or not the stamp or cover adds to their telling of the story. If it does, then they want it, and if it doesn't, they they don't, unless they just like it and want it anyway. 

Finally, most philatelists, because they are trying to tell a story, will be happy to have any piece of the puzzle that they can find, even if it is damaged, or in otherwise poor condition. So they are much less picky about condition, through they will only pay in accordance with the actual condition of an item. However, because of all this, many philatelists are much more willing to pay more for a stamp or cover that they really need to complete one aspect of the story they are trying to tell, than a typical collector would be. 

The irony with philatelists is that because of the meticulous nature with which they approach their hobby, they often wind up discovering rare printings and varieties in their stamps that are worth far, far more than what they paid, even when they go to sell their collections. Often their collections, because of how unique and thorough they are, will sell for far, far more than a typical collection will, because other philatelists recognize that the sale might be their only opportunity to acquire specific stamps and covers for their collections. Thus most very serious philatelists wind up making money on their collections, even though such was not their goal. That is the ironic part. 

So hopefully you can now see that these two hobbies, while very closely related, are really completely different in their approach, and their focus. 


Why Stamp Collecting and Philately Are So Rewarding as Hobbies And Are Not For Losers

Most people can barely wrap their heads around the idea of stamp collecting. If they think about it, they can just comprehend why someone might be interested in collecting little pieces of paper with cool designs on them. But most will freely concede that they possess no interest in doing so themselves. Part of the reason why I believe that collecting is not more popular today than it used to be is that stamp designs of many countries have gotten less artistically pleasing than they once were. Most people are not exposed on a day to day basis to truly beautiful stamps, and so they do not have a good idea of just how beautiful stamps can be, and many beautiful stamps there are in the world to collect.

For instance, here are two stamps from my worldwide collection of beautiful stamps that I think are just gorgeous:



This first stamp from Laos, issued in the 1960's has a beautiful contrast of colours that just "pop" out at me, and the design is intricate and was engraved entirely by hand after being sketched by a very skilled artist. 



This 1970 stamp from Czechoslovakia is a reproduction of a painting by a famous Czech artist. It is absolutely stunning to a person who appreciates this kind of art, though it may not be everyone's cup of tea. Again, someone had to draw this and then a skilled engraver, had to engrave it before it could be printed. It is part of a series of stamps that Czechoslovakia issued in the 1960's depicting famous paintings. 

I believe that few people would disagree that both of these are miniature works of art. It would surprise most people, I think, to realize that there are tens of thousands of stamps issued throughout the world that are as beautiful as these, if not more so. What will be even more surprising to many will be that 90% of these can be bought in mint condition for less than $1. The stamps above are both less expensive than this. 

From this, I would hope that you can clearly see, if you are not a collector, how it could be very rewarding to collect stamps like this and focus only on collecting stamps that you like and that you can comfortably afford. There is a lot of visual pleasure to be had just going through a number of these and really taking in the images and looking at the art. So I think many people can understand the rewarding nature of stamp collecting, once they become aware of how it is really just the collection of miniature art pieces. Other stamps bestow the collector with knowledge of people, places and cultures that they would not otherwise have. 

But, the case for philately is much, much harder for the average person to understand. When I try to explain to the average person the study of stamps, to the point of what I have described, I usually get a blank expression, followed by a "why?". Some have suggested that it would be like collecting string, or pencils, or matchbooklets, or any other mundane daily object. Many will say that they can understand collecting these items, but they can't understand why a person would care about all the intricate details. 

I believe that this is because most do not understand that it all stems from a desire to tell a story, and that if they understand that, it becomes much easier to understand, and thus respect. To tell the story involves solving a complex puzzle, and people love to solve puzzles. Yes, stamps are a mundane object, just like any other. But the story behind these objects, or any other mundane object that we as humans produce is the really the study of human ingenuity and human frailties, as every aspect of the human condition is replicated in the production, distribution, innovation and use of these objects. When you understand this, the hobby of philately takes on a much, much different appearance from what the average person thinks it is. I would expect that fewer people would see this as a hobby for losers or geeks if they really understood what it was all about, even if they weren't interested in it themselves. 



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Printings of the 6d Lilac and Mauve Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp of Lagos - Part Three

Today's post will be my last for 2017, as I will be off for the Christmas holidays for a few days to catch my breath and spend some much needed time with my family. My next post will be published on January 2, 2018, and should complete my examination of the stamps of this denomination.

Today however, I will examine the stamps printed from the third state of the plate. As I have explained in all of my earlier posts, stamps printed from the third state of the plate display two essential characteristics:


  1. Most of the detail of the hair at the back of the Queen's head, just above, and to the right of the neck is gone. Generally there will be a few shading lines visible in the hair above the diagonal ribbon, and very few if any lines visible below the ribbon.
  2. The first 3-5 lines of hair at the very top of the head are merged together into one solid mass of colour. 
Otherwise, most all of the finer details of the design remain crisp and clearly visible. Sometimes, there is almost no detail in the hair at the back of the head, but there is only a small amount of merging of the top hairlines. These are also from the third state of the plate. 

Group 3: Printings 20-34 Printings from the Third State of the Plate (Mid 1892 to Approximately Early 1896)

Twentieth Printing


The shades for both the frame plate and the duty plate of this printing are identical to the last, with the frame plate being a dull reddish purple, and the duty plate being almost an exact match to Gibbons's purple, with the colour being just a touch brighter. The purple would appear to be an aniline ink, as the colour is quite suffused on the front, and shows very clearly through the back. I have just one mint example, as shown above, and one used example, as shown below:


From the size and spacing of the bars, as well as the fact that I can clearly see 8 bars, and the seventh is quite large, it is probable that this stamp is canceled with either a 9-bar Ibadan barred oval, or, possibly the scarcer 10-bar type. It is too wide to be the more common Lagos type. 


Twenty First Printing



The choice to classify this as one of the earliest printings in this group is based on a used example shown below, which is cancelled with a lovely strike of a Lagos CDS, dated October 7, 1892. The head plate colour for this printing is a close match to Gibbons's reddish lilac, but is deeper. The duty plate colour is an exact match to Gibbons's plum. I have two mint examples, as shown above, and three used examples, as shown below.

This printing includes another potentially constant plate flaw involving the "S" of "Six". This time the S is broken in the middle, where a large part of it is missing. A close-up of this is shown below.




This is the first such example that I have seen on any six pence stamp. So it is quite possible that it is a one-off instance of bad ink transfer, rather than a constant flaw, but it is still interesting and worth pointing out.



The stamp on the left is cancelled with a lovely strike of the October 7, 1892 21 mm Lagos CDS cancel with the 4 mm space between the "W." and the "A" of "Africa". The middle stamp appears to be cancelled with a clear strike of a Lagos 8-bar oval obliterator. The stamp on the right is cancelled with a 9-bar Lagos obliterator.

Twenty Second Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is close to Gibbons's slate lilac, but is a little paler. It is similar in intensity to the reddish lilac, but there is a distinct bluish undertone to the colour. The duty plate colour is similar to the colour of the last printing, but is closer to Gibbons's deep purple, rather than the plum shade. 

I have the sole mint example shown above, with a specimen overprint, and two used examples shown below:



The stamp on the left is cancelled with a 9-bar Ibadan barred oval, and the stamp on the right is canceled with a strike of an 8-bar Lagos oval obliterator.

Twenty Third Printing




On this printing, the head plate is a close match to Gibbons's reddish lilac, but much deeper. The duty plate colour is very similar to the last printing, but just a touch paler. It is still a fairly close match to Gibbons's deep purple.

Unfortunately I do not have any sound examples of this printing, either mint or used. The mint stamp above is severely damaged on the lower right, but I have kept it as a placeholder for this printing.


Twenty Fourth Printing



On this printing, the head plate colour is a pale slate lilac, while the duty plate colour is again, a fairly close match to Gibbons's deep purple, but is a bit paler, once again. 

I have the somewhat faulty mint example (rubbing and discolouration) shown on the left above, and a sole used example, shown on the right. The used example appears to be cancelled with one of the 21 mm Lagos CDS cancels, but no date is visible. However, given that these cancels had more or less disappeared by 1897, it is likely dated before then. 


Twenty Fifth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is similar to a deep reddish lilac, but there is a slight brownish undertone to this colour, which makes it appear duller. So I would call it deep dull reddish lilac. The duty plate colour is problematic. It has a definite claret or brownish undertone, but it is far too purple to be a match to any of the clarets, brown purples or reddish purples on the Gibbons colour key. The closest match is again to deep purple. So I would call this colour deep brownish purple.

I have three mint examples of this printing, and one faulty used example, as shown above. The used stamp is cancelled with some type of barred oval obliterator, though it is difficult to make out which type it is.


Twenty Sixth Printing




On this printing, the head plate colour is too purple to be any of the lilac shades. It is similar to the deep dull reddish lilac in the printing above, but it is paler. It is actually closest to what the plum shade would look like if it were both paler and duller. The duty plate colour is a very close match to Gibbons's plum shade, but the colour is slightly paler. 

I only have the single mint example shown above, and no used examples. 


Twenty Seventh Printing


On this printing, the head plate colour is a deep reddish lilac, and the duty pate colour is almost an exact match to Gibbons's plum shade.

I have no mint examples of this printing, and only the two used examples shown above. Both are canceled with 9-bar oval obliterators, though the exact type is hard to determine. The stamp on the left is canceled with a lovely, clear strike of an Ibadan 9-bar oval obliterator, with the long bars, that are characteristic of this cancel.


Twenty Eighth Printing 



The head plate colour of this printing is the pale dull plum of the twenty sixth printing above, but the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep purple, but just a touch paler.

I have the beautiful mint NH example shown above, which is from the right side of the sheet. and the attractive used example on the right, which has been canceled with a 24 mm Lagos CDS cancel dated October 4, 1900, which suggests that it is a late usage. This stamp shows another possible constant plate flaw involving the "S" of "Six". In this instance, the "S" is broken along the bottom stroke in the middle. A close-up scan showing the damage is shown below:



Like the other flaw involving the "S" from this group of printings, this is the only example that I have. So it might not be constant. But regardless of whether or not it is constant, it is interesting and worthy of mention.

Twenty Ninth Printing



The frame plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's reddish lilac, but is quite a bit duller. The duty plate colour is similar to the last printing, being closest to deep purple, but just a touch paler.

I do not have any used examples of this printing, only the single mint example shown above.


Thirtieth Printing




The head plate colour of this printing is closest to a deep reddish lilac, but the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep reddish purple. 

This is another printing for which I do not have any sound examples, mint or used. The used example shown above is very severely thinned in the centre. It is cancelled with a barred oval obliterator, but it is difficult to be sure which one it is. 

Thirty First Printing


The frame plate colour of this printing is an almost perfect blend of the three lilac shades on the Gibbons colour key: slate lilac, reddish lilac and lilac. It has elements of all of these three shades, without being a perfect match to either one. But I would call it, pale slate reddish lilac. The duty plate colour is a perfect match to Gibbons's plum shade. 

I do not have any mint examples of this printing, but I do have the superb used example shown above, which has been cancelled with a lovely strike of a 24 mm Lagos CDS dated April 27, 1900. Again, this would appear to be another example of a late usage. 

Thirty Second Printing


This is another printing of this stamp for which I have no mint examples and only the two used examples shown above. The head plate colour on these is a deep reddish lilac that is somewhat dull, while the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep mauve.

Both stamps are cancelled with barred oval obliterators, though it is difficult to determine anything beyond that with any degree of certainty.


Thirty Third Printing




This is one of the last printings of the third state, as we see the beginnings of plate corrosion and damage that begin to make the overall printing appear a little coarse. In this printing, the head plate colour is closest to slate lilac, but paler, so a pale slate lilac. The duty plate colour is, like the last printing, closest to Gibbons's deep mauve.

I have two mint examples, both shown above, and a single used example, cancelled with a 24 mm Lagos CDS dated June 19, 1901, which suggests a late usage of this later printing, which should have been issued sometime in early 1896 or 1897.


Thirty Fourth Printing


This printing may in fact, not be a true printing, but might be a colour changeling caused by exposure to water, given that it does appear to have been soaked, and these inks are doubly fugitive, which means that they are affected by water. The head plate colour is a closest to Gibbons's deep claret, which is quite unlike any shade on any of the other printings. The duty plate colour is closest to brown purple, but a little deeper. 

I have only the single used example shown above, and it has been cancelled with an indistinct type of what appears to be a rubber postmark. It is smudgy and not possible to identify unfortunately. There is a possibility that it was applied posthumously to a mint stamp as well. 

This example shows another example of the "Broken S" flaw, with the nick out of the bottom of the "S" being in exactly the same place as the stamp from the 19th printing that showed the same flaw. 

A close up scan is shown below, which clearly shows the flaw:



The existence of this, and the other examples revealed so far, proves that this is a constant plate flaw. 

This brings me to the end of this week's post, and my series of posts for 2017. In January 2018, I shall finish my discussion of this value from the series, and will move on to the one shilling value. Happy holidays to all my readers, and spend plenty of time studying and enjoying your stamps!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Printings of the 6d Lilac and Mauve Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp of Lagos - Part Two

Today's post will examine the next group of printings of this stamp, being those from the second state of the plate. In this state, all of the detail in the hair is clear, as before, but is less sharp, as the plate begins to wear. We see the very beginnings of hairlines merging together at the top of the head and in the hair at the back of the head, especially those hairlines located underneath the diagonal ribbon at the back.

Group 2: Printings 11-19 Printings From the Second State of the Plate (December 1890 - Early 1892)

For the next three printings, the possibility does exist that they are merely variations of the second printing and are merely more heavily inked than those. However, I have assumed that the loss of sharpness in the detail is due to plate wear, and hence, I have classified them as being from the second state of the plate. I have determined that the last of these printings would have to have been made no later than early 1892, due to the fact that I have an used stamp from the third state of the plate that is cancelled with a Lagos CDS dated October 1892.

Eleventh Printing


For this printing, the frame plate colour is very close to Gibbons's deep dull purple, but there is a touch more red in the colour compared to the Gibbons swatch. However, it is nowhere near as red as the deep reddish purple. The duty plate colour is tricky, as there is too much purple for it to be a match to any of the clarets, brown purples or maroons. But at the same time it is quite dull. It looks to me like a dull version of Gibbons's deep reddish purple, so I would call it deep dull reddish purple.

I have no used examples, only the three mint examples shown above.

Twelfth Printing


The frame plate colour of this printing is identical to the last, which is to say that it is a deep dull purple containing a hint of red. The difference lies in the duty plate colour, which is more reddish and less purple, being a very close match to Gibbons dull claret.

Again, I have no used examples, and only the two mint examples shown above.

Thirteenth Printing



The frame plate colour of this printing is quite a bit more reddish than the other two printings. It is close to Gibbons's plum shade, but is both slightly paler and duller. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep reddish purple and the dull claret, almost being a perfect blend of the two colours. But for simplicity's sake, I would call it deep dull reddish purple, as it is similar to how a dull version of the deep reddish purple would look.

Once again, I have no used examples and only the single mint example shown here.

Fourteenth Printing



The frame plate colour of this printing is a deep version of Gibbons's reddish lilac, while the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's purple, but is just a touch duller.

Again I have no used examples. One of the two mint examples shown here has a specimen overprint, which does suggest that the specimen overprints continued to be distributed well after the stamps were first issued.

Fifteenth Printing



On this printing, the frame plate colour is paler, being a very close match to Gibbons's reddish lilac. The duty plate colour is close to Gibbons's purple, but is noticeably paler. 

I have only the one used example of this, and it shows some interesting flaws in the lettering of "six pence" which are consistent with some of the other flaws that I have written about in this issue so far. If you look at the top of the "C", The top right leg of the "X" and inside the "S", you will see white patches where the ink did not transfer properly. However, this could also result from damage to the letter, which will be proven if other examples can be found that establish that it is a constant variety. I did not see this damage on any of the earlier 6d's which suggests that it likely originated with this issue, but more research will be needed to establish this with certainty. 


Sixteenth Printing


This is another printing for which I have only a single used example, and it is a nice example of a nearly complete strike of the 8-bar oval obliterator. The frame plate colour is similar to Gibbons's reddish lilac, but is both paler and duller. So I would call it pale, dull reddish-lilac. 


Seventeenth Printing


The frame plate colour of this printing is very similar to the fourteenth printing, being a deeper version of the reddish lilac shade. The duty plate colour is very distinct, and is closest to Gibbons's bright purple. It is just a touch deeper.

Again, I have no mint examples of this printing - just the beautiful used example shown above. It is the wider Lagos CDS with the large dots at the side, dated December 2, 1898, which is a relatively late use. 

Eighteenth Printing



The colours of both the frame and duty plate colours of this printing are very distinct, and have lost any hint of claret or brown in the colours. The frame plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep reddish lilac, while the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep purple. I have the mint example shown above and the single used example, which has been cancelled using a pen shown below:


Both of these stamps exhibit a very prominent plate flaw involving the last "E" of "Pence". It would appear to be constant, due to the existence of these two examples. In this flaw, the bottom horizontal bar of the "E" is seen to slope noticeably downward, so that the end of the bar is much closet to the bottom frameline than the base is. This variety is very noticable even from afar. A close-up scan of this flaw is shown below:


I checked my examples of the 6d green and 6d sage green from the earlier issues, and did not come across this flaw on any of them, which suggests that it may have originated on this issue only.

Nineteeth Printing


The frame plate colour of this printing is somewhat problematic. It is the same intensity as the reddish lilac, but is way too dull to be a match. At the same time, the shade is quite reddish. I compared it to the dull purple and found that it is a much closer match, but again too reddish to be an exact match. So I would call it dull reddish purple. The duty plate colour is an almost exact match to Gibbons purple.

I have five mint examples and two used ones, both of which are cancelled with barred oval obliterators, though it is difficult to tell if they are 8 or 9 bar. The narrow width and wide spacing of the bars tends to suggest that they might be 9-bar ovals, but it is difficult to be sure.

This group of stamps contains another example of the broken "S", this time with just a nick out of the bottom of the "S". It is the top right stamp in the group above. A close-up scan of the variety is shown below:



I first noticed this flaw on the 6d sage green from the 1882-86 issue, but on that issue the "S" is completely broken at the bottom.

In addition to this flaw, I have found another notable variety that I have only seen on this issue: the "fat bottomed S". Normally the bottom of the "S" is the same width on the top. But on this variety, it is much, much wider. It occurs on the middle stamp in the bottom row above. A close up of the variety is shown below:



As you can see it is quite a prominent variety as well. I do not yet know if it is constant, as this is the only example of the 6d where I have come across it. 

This concludes my discussion of these printings. Next week, I will look at the printings from the third state of the plate. 





Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Printings of the 6d Lilac and Mauve Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp of Lagos - Part One

This week I move on to the next value in the 1887-1903 Crown CA issue of Lagos: the 6d lilac and mauve. This stamp was first sent to the colony on March 31, 1887, along with the others. The last printings from plate 1 were sent on August 4, 1900, which is a full year earlier than many of the other values from this issue. 86,340 stamps were printed, and 23,400 remainders were sent back to London in 1905. A good number of these would have come from the plate 2 printing, which was made in mauve and aniline carmine. This last printing of this value was, according to Gibbons, made in October 1902. However, the number produced for this printing is not known.

This is another denomination, that due to the postage rates, should have seen fairly consistent use, so it is quite possible that there may have been almost as many printings of this value as some of the other lower denominations. My initial sort of this, two years ago gave close to 40 printings, which over 54 calendar quarters is almost one per quarter, with some quarters not having any sendings. There are a fair number of shade variations, both of the head plate and the duty plate, which makes sorting the printings much easier than a value like the 4d.

Today's post will look at the printings from the first state of the plate.

Group 1 - Printings 1-10 From The First State of the Plate (Approximately March 1887 to December 1890)

In this first group, the key characteristic is the completeness of the detail in the Queen's hair, both at the top of the head, where the lines are clear, separate and distinct, and in the hair at the back of the head, which shows clear detail, both above and below the diagonal ribbon. In this group there are plenty of shades, and there is a lovely example of the broken "S" in "Sixpence", which I encountered in earlier printings of the 6d, which proves that it is a constant flaw.

First Printing


I have classified this as the first printing on account of the brown gum and the fact that the detail is clearest on this stamp. The head plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep, dull purple, but is just a touch more reddish. The duty plate colour is almost an exact match to Gibbons's claret shade. I have only this single mint example, and no used examples. 

Second Printing


For some strange reason, this printing is the one that I seem to have the largest number of examples of. I have ten mint examples as shown in the above scan, and three used examples as shown in the scan below:


The head plate colour of this printing is a closer match to the deep dull purple, on the Gibbons colour key, but again, it is a little redder, though not as red as the first printing. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons maroon, but is a bit paler.

Curiously, the used examples above are all dated between April 1897 and November 1899 - well past the time that this stamp would have been current. This suggests that many of these might have been buried under supplies of more recent printings at the post offices in which they were sold, with the result that they did not see postal use until many years after they were issued.

The mint stamp at the lower left above shows the "broken S in Sixpence", which is a constant flaw, in which there is a small nick in the bottom of the "S". An enlarged scan of this is shown below.



Third Printing


For this printing, I only have two used examples, which are both cancelled with strikes of an 8-bar oval obliterator, as shown above. The head plate shade is closest to Gibbons's slate lilac, being almost an exact match, while the duty plate colour is very close to Gibbons' dull claret, with this colour being slightly deeper, but the same overall tone.

Fourth Printing



This is another printing, for which I have no used examples. What makes this printing very distinct from the others is the very thin lettering in "sixpence". The frame plate colour is somewhat problematic. It is close to the both the reddish lilac and the slate lilac swatches on the Gibbons colour key. It is deeper and bluer than the reddish lilac, while being paler and redder than the slate lilac. I imagine that it is actually the colour that one would obtain by mixing equal amounts of the slate lilac and reddish lilac. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep purple shade.

Fifth Printing


This printing is very similar to the fourth printing. The head plate colour is basically the same as the fourth printing, being a blend of the slate lilac and the reddish lilac. But the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's plum shade. It illustrates quite nicely, the subtle difference between Gibbons deep purple and Gibbons plum - two colours that look almost the same. The difference is that deep purple contains just a touch more blue, and plum contains just a touch more red. I have two int examples, shown above, two used examples shown above and a block of 4 from the left side of the sheet as shown below:



The used examples are cancelled with what appear to be strikes of a 9-bar oval obliterator, though it is difficult to be sure.


Sixth Printing


The colours of this printing are very similar to the fifth printing above, but the duty plate colour is a deeper shade of plum to the fifth printing. This is another printing for which I have only mint examples - three of them to be exact, all of which are shown above.


Seventh Printing


This is one of the few printings from this group for which I have no mint examples. The head plate colour is again, a blend of the reddish lilac and slate lilac as shown on the Gibbons colour key. The duty plate colour is very close to Gibbons's deep mauve, but is just a bit deeper, with a touch more purple. 


Eighth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's reddish lilac, and the duty plate colour is almost an exact match to Gibbons's purple shade. 

This is another printing for which I have no mint examples. The single used example that I have, shown above, appears to be cancelled with a strike of an 8-bar oval obliterator.

Ninth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's maroon, but is a bit deeper. There is a just a hint of deep dull purple to the colour. The duty plate colour is a pale version of Gibbons's plum. I have no mint examples of this printing, and only the used example, cancelled with the wide Lagos CDS, dated August 3, 1900, which suggests that this was a very late use. 


Tenth Printing


On this printing, the head plate colour is closest to Gibbons's reddish lilac, while the duty plate colour is almost an exact match to Gibbons's purple. I have no used examples, and only the sole mint example shown above. 

This concludes my examination of the first ten printings of this stamp, made from the first state of the plate. Next week, I will look at the printings made from the second state of the plate.