Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Printings of the 10/- Green and Brown Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp of Lagos - 1887-1903

This week, I will deal with the last of the high value keyplate stamps from this series: the ten shilling green and brown. This is on a par with both the 2/6d and 5/- in terms of absolute scarcity, but because it is a higher denomination, the standard stamp catalogues ascribe a higher value to it.

According to Ince, the total number of stamps printed and sent to the colony between March 1887 and August 19, 1901 was 24,720, of which 13,620 remainders were sent back to London in 1905 for destruction. This leaves a net issue quantity of 11,100 stamps, which makes it slightly less scarce than the other two high values.

This stamp, being half a pound, would have seen very little postal use indeed, and consequently, genuine used examples are genuine rarities. One has to be very careful of altered halfpenny stamps that have had the words "Half Penny" erased and the new value "Ten Shillings" drawn in. One also has to watch for fake cancellations on mint stamps. I have examples of both, that I unfortunately bought as genuine items originally, that I will illustrate here, just to show you how good the fakery can get.

This is the only high value I have found so far that has a printing from plate 2 that I am able to confirm, on the basis of both the clarity of the printing impression and the fresh and colourless gum that is characteristic of the printings made at the turn of the century. I have printings from states 1 through 3 of plate 1, but I have not, so far seen any from states 4 and 5. This suggests that many fewer printings were made of this value, in larger numbers than was the case with the 2/6d and 5/- stamps.

All told, I have identified 14 printings of this value, which would, if all printings are represented here, be about 1 sending per year between March 1887 and August 1901, and would have amounted to an average of 1,765 stamps per shipment. By the time this stamp was issued, there were at least 11 operating post offices in the colony, if not more, so this would amount to less than 170 stamps per post office, which is not very many. In actual fact, the Lagos GPO would have had a larger allotment than the smaller offices, so that most post offices probably received fewer than 100 stamps.

The actual demand for these was far lower though, judging by the number of late usages and the absolute rarity of used examples, relative to mint. I have found exactly one faded used example with a manuscript cancellation, which suggests to me that even though they were authorized for revenue usage, that very few were authorized for this purpose.

I will now discuss these 14 printings in depth. One of the last printings contains a spectacular partial double print of the duty plate caused by movement of the type, which I had thought might be a faked stamp. But after carefully checking the colour and the stamp surface, I am of the opinion that it is a legitimate variety. Before I get into the specific printings I want to show you two examples of what to be wary of when buying these stamps: the altered 1/2d stamps and fake cancellations.

1/2d Stamp Altered by Erasing the Value and Repainting


I bought the above stamp several years ago as a genuine 10s stamp with a nice Lagos barred oval cancellation. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the shades of green used on these stamps, and I was not aware that altered low values existed. However, eventually something about it looked off: the green was much too dark and dull to be one of the high value stamps. It looked a lot to me like one of the earlier printings of the half-penny. Then the value tablet looked as though it had been erased: the surface of the paper was rough, when the keyplate stamps are normally smooth. This suggested to me the possibility of an eraser being used to erase the original words "Half Penny". The words "Ten Shillings" would then be painted in very carefully, using a brown ink of approximately the same tone and depth. 

Here is a close-up of the value tablet:



If you look carefully, the letters look both thin, and somewhat fuzzy, whereas the lettering on genuine stamps is always clear and sharp. The white around the value tablet looks somewhat rough, dirty and smeared, which are the tell-tale signs of an expert erasing job. It is a very well executed fake that would fool 99% of collectors, who do not know what to look for. 

Genuine Stamp With Forged Postmark


This stamp is a somewhat faded, genuine stamp from what is likely the first printing, that has had a fake oval grid postmark applied by a laser printer. The dead giveaway is the fact that the cancellation is made up of thousands of tiny dots, whereas the genuine cancellation is solid and you can never see the design very clearly through the parts of the design that have been cancelled with the solid bars. Here, you can see nearly all of the design details that are lying underneath the cancel, as well as the dotted nature of the cancellation. 

In case you cannot see the dots clearly, here is a rotated close-up scan:




Here you can see that the cancellation is made up of tiny dots, and is way too "perfect" to be a genuine barred oval obliterator. It was likely applied in order to take a faded, mint no gum stamp and turn it into the more desirable and valuable used example. 


Group 1 - Printings 1-2, From the First State of the Plate - March 1887 to approximately 1890

As stated in all my earlier posts, the first state of the plate is characterized by nearly all of the fine detail in the hair, jewels and diadem being clearly visible and with little to no merging of the hairlines at the top of the head, and most detail of the hair at the very back of the head visible both above and below the diagonal ribbon.


First Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is very close to Gibbons's deep dull green, but is just a bit deeper. It is not quite deep enough, or grey enough to be the deep grey-green. The duty plate colour is a perfect match to Gibbons's deep brown.

I have one very nice mint example shown above, and one faded used example, which I have ascribed to this printing, due to the fact that the plate details match, as does the duty plate colour. The cancellation is somewhat of a mystery, as it does not appear to be one of the regular Lagos barred oval obliterators. However, it could be an example of the 10-bar ovals that were in use in Ibadan.

Second Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's grey-green, but is paler. The duty plate colour is very close to Gibbons's blackish brown.


Group 2 - Printings 3-7, From the Second State of the Plate - 1890 to 1894

In the second state of the plate, the detail is similar to the first state, except that there is a slight loss of sharpness to the detail and the beginning of some merging of the hairlines, though very, very little.


Third Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is an almost perfect match to Gibbons's deep dull green. The duty plate colour is a match to Gibbons's deep brown.

The above mint example has been very carefully cut out of a sheet with scissors, as can be seen by the of the perforations on three sides. It is not re-perforated, as the perforations on all four sides gauge exactly 14, as they should. This would not be the case if the stamp was re-perforated. 

Fourth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's dull blue green, but a bit deeper. The duty plate colour is blackish brown.

This mint example with specimen overprint shows an interesting variety of the overprint, which may or may not be constant. The variety consists of a dot in the bottom loop of the "S". 

Fifth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's deep blue green, but is just a touch duller. It does have the vibrant bluish undertone, though, that none of the other printings really have, and this does not appear to have resulted from exposure to water. The duty plate colour is deeper than Gibbons's deep brown, but not as deep as the blackish brown. So I would call this shade the very deep brown. 

This is a very nice used example, which has been cancelled by a 21 mm Lagos CDS, dated June 13, 1893. There is a very small area of thinning at the top left corner, which does not show through to the front and is not very severe. To date, this is the only 21 mm CDS cancel that I have seen on a 10 shilling stamp. So it is philatelically significant, regardless of whether or not it has a small thin. 

Sixth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's grey green, but is quite a bit paler. It is not bluish enough to be the dull blue green however. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's sepia shade.

I have three mint examples and one nice used example as shown above. The used stamp is very slightly faded, but still has about 85-90% of its original colour, which is pretty good for a used stamp of this nature. It is cancelled with a nice strike of a 24 mm Lagos CDS, dated February 2, 1899.


Seventh Printing




The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's grey green, being an almost exact match. The head plate colour is closest to Gibbons sepia shade, but is darker. It doesn't contain enough black to be the blackish brown. 

Group 3 - Printings 8-13, From the Third State of the Plate 1895-1900

As stated many times in other posts, the third state of the plate is characterized by a lack of detail in the hair at the back of the head, especially the hair above the diagonal ribbon. There is also merging of the top three to five hairlines at the top of the head.

Eighth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is a perfect match to Gibbons's dull blue green. The duty plate colour is blackish brown. 

This fantastic mint example with "specimen" overprint is also never hinged, which is unbelievably rare for a specimen overprint. To begin with, there are probably no more than 300-400 of these printed, and most of these were stuck down in sample books. So most specimens either have no gum or severely disturbed gum. To find one with pristine gum, from this period, is unheard of.

Ninth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's deep dull green, but there is a hint of blue to the colour. There is not enough though to make it a match to the deep blue green. The colour is actually a blend of the deep dull green and the deep blue green. The duty plate colour is very deep brown.

I have the very nice mint example shown above, and what appears to be a fiscally used example with a manuscript cancel. It is quite severely affected by water, as the colour is bright yellow green. I have assigned it to this printing because the duty plate colour matches the other stamp, and it is from the third state of the plate.


Tenth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is very similar to the seventh printing in that it is a pale version of Gibbons's grey green. The duty plate colour is deep sepia.

I have two very nice mint examples, the second of which is never hinged, and two nice used examples. The first one is canceled with a 24 mm Lagos CDS, dated February 22, but I cannot read the year. The other example is cancelled with a somewhat weak strike of a Lagos 8-bar oval obliterator.


Eleventh Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's dull blue-green, being an almost perfect match. The duty plate colour is deep sepia.

Twelfth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is definitely dull, but it lacks the bluish undertone required for the dull blue green. At the same time, it is much paler than Gibbons's deep dull green, but deeper than Gibbons's dull green. I would therefore call it the deeper dull green, which denotes that it is not as deep as the deep dull green. The duty plate colour of this printing is also deep sepia.


Thirteenth Printing


The head plate colout of this printingis closest to Gibbons dull blue green, but a little deeper, so it is consistent with the shades normally found on this stamp. The duty plate colour is deep reddish brown, which is very distinct from the other printings.

This superb used example is cancelled with a very clear strike of a November 15, 1901 Lagos CDS measuring 24 mm wide. At first I thought this might be an altered stamp. But after carefully examining it I have come to the conclusion that it is genuine. There is no roughening of the paper around the value that would occur if the value tablet had been erased. The colour is consistent with the other 10 shilling stamps. 

What I do believe is that there was a problem that occurred with the typeface during printing, in which it slipped, resulting in some partial double printing, as shown in the close-up scan below:




If you look carefully, you can see that the "E" had been struck twice and the "T" is crooked relative to "E".


Fourteenth Printing, From Plate 2 - 1901-1903

This printing has been identified as being from plate 2 on account of the complete lack of plate wear in the design, and the fact that the gum and paper are consistent with other printings made, of other denominations around this time. All of the finer detail is completely visible, in the hair, the crown and the medallion, which is only possible at this time for printings made from a new plate, as plate 1 was so worn by 1900 that most of the finer detail in the design is obscured.



The head plate colour of this last printing is closest to Gibbons's dull blue green, but is just a touch brighter. The duty plate colour is blackish brown. 

I have one sole mint example of this very rare printing. It will have been very rare because nearly all of this printing will have been included in the unsold remainders that were sent back to London for destruction in 1905. There are likely only a handful of these in existence today. 

So this concludes my discussion of this scarce high value, and brings me to the point where I am ready to go back and tackle the two most difficult values of this series, being the 1/2d green and 1d carmine. I've already looked at the printings made between 1884, when these values first appeared and the end of 1886. There were over 40 more printings of each value made between 1887 and 1901, and it is these that I intend to identify using all the information I have learned in the course of examining the other values of this series. 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Printings of the 5/- Green and Blue Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp of Lagos - 1887-1903

Today, I look at the printings of the next high value stamps in this series: the 5 /- green and blue. According to Ince, 28,320 stamps were dispatched to the colony between March 1887 and August 1901, while 18.900 remainders were destroyed. This makes the net issued quantity of 9,420 stamps, almost identical to the 2/6, yet curiously the catalogue value of this stamp is significantly higher than the 2/6. In any event, the catalogue values are extremely low relative to the true scarcity of these stamps.  If we assume a survival rate in all grades of 10%, which is likely very generous, given that this is a West African crown colony, and not England or Canada, or some other country with a temperate climate and a population that is accustomed to preservation, then there are probably no more than 950 stamps in existence now - both mint and used.

As was the case with the 2/6 stamp, a denomination of this size would have seen little postal use, being used only for registered letters that had a high insurance value, larger parcels or bulk mailing receipts. This was a revenue issue as well, since it was inscribed "postage and revenue", and so some stamps would have seen revenue use, though interestingly, I have not come across many examples with fiscal cancellations, which suggests that they were not often used for this purpose, unlike the high value stamps of many other colonies were. Thus it is likely that many fewer printings were made, perhaps as many as 20, but unlikely more than this. Given the low rate of usage, it would be my expectation that there would be many late usages as stamps from the "bottom of the post office drawer" finally got sold and used up. Consequently, I would expect the remainder total of 18,900 stamps to have come from a large number of the printings that were left over when the next supply was received by post offices and placed on top of the old stamps.

I have 22 mint and 5 used examples of this stamp, which I will sort into printings starting with those made from the first state of the plate.

As it turns out, I did identify 18 separate printings:


  • 6 from the first state of the plate (approximately March 1887 - about 1890).
  • 7 from the second state (1890 to about 1893).
  • 3 from the third state (1894 to about 1899).
  • 2 from the fourth state (1899 to 1900).

I have not seen any examples from the fifth state of the plate, though according to Ince, the last printings were sent on August 19, 1901, so they should exist. The implication of the fact that at least 18 printings were made, is that it is quite likely that no more than 50 or 60 copies of each printing still exist today, though it is more likely that a few of the common printings exist in greater quantity and that the scarcer ones exist in less quantity. At any rate, these are extremely scarce stamps in any grade. Postally used examples are at least 10 times scarcer than mint and examples having their full original colour are likely 30-40 times scarcer than mint. So even though they are priced higher than mint in Gibbons, they are still vastly undervalued in my opinion. 



There were almost four years from 1887 through to the end of 1890, which suggests a little more than one printing per year. From 1890 to the end of 1893 is 4 years again, which suggests close to 2 printings per year. From 1894 to 1899, it seems that the number of printings dropped to almost one every 2 years. Then from 1899 to 1901 it likely increased back up to 1 printing or so per year.

There were a few instances in which the apparent state of the plate was inconsistent with other characteristics such as colour and gum, that would point to the stamp being from an earlier printing. In these few cases, I have allowed the other characteristics to prevail and have treated the apparent worn plate as an example of over-inking instead. 


Group 1:Printings 1-6 - Printings From The First State of the Plate (March 1887 to Approximately 1890)

As stated in all my earlier posts, the first state of the plate is characterized by nearly all of the fine detail in the hair, jewels and diadem being clearly visible and with little to no merging of the hairlines at the top of the head, and most detail of the hair at the very back of the head visible both above and below the diagonal ribbon.

First Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's deep green, but perhaps just a touch duller. It is however not dull enough to be the deep dull green. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's dull ultramarne, although the colour is a little darker than the Gibbons swatch. 

I have no used examples of this printing, but just the four mint examples shown above. In fact, I have more mint examples of this printing than any other. This suggests that many of the remainders may have come from this first printing. 

The stamp on the top left shows a defect on the "F" of "Five" which I call the "Concave F". It is significant in my opinion, given that none of the other letters on any of the other stamps show any defect. Whether or not it is a constant variety is a matter for further study, though it will probably never be possible to plate it, as there are, to my knowledge, no surviving sheets. 

The scan below shows a close up of this flaw:



Second Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is a very close match to Gibbons's dull green.  The duty plate colour is closest to deep Prussian blue. Although this is a used example, cancelled with a Lagos 8-bar oval obliterator, there is no evidence that the colour has been affected in any way by exposure to moisture. 

Third Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's deep dull green, with a tiny hint of a bluish undertone, but not nearly enough to make it a match to any of the blue green shades. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's Prussian blue, but perhaps a bit paler. 

Like the last printing, I have no mint examples and only the used example above. It is cancelled with a very nice example of a registered oval from Lagos, dated January 25, 1905. Registered ovals are hardly ever seen on this issue, and this is a very late use, which supports the notion that I expressed earlier, that a significant number of early printings were not sold from post office stocks until just a few years before the entire issue was replaced by the King Edward VII issue. 

Fourth Printing


The Gibbons colour key has a swatch for deep bluish green and one for blue green, but not for bluish green. The head plate colour of this printing is closest to a pale version of the deep bluish green, so in other words: bluish green. The basic difference between blue green and bluish green is that blue green contains a pretty even mix of blue and green, whereas bluish green contains a lot more green than blue. It is basically a green with a hint of blue. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep dull blue. The colour is a bit deeper than the Gibbons swatch, but is not deep enough to be steel blue.

This mint specimen example is the only example that I have of this printing, and it shows that the specimen overprints continued to be produced after 1887, albeit in very small quantity. 

Fifth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is very similar to the bluish green, but with a hint of yellow, which makes it a much closer match to Gibbons's dull green. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's blue shade, but just a touch darker. 


Sixth Printing


The head plate shade of this printing is closest to Gibbons's deep dull green. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep dull blue. 

Group 2: Printings 7-13 From the Second State of the Plate (1890 to Approximately the End of 1893)

In the second state of the plate, the detail is similar to the first state, except that there is a slight loss of sharpness to the detail and the beginning of some merging of the hairlines, though very, very little. 

Seventh Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is also closest to Gibbons's deep dull green. The duty plate colour is closest to a darker version of Gibbons's blue shade. 

Eighth Printing


The head plate colour is both dull and bluish. But the problem is that it does not match the gibbons swatch for dull blue green at all. If I look at the swatch for myrtle green and imagine it being paler and a little duller, I get an almost perfect match to this colour. So I would call this the pale dull myrtle green. The duty plate colour is an almost perfect match to Gibbons's deep grey blue. 

The specimen overprint on the first stamp above shows a clear defect on the "P", which may or may not be a constant flaw. A close-up scan of this flaw is shown below:



Ninth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's deep dull green. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's blue shade. 

Tenth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's deep dull green also, but the colour is just a bit deeper than all the other deep dull greens of the other printings. Again, the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's blue shade, but the colour here is just a bit deeper, though not as deep as the deep blue. 

Eleventh Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is also closest to deep dull green. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's blue shade.

Twelfth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's dull blue green, but is deeper. So I would call it the deep dull blue green. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep ultramarine. 

This is one of the few printings for which I have both mint and used examples. The sole used example is another late use, though not as late as the earlier printings I have looked at so far. It is cancelled with a lovely strike of the 24 mm Lagos CDS, dated April 13, 1898. 


Thirteenth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is a perfect match to Gibbons'd deep dull green. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's deep dull blue, but is a bit darker and just a touch brighter. 

This is another printing for which I have only a single used example. This one shows no evidence of being affected by water, as the colours look completely original. The cancel is a beautiful strike f a 23.5 mm Lagos CDS, dated February 2, 1899. 

Group 3: Printings 14-16 From the Third State of the Plate - 1894 to 1899

As stated many times in other posts, the third state of the plate is characterized by a lack of detail in the hair at the back of the head, especially the hair above the diagonal ribbon. There is also merging of the top three to five hairlines at the top of the head.

Fourteenth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to deep dull green as well. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's blue shade, but is just a little bit paler. 

Fifteenth Printing


The head plate colour of this printing is closest to dull blue green, but is a little bit paler. The duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons' blue. 

Sixteenth Printing



The head plate colour of this printing is closest to Gibbons's dull blue green, being a near perfect match. The duty plate colour is again, an almost perfect match to Gibbons's blue shade. 

Group 4: Printings 17-18 From the Fourth State of the Plate - 1899-1900

The defining characteristics of this state of the plate are the almost complete loss of detail in the hair at the back of the head, and merging of the hairlines above the crown to the point that only a narrow band of hairlines in the middle retain their detail. The horizontal shading lines in the band of the crown are beginning to merge together.

Seventeenth Printing


This head plate shade of this printing is also closest to Gibbons's dull blue green, but there is a bit more green to the colour and a little less blue. But there is a definite hint of blue. Again, the duty plate colour is closest to Gibbons's blue shade. 


Eighteenth Printing


This is easily the most distinct colour combination of any of the printings examined so far. The frame plate colour is a paler version of Gibbons's bottle green. The duty plate colour is closest to the Gibbons's blue shade, but much more intense. It is not dark blue, because dark blue would contain black, which this does not. So I would call it intense blue. 

This sole used example is canceled with a nice strike of a Lagos CDS, dated November 15, 1901. It appears to be somewhere between 23 and 24 mm wide, which would make it from a subsidiary post office, as those of the Lagos GPO were always 24 mm wide. 

So this concludes my examination of the 5 shilling Lagos keyplate stamp of Queen Victoria. As you can see, there was a wide range of blues in the duty plate, with the blue shade being the most common. There was less variation in the head plate, with the common colour being deep dull green, and the dull greens and dull bluish greens being much less common. This leaves only three values in this series before I move on to the Edward VII issues: the 10 shilling, the halfpenny and the one penny. Next week I will cover the 10 shilling, and then in the following weeks, I will attempt to unravel the very complex halfpenny and one penny stamps.