Monthly Archives: November 2016

  1. The Saga of The Most Desirable Stamp

    In 1951, nearly thirty years after Burrus had attempted to claim the stamp for $30,000, the famous collector publicly made a charge that the British Guiana One Cent Magenta was in reality a fake, made up of a four-cent magent which had had the "FOUR" and the "S" at the end of "CENTS" chemically removed and a "ONE" inserted. Mr. Burrus had made these charges privately prior to the 1937 resale of the stamp when it was submitted for expertization to the Royal Philatelic Society. The stamp was examined in every way possible. The opinion of the greatest collegium of experts was that the work of the sort that Burrus suggested could not have been done on this stamp, and that the stamp was and is unquestionably genuine. It seems odd that Burrus would have bid on a stamp that he believed to be a forgery, or that the feisty Belgian would have waited fifteen years after he lost the stamp

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  2. The Large Queens of 1868-76

    The Small Queen issue commenced in 1870, though most values of the Large Queens remained in general use and were slowly replaced by Small Queen issues in the ensuing twenty years. The primary reason for the change was that the demand for stamps in Canada proved to be very great. The smaller format allowed the printers to produce more stamps on the same press in the same amount of time, with the same amount of paper and ink. The Small Queens duplicated the values of the Large Queens, with the addition in 1893 of a 6-cent value and a 20-cent and a 50-cent in a slightly different format. The Small Queens are highly specialized in by some philatelists. For the most part they are relatively inexpensive, and are even cheap in used condition. Shade varieties and perforation varieties abound. There are many reentries and double transfers that collectors like to look for. Double transfers, as noted earlier, are slight

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  3. The 1668 Large Queens

    The Large Queens, as philatelists call the 1868 issue, was the first stamp issued by the Dominion of Canada created on July 1, 1867, by the British North American Act. Immediately Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were united. In 1869, the Dominion purchased the Hudson Bay Company's considerable lands, and when British Columbia joined the Dominion in 1871, Canada was a cross-continent country. A new stamp issue was planned and printed, as befitted this new Canadian nation, by the British North American Company, located in Ottawa.


    The first Dominion of Canada issue is called the Large Queens by philatelists because they show a large portrait of Queen Victoria, and to distinguish them from the later

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  4. The Decimal Currency Issue of 1854

    As can be seen on the Canadian stamps pictured, the monetary system of Canada was figured in both currency and sterling. The variations were irksome, and the calculations of who owed what to whom and in what currency were ended in 1859, when the Canadian government enacted laws giving Canada a decimal currency system. The stamps that were printed were a one cent, ten cent, twelve one-half cent, and seventeen cent. In 1864, a two-cent stamp was added. Almost none of the Decimal Currency issues are rare. Yet centered, undamaged copies are extremely difficult to find.


    The ten cent was given no less than twenty-five printings during its life; its shades varied from black brown to a color that is almost red. It is said of this stamp that no two stamps

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  5. Stamps of Canada

    The stamps of Canada are among the most popularly collected stamps anywhere in the world. Their designs have been chosen with near-uniform excellence, and their execution as a printed product is first rate. Canadian stamps up until World War II were all engraved, and have been designed and printed by the best bank-note-printing firms in the world.


    The first Canadian postage stamps were issued in 1851. They were printed by the New York printing firm of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, who were also at the time printing the United States postage stamps. Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson were about the most advanced printers of their time, and had been used before by the

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  6. The 1869 Issue

    The 1869 issue of the United States was the world’s first pictorial stamp. Until that time all United States postage stamps, and all world postage stamps for that matter, depicted either heads of states or numerical figures. The 1869 issue was unpopular from the start. But it is important to note that deriding the quality and subject matter of United States stamps has long been an American pastime.

    1869 issue stamps

    The one-cent buff (#112), with Benjamin Franklin’s picture, evoked praise for its execution but great criticism

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  7. The 1869 Issues - High Values



    An invert of the twenty-four cent

    The twenty-four cent 1869 (#120) has been acclaimed by many enthusiasts, the authors included, as the finest stamp ever produced by any nation. The colors are green frame, violet vignette. The vignette measures 3/8 inch wide by 3/16 inch high, and the engraver has portrayed a faithful reproduction of John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence. With a magnifying glass, an observer can identify the six principal figures in this stamp by the features alone, which is rather astonishing when you figure that each head is smaller than the head of a pin. This stamp is the pinnacle of the engraver’s art, even though he was not helped

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  8. The 1857 Issue

    The 1857 Issue

    Great Britain began perforating its general issue postage stamps some two years before the United States. In 1857, the Post Office Department contacted Toppan, Carpenter & Company (the printers of the stamps, and the surviving firm from Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Company, printers of the 1851 issue), and instructed them to begin planning to perforate the stamps. Ease of separation was cited as the reason, but it was also believed that perforated edges would make the stamps adhere better to the letters. Toppan, Carpenter & Company, with but four months left on the six-year contract they held to produce these stamps, was quite reluctant to go to all this additional expense with so little time remaining. A compromise was worked out whereby the government paid

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  9. Four Check Letters

    The British Post Office had evidence that some postal users were clipping uncancelled parts of stamps and reassembling them on letters to pay postage. Finally, in 1857, the post office got around to ordering stamps with four check letters, the letters in an order reversed from the top to the bottom. The check letters make it much more difficult to use uncancelled portions of stamps convincingly.


    The One Penny 1864 with fourcorner check letters is one of the most popular specialty stamps in the world. Many collectors who do not even collect general issues of Great Britain maintain a holding of this stamp. It is about the easiest stamp in the world to plate, for not only do the check letters tell a collector the position of the stamp, but in the

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  10. British Stamps Early Perforations

    While the post office was experimenting with these perforations, some other stamps had been issued, caused primarily by increased public usage of the mails and Britain's growing commerce overseas. Three stamps, all embossed Queen's heads against colored backgrounds, include a one shilling issued in September of 1847 (#5), a ten pence (#6) issued in November 1848, and a six pence (#7) issued in March 1854. These stamps are among the most difficult in all of philately to get in perfect condition. In some places on the sheet, the designs actually overlapped, so that finding examples with any margins at all is well-nigh impossible. And they are often found cut to their octagonal shape, a condition much denigrated by philatelists. Unused examples are rarities.


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  11. The Stamps of Great Britain

     Great Britain was the innovator in postal and philatelic matters. It produced the first postage stamps (see Chapter 2), but the color of the one-penny stamp, the Penny Black, was soon considered unsuitable. The black made it difficult to cancel effectively and the post office in Britain, like its counterparts throughout the world, feared that its stamps were being cleaned and reused.


    In late 1840, the decision was made by Rowland Hill and other post office officials to change the colors of the British stamps. A light red brown shade was chosen for the none-penny stamp, and after experimenting with different colors for

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  12. United States Airmails

    Some of the most popular United States stamps are the Airmail issues. These stamps were issued to pay the increased fee on letters sent by airmail. The first airmail flight (by airplane rather than balloon) took place in September 1911, and was a private flight carrying little mail and covering but a few miles. In 1918, a new set of stamps were issued for airmail service. The six-cent stamp is in an orange shade that often reacts, in spots or in whole, with sulfur in the air to have a deep red brown toning. Unlike coins, toned stamps are considered quite unappealing. Fortunately, soaking the sulfurized examples in hydrogen peroxide can quickly restore the original color by unfixing the sulfur in the stamp. This solution does not work so well for mint stamps, though. Gum is soluble in hydrogen peroxide. Often, it is possible to paint the sulfurized portions of the stamps with the peroxide from

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  13. The Twentieth Century

    The twentieth century is the era of stamps primarily printed for collectors. Whereas in the nineteenth century the views of philatelists seldom mattered at all, beginning about 1890, with increasing frequency, the United States Post Office Department gauged its calculations of stamp issues by how many stamps it believed philatelists would buy.


    The quality of stamp production improved radically after 1900 as a result of the technological advances in printing and perforating machines, not to mention constant admonishments by collectors. Most twentieth-century stamps can be expected to be reasonably well centered.


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  14. The Bureau Issues

    In 1894, the Post Office Department began having its stamps printed for it by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), the same government agency that printed money. The BEP had competed for the 1894 contract, and not only was its price lower, but there was the added convenience of having the work done in Washington near the Post Office Department, allowing greater responsiveness to department needs. The 1894 set contained the same portraits of prominent Americans as the 1890 set, with some values changed and with new values added up to $5. Triangles were added to the upper left corner. Fewer than 6,000 complete sets were sold; of the $5 value, many were used for postage and destroyed. This set is a genuinely undervalued one. As these were the first stamps produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing - a good printer but new to stamps - the quality of production, and especially the alignment

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  15. The Columbians

    Perhaps the most popular United States series is the 1893 Columbian Exposition issue. In its day, the set was hotly debated boondoggle, causing protests from philatelists around the world. It helped create the organization of the Society for the Suppression of Spurious Stamps (or SSSS, as they called themselves). And it caused the post office no end of joy at the profits it reaped. Such post office profiteering was quite conscious. In their memos to one another, it was apparent that the postal officials designed the set so that sales of the stamps to collectors would increase Post Office Department revenues.


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  16. Modern United States Philately

    After 1890, United States stamps changed. For the first forty-three years of stamps, printing methods were not nearly as mechanized, resulting in numerous printing varieties. Furthermore, the wide variety of cancellations on the stamps and the panorama of different usages in the earlier period encourage collectors to specialize in a particular issue or even a particular stamp. From the 1890 philatelic period onward, this highly specialized collecting of a single issue or even a single stamp has been done far less commonly. There are comparatively few varieties in post-1890 stamps. Color was matched with precision, resulting in few of the color variations between printings so common in the earlier period. The economics of automatic canceling

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  17. Reissues And Special Printings

    Many of the most precious varieties of United States stamps were not regularly issued to the public. In 1875, the United States Postal Department wished to have on sale at the Centennial Post Office, which was to be at the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia, examples of all United States stamps that had been issued to that time. This was a public relations ploy on the part of a department proud of its stamps that also wanted specimens to sell to the public. Anyone who so desired was permitted to buy them, but because stamp collecting was in its infancy, few people availed themselves of this spectacular offer. The stamps were printed on different paper from the originals and in slightly different colors, so that an entire new category of stamps was created. All the reissues are rare and all are expensive.


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  18. The Bank Notes

    Beginning with 1870 and the issues that philatelist term the Bank Notes, United States stamps entered a new philatelic period. These stamps are called the Bank Notes because they were printed over they twenty-year span by three successive bank note-printing companies, the National, the Continental, and the American Bank Note companies.


    The different printings of these stamps by the three companies are treated by philatelists as different stamps. For years, some collectors have had difficulty identifying among the printings, but in recent years the trouble has been alleviated. Our knowledge of these stamps has increased, but the reason that the stamps are easier to distinguish is primarily because the differences between the stamps are now better

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