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Thursday, July 30, 2015

I'm Now on Pinterest!!

Tonight I discovered how easy it is to pin my stamp images to Pinterest. So I have created several boards where I am posting images of stamps that I think would be of interest to people who are interested in various topics like architecture, history, art etc. Of course, I have also created a board for what I consider to be the most beautiful Canadian stamps.

To view the boards, click on the following link:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The First Cents Issue of 1859-1868

The adoption of decimal currency in 1859 necessitated a new series of stamps to replace the old sterling currency issues. It was decided to continue with the same designs as before. The only difference being that the stamps would be denominated in cents rather than pence:

1. 1c rose as the old 1/2d rose with the Wyon portrait of Queen Victoria.
2. 2c claret, as above, but with numerals in the corners and issued late in 1864.
3. 5c vermilion as the old 3d beaver.
4. 10c black brown Prince Albert, as the old 6d. This was the first printing only.
5. 10c brown, red lilac or violet as above.
6. 121/2c green, as the old 71/2d.
7. 17c dark blue as the old 10d

Below are some examples from my stock:

1c rose - issued July 1, 1859

5c vermilion - issued July 1859

10c black brown - issued July 1, 1859

10c brown - issued after 1860

121/2c green - issued July 13, 1859 (earliest recorded date)

17c dark blue - issued July 18, 1859  (earliest recorded date)

2c claret - issued in 1864

Like the previous issues, these stamps continued to be printed by the American Bank Note Company, as it was now called. Their name appears imprinted in the margins of the sheets and occasionally it can be found impinging into the margins of the stamps themselves. Such varieties are sought after and highly collectible, especially if the stamp is well centered.

Also, as with the perforated pence issues that preceded them, this issue is generally very poorly centered. So philatelists who are used to being able to collect very fine stamps will have to adjust their expectations drastically to view fine as being almost like VF, as VG is the average grade for this issue. If it isn't the centering that is the problem, then it is often small faults, shallow thins, small tears, pulled perforations and corner creases being the most common issues with these stamps.

I must make special mention of the gum on this issue. First of all, it is not commonly seen - most of the mint stamps on the market are without gum. However, when you do encounter it, it is often very thick, shiny and blotchy. It should be noted that the cents issues of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were printed by the American Bank Note Company at the same time as this issue, and the same gum was employed. So if you are looking for a reference stamp to get an idea of what the proper gum should look like, then the Nova Scotia cents issue is your best bet. In this issue you can obtain a mint 1c, 2c, 81/2c or 10c fairly cheaply and it will prove to be a reliable guide for the gum on this issue.

As with the previous issues, shade, and paper varieties abound, and there are a very large range of proofs that can be found. Unitrade lists no fewer than 50 different varieties of proofs. However what stands out in this issue is the number of constant plate varieties that can be found on every value except the 121/2c. Re -entries can also be found on all values except the 2c.

The other main source of varieties and one which will enable you to date the various printings of these stamps are the perforations themselves. There were two perforating machines used during the life of this issue: one gauging 11.75 and the other gauging 12. Compound perforations can be found, being 11.75 x 12 and 12 x 11.75. The perforation gives a rough guide as to when the stamp was printed:

1. Prior to 1861 - perf. 11.75 x 11.75 on all sides.
2. 1861 to early 1864: perf 11.75 x 12 or 12 x 11.75
3. After 1864: perf. 12 x 12.

To say that it is possible to spend one's entire life collecting this issue is an understatement. Indeed, most collectors of Canada vastly underestimate the amount of scope that is possible with this issue:

1. All 52 of the 4-ring numeral cancellations could potentially be found on all the stamps of this issue.
2. The 1c exists in two basic shade groups: rose and deep rose.
3. There are three varieties of paper listed for the 1c stamp.
4. For the rose shade, all three perforations can be found, but only p.11.75 for the deep rose shade.
5. Imprint copies exist of the 1c stamp.
6. Three main plate flaws are found: the Q, E and C flaws (the subject of a separate future post).
7. There is a major re-entry reported on the 1c stamp and a major misplaced entry.

To illustrate how vast the scope of this issue is, or can be, let us take the above 1c stamp and consider all the possible permutations and combinations of varieties that can exist if you only collect them used with 4-ring numeral cancellations:

1. Shades, papers, perfs and cancels- (((1 x 3) x 3)x 52) + (3x 52) = 468 + 156 = 624 possible stamps.
2. Imprint copies - 624 possible stamps as above.
3. Plate flaws - 624 x 3 = 1,872 possible stamps
4. The re-entries - 624 x 2 = 1,248 possible stamps if just two re-entries are collected.

So in all, a person could collect 4,368 1c stamps and each one would be different in some way. If a similar number of varieties were to exist across all 7 values in the set, that is 30,576 different stamps.

One of the implications of this is that one has to be tolerant of G or VG stamps if one has any hope of forming a specialized collection that is that in-depth, due to the very large number of potential stamps. To specialize in this issue and limit oneself to even F stamps would become very expensive, very quickly, as even VG or G used examples of the most common 5c beaver catalogue $6 or so and rarely sell for less than $1.50 each. If you are wondering what these grading terms mean, the following link will explain them all:

The formost expert on this issue was a philatelist by the name of Geoffrey Whitworth, who published a book on the subject in 1966. He studied all the plate flaws in depth, including some 11 separate states of the 5c beaver plates, and the 26 different printings of the 10c. His descriptions of the colour shades are so thorough that many collectors will refer to a particular shade as "Whitworth's grey violet"for example.

As far as shades go, the most extensive number can be found on the 10c value. Unitrade lists four shade groups:

1. Red lilac
2. Violet
3. Brown
4. Deep red purple

However each of these groups could easily be broken into 10 sub-groupings for a total of at least 40 shades. The next most interesting stamp is the 12.5c, which comes in various shades of green, blue green and olive green. The 5c is found in various shades of vermilion and orange-red, while the 17c is found in dark blue, slate blue and Prussian blue. Finally the 2c value is found in rose, deep claret rose and claret rose.

Plate flaws will be the subject of another future post, as there are too many of them to describe them all here in this general post.

In terms of paper, the Unitrade catalogue does not specify what the normal paper characteristics are. However from my observation  of the stamps in my stock, using a micrometer, I have determined that the normal paper varies between 0.003" and 0.0035"thick. The gum generally adds an additional 0.001" to these measurements. Thus, one would expect the very thick paper to be over 0.004" thick and the very thin paper to be less than 0.003" thick. Lighthouse in Germany sells a paper thickness gauge for a godawful amount of money, i.e. over $200. However, if you look on E-bay for a micrometer, it does the same job, and can be had for around $20-$30. Mine is powered by a watch battery and has a digital readout that can be toggled between meteric and imperial measurements. The differences between these thicknesses is so small that there is no way you can reliably tell the difference between them without one of these devices. Sometimes you can get a sense of whether the paper is thin or thick, but to prove it you need the actual readings, taken from a part of the stamp that is free from gum and hinges.

Covers are readily obtainable for the 1c , 5c and 10c values, with these seldom costing more than $50-200 each. However, the 10c black brown, 121/2c, 17c and 2c are much scarcer and can cost upwards of $6,000 in the case of the 10c black brown. Diagonal bisects are known of the 5c, and both major colours of the 10c. All of these are rarities, costing more than $7,000 each.

During this period, Canada also issued its first postal stationery items. These consisted of two envelopes with pre-printed, embossed stamp impressions of Queen Victoria's Wyon bust portrait. They consisted of a 5c red and a 10c brown. They were first issued in 1860, and are nicknamed "Nesbitt" envelopes, as they were printed by Geo F. Nesbitt of New York. All envelopes are scarce, the 5c being worth between $125 and $450. However examples of the 10c envelope used in period are very rare and worth $2,100 and up. These envelopes are watermarked CaPod in large serifed capitals reading diagonally upwards, which can be seen if you hold the envelope up to a strong light.

Below are two examples from my stock.

The 5c red Nesbitt Envelope. 

The 10c dark brown Nesbitt envelope. 

For other items in my stock from this issue, click the following link:

The Imperforate Pence Issues of Canada 1851-1858

The very first, and most expensive regular stamp issues of Canada were the impreforate pence issues, which first appeared on April 23, 1851. There were 6 basic stamps of the following designs and colours:

3d orange red or red featuring a beaver in a river.
6d slate violet or variants of grey, featuring HRH Prince Albert
12d black featuring the Alfred Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria
10d blue featuring a three quarter portrait of Jacques Cartier.
1/2d rose featuring the William Wyon bust portrait of Queen Victoria
71/2d green featuring the Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria

Sir Sanford Fleming, who was instrumental in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and who was featured on a stamp issued in 1977, designed the 3d and 6d values. The 10d was adapted from a sketch by William Henry Griffin. The 1/2d design was after a bust designed by William Wyon, which was popular on the coins issued during the period in the UK. Finally the 71/2d and 12d values were based on the famous portrait of Queen Victoria by Alfred Chalon.

The stamp frames were engraved by W.H Egleton, while the vignettes were engraved by Alfred Jones. The stamps were printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edison of New York, which would later become known as the American Bank Note company of New York,

The very first printings were made on a very thin, laid paper, which is extremely fragile. Only the 3d, 6d and 12d are found on this paper.  Starting in 1852 a stronger wove paper was employed for the other values. These stamps have full catalogue status in that almost albums contain a space for the 3d and 6d on wove. Stanley Gibbons lists the 12d on wove, but Canadian experts maintain that it is not wove paper, but merely laid paper in which the lines are not clearly visible. There are also two additional printings of the 6d which many albums contain a space for. One is on thick hard paper in grey violet (Scott #5d) and the other is on thick fibrous opaque wove and is in a distinct reddish purple shade (Scott #10).

In mint condition, the stamps of this issue are all extremely rare and except for the 3d on wove paper, are all over $10,000 each in mint condition. In used condition, the both 3d's most of the 6d's, the 10d, 1/2d and 71/2d can all be had for under $3,000 each in fine condition. Top notch XF or better quality will of course cost a lot more, but very sound examples can be obtained by most conscientious collectors willing to be patient.

The 3d and 6d values are shown below from the stamps currently in my stock:

The 3d beaver was Canada's very first stamp issued on April 23, 1851. The initial print run, of which this is an example, was 250,000 stamps. The number surviving today in condition like that shown is very minute. There are fewer than 10 unused copies thought to exist. At a minimum, a mint example without any of the original gum will be at least $10,000. A very fine used example catalogues $1,600 and will usually sell for close to that amount. This initial printing is on a very thin, laid paper, which shows feint horizontal lines accross the stamp. Sometimes they are so feint that they require immersion in watermark fluid to see them. 

Later printings, starting in 1852, were made on wove paper of varying thicknesses and textures. The colours vary from orange red, very much like the first printings:

to a brown red:

On these later printings, the details of the design are usually much sharper than on the first printings. The value of these later printings is much lower, although mint will generally still cost several thousand dollars 

Above is the 10d value from a seller on E-bay. 
Image result for canada pence issue stamps

There is an nice 7.5d value courtesy of the internet. 
Image result for canada pence issue stamps
The 12d black above is one of the rarest stamps in the world. 50,000 were originally printed, but only 1,450 were sold. The remainder were destroyed in 1857. Even back in the 1860's this was universally recognized as a rare stamp. 

This issue does offer some challenging points of interest for the ambitious philatelist who wants to go beyond obtaining one example of each basic stamp. Even collectors of modest means can specialize in this issue provided that they are willing to accept examples in VG condition or below. To form a collection of fine or better examples to any degree of specialization would be a very expensive endeavour indeed.

What are the main points of interest on this issue? Well there are:

1. Shade varieties on all values except the 12d black.

2. Additional paper varieties on the 3d, 1/2d and 10d.

3. Stitch watermarks on all the wove paper stamps.

4. 4-ring numeral cancels for different towns. There are 54 numbers in use during this period, some of which are unknown as yet.

5. All the 6d's and the 3d on wove paper are known bisected on cover and used as 3d's and 11/2d's respectively.

6. Of course all the values can be found on cover.

7. Re-entries are found in all the stamps except the 6d's and the 12d.

8. A wide variety of plate proofs in both the issued and trial colours can be found. These are generally not nearly as expensive ($200-$500 each) and make a good alternative to mint stamps. Unitrade lists 48 varieties including the proofs overprinted specimen.

9. The 71/2d  can be found with a plate flaw in the upper right fraction of the value, where the "1" is almost obilterated.

You may be wondering what a stitch watermark is. Well it is caused by the joining of the paper rolls. Paper in these days was handmade, and as the rolls were joined together, they had to be stitched together. This leaves a clear stitch pattern, which can be either horizointally or vertically oriented accross the stamp. As you can imagine these would be exceptionally rare because they would occur so infrequently to begin with, and the odds of the few stamps printed on this are of the paper so affected would be very low.

The paper varieties that can be found on the 3d wove include:

1. Soft ribbed wove,
2. Thin paper with an orange red shade,
3. Ribbed hard wove,
4. Thin oily paper,
5. Thick hard paper

Unfortunately Unitrade does not tell you how to distinguish the thick papers and thin papers from the normal medium wove. That will be the subject of another post, when I myself learn the differences.

The 10d comes on both a thick opaque white wove and a thin, crisp transparent wove, while the 1/2d rose in addition to the normal medium wove, exists on horizontally ribbed and vertically ribbed papers, both of which are very rare.

The shade varieties of interest on the 3d are:

1. Red (laid and wove papers),
2. Orange red (laid and wove papers),
3. Brown red,
5. Deep red
6. Scarlet vermillion.

The 6d's come in a very wide variery of grey and violet shades as follows:

1. Slate violet (laid paper only)
2. Greyish purple (laid paper only)
3. Brown purple (laid paper only)
4. Slate grey (wove paper only)
5. Greenish grey (wove paper only)
6. Grey violet (wove paper only)
7. Reddish purple (thick fibrous wove only)

It has been suggested by the late philatelist, Robson Lowe that reddish purple might well have been the original and only colour that this stamp was issued in and that all the shade varieties have been the result of changes caused by chemical reactions over the years. He based his theory on the fact that there was a very notable Parisian dealer in the early 20th century that had purchased stocks of the stamp when it was issued. There is obviously no way to prove this either way now, so all of these colour variations remain collectible.

The 10d exists in a blue and dull blue shade. The 71/2d green comes in both regular and dark green and finally the 1/2d rose exists in a lilac rose shade as well.

For an explanation of the different grading terms used, please refer to the foollowing links to my store pages where I explain the ins and outs of stamp grading:

The Perforated Pence Issue of 1858-1859

In late 1858 the post office decided to begin perforating stamps to facilitate quick and accurate separation. It was decided that the 1/2d, 3d and 6d values of the erlier pence issue would be issued thus, the 12d, 10d and 7.5d values being discontinued. The perforation used measures 11.75 on all sides.

This issue was very short lived, as Canada adopted decimal currency on July 1, 1859. Since the 1/2d rose was issued in December 1858, and the 3d and 6d values were issued in January 1859, this means that the issue had a life of around 5-6 months. Consequently only 850,000 of the 1/2d, 450,000 of the 3d and 70,000 of the 6d were issued. For a 19th century stamp issue for a country as populous as Canada was even back then, this is an absolutely miniscule quantity. As a result these are among the most elusive regular issues. If you are a perfectionist, prepare to be extremely frustrated, as these stamps are almost never found with perforations cleearing the outer framelines on all four sides. In fact, VG is the average grade for this issue. For an explanation of what I mean by VG and other grading terms, click on the following two links:

Like the previous pence issue, there are interesting shades to be found. The 1/2d comes in the rose and lilac rose shades, the 3d in red and brown red, and finally the 6d in brown violet and grey violet.  In addition the usual re-entries that are found on the 1/2d and 3d imperforate stamps are also found on this issue, as the same plates were used to print these stamps. In addition, stitch watermarks have been reported on the 3d and 6d. These are very rare. Finally, the 6d exists bisected diagonally on cover. This is an extreme rarity, cataloguing $25,000 in the 2014 Unitrade catalogue.

I have a nice 3d in stock illustrated below:

This is actually much better than average centering, as the perforations only just cut the outer frameline at the top left corner. Everywhere else, they just touch or clear the frame. 

If you want to see this stamp in more detail, check out my store: