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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sorting the Small Queens - Some Initial Insights

Now that I have just completed my initial sort of some 2,000 1c, and 3c Small Queens, I thought it would be good to share some of my initial insights about their characteristics. In doing this I have decided to focus on the perforations only for now and later, after my other shipment of 3,500 stamps arrives, I will look at paper and shade. So what I have done is use my Instanta perforation gauge to check all 2,000 or so stamps that were present in this lot. Under a heading for each perforation measurement that I have found, I will note my general observations about:

  • papers
  • cancellations
  • shades
  • plate characteristics, i.e. whether the stamps have strong or weak impressions etc. 
  • how the perforation group compares to the others
A big and important question in the minds of specialists has to be whether of not the different perforation  measurements resulted from different perforators that were used concurrently during the life of the issue, versus those perforators being used in a progression throughout the life of the issue. The answer to that question will dictate in large part how useful the perforation measurements are in separating and identifying the various printings over the years. If the perforations were concurrent, then the measurements will be of less use in this regard than would be the case if they followed a definite progression throughout the life of the issue. 

One correction I must make to yesterday's post had to be made upfront regarding a comment that I made about Mr. John Hillson being incorrect about the second Ottawa period not containing any perf. 12 x 12.25 stamps. I had indeed read a comment in his article to this effect, but then found other references by him where he says that they do in fact exist, which is wholly consistent with what I have seen so far. 

Before I get into the detail about the perforations, I must emphasize the importance of using an Instanta gauge when studying this issue rather than the Kiusulas gauge or any cheap perforation gauge that is only accurate to the nearest 1/2. The reason is that there are differences on this issue that are 1/10th of a perf. or 1/7th of a perf. These will not be picked up at all by these less accurate gauges, which mean that you might miss a difference that turns out later on to be of vital significance. Just as important as using this gauge is to know how to use it properly. Because it is so accurate, in order to obtain a completely accurate reading it is important to do the following:

1. Place the stamp against a black background (I find a black 102 card works very well). 
2. Take the gauge and line up the guide-line at the left so that the line passes exactly through the middle of the leftmost perforation tooth. It is vital to use the left-most tooth, otherwise your reading may be off by 0.1-0.25. 
3. Then slide the gauge up or down until each perforation tooth is exactly bisected by one line on the gauge. When you reach this point, secure the gauge and then look across to the left or right for the numeric reading. The horizontal lines on the gauge denote one-quarter readings, with the whole number readings and the 1/2 readings being in between these lines. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure that the guide line is perpendicular and that it passes through the centre of the top and bottom perforations at the extreme left of the stamp. You will find that you can make a reading vary quite a lot just by fiddling with the angle. But if your gauge is completely straight and placed properly on the stamp you will obtain a completely accurate reading and will see that no other reading will be as close. To do this I find a good way to obtain the necessary control over the gauge while having the right amount of movement is to hold the 102 card in my left hand, with my thumb of that hand securing the left side of the gauge. I then hold the gauge in my right hand, with my middle and index finger above and below the gauge and my thumb over the right side of the gauge as illustrated below:

I find that by holding it this way, my thumbs can secure the gauge and hold it in place and keep it straight while my fingers can move the gauge up and down while I align the lines with each of the perforation teeth. I used to lay the card down on the table and do it that way, but I found it harder to keep the gauge lined up properly while I moved it up and down, whereas I find that this technique gives me more control. 

So now, without further ado, I give you my observations of each group of perforation measurements that I have come across.

First Ottawa Period - Perforated 11.9, 11.9 x 12 and 12 x 11.9

Out of over 900 1c stamps, I only had 11 stamps from this period. Out of almost as many 3c stamps I had 37 stamps. So it is clear that stamps of this period are very scarce and seldom found in mixed lots.  Hillson states in his articles that stamps from this period are often found perf 11.9 or 11.75 all around. I may yet see examples that concur with his observations, but what I have seen are three compound perforations:

  • 11.9
  • 11.9 x 12
  • 12 x 11.9
It may be that these are the earliest Montreal printings, but based on the shades that I see in this group, I don't think so. 


  • The 1c stamps in this group vary quite a bit, but are all shades or orange, yellow-orange and red-orange. There are no yellow shades here. 
  • The most of the shades for the 3c are very distinct and are not found in any other period. They are the rose, deep rose, copper red and Indian red. A dull red shade is found toward the end of the period and this shade continues into the early Montreal period. The dark rose only appears to be found perf. either 11.9 or 11.9 x 12. 


  • The 1c stamps in this group are all on soft wove paper. There is no mesh visible when viewed face-down, but when held up to the light, you can see either a horizontal mesh or vertical mesh. One paper that I saw is almost translucent and very soft to the touch. The printed surface of this paper appears completely smooth under magnification. 
  • The papers found on the 3c are generally the same as above, but in addition there is a rougher horizontal wove, similar to that found on the 1c Montreal printings. Like the 1c, the printed surface of these stamps under magnification looks perfectly smooth. 

Plate Characteristics: 

  • The 1c stamps all had clear, sharp impressions with the fine details in the foliate ornaments being fully visible without the use of a loupe. About half the stamps I looked at had lower left position dots and half did not. 
  • Most of the 3c stamps I looked at had position dots in the lower left corner, but many did not. Most of the stamps had very sharp impressions that clearly show the fine cross-hatching of the corner ornaments and value tablets. 
  • The 1c stamps had a mixture of numeric barred oval duplexes, the Hamilton 5 in a circle surrounded by bars, segmented corks, barred grids and an outstanding March 16, 1871 Hamilton date stamp. 
  • The 3c stamps from this period are found with the same range of cancels as the 1c, but in addition I have some 2 ring numeral cancels. I have only one dated copy from this period and that was a dull red, perf. 12 x 1.9 dated November 4, 1872. 
Montreal Period - Perforated 11.6 x 11.75, 11.6 x 12 and 11.6 x 12.1

Most collectors are aware of the fact that many of the Montreal printings come perf. 11.5 x 12, and that this perforation was in use from about 1873 until around 1880. In actual fact, the true horizontal measurement appears to be 11.6 rather than 11.5. In addition to this though, there seems to be three different vertical measurements: 11.75, 12 and 12.1. Hillson notes the existence of the first two, whereas I have found the 12.1 measurement when looking at the stamps in this lot. As one would expect, these are fairly scarce stamps with only 32 1c stamps and 48 3c stamps. 


  • In this group on the 1c stamps we see a fair amount of yellows and a range of orange shades. This group has some very distinct yellow shades including a very pale dull yellow and a lemon yellow shade. The range of shades appears to run through all three perforation measurements, based on the limited number of stamps that I have at the moment. 
  • For the 3c stamps the shades range from dull red, to dull red orange and dull orange-red, deep dull orange-red and deep bright red-orange. The dull red seems to be confined to the perf. 11.6 x 12, while the brightest red-orange is found only in perf. 11.6 x 12. However, these conclusions are only based on a very limited number of stamps, and could change as more stamps are examined. 


  • The 1c stamps show a wide variety of papers. There is a rougher horizontal wove paper that shows clear mesh when viewed from the back. This seems to be confined to the yellow shades for the stamps perforated 11.6 x 12.1, but is found on orange stamps perf. 11.6 x 12.75 and perf. 11.6 x 12.  Then there is a thick soft horizontal wove that shows mesh only when held to the light. Again, this paper seems to be confined to the yellow shades on the perf. 11.6 x 12.1, but exists on orange stamps perforated 11.6 x 12.  Then there is a soft vertical wove showing no clear mesh unless held to the light. This paper is found on the orange shade and a good range of yellow shades. Then we have a rough vertical wove paper which seems to be found only on the pale dull yellow shade. 
  • The 3c stamps show a similar range to those above. There doesn't seem to be much pattern to the shades on the rougher horizontal wove and vertical wove papers. The bright red-orange and dull red shades perf. 11.6 x 12 are found on a very soft horizontal wove that shows no clear mesh unless held up to the light. This paper is clearly scarcer than the others. Under magnification, the printed surface of these papers appears finished and smooth, though sometimes a bit ribbed. 

Plate Characteristics:

  • The 1c stamps all had clear, sharp impressions which were not any less clear than those of the first Ottawa period. Nearly all of the stamps I looked at had position dots at the lower left. 
  • The 3c stamps I looked at had very clear impressions with most of the fine cross hatching of the corner ornaments and value tablets clearly visible, though not always as clear as the earlier period. The horizontal lines surrounding the portrait are all clear and distinct. Nearly all of these stamps had position dots in the lower left corner. 


  • The 1c stamps were mostly cancelled with either segmented corks or barred oval grid duplexes. The Hamilton 5 barred circle was conspicuously absent from this group. There was a small handful of dated examples. January 27, 1876 was the dated example for the perf. 11.6 x 12.1. The dates for the perf. 11.6 x 12's ranged from 1875 for the orange shade, to November 1877 and October 1878 for the yellow shades and finally April 25, 1881 for the lemon yellow shade. 
  • Most of the 3c stamps were cancelled with corks, barred grid duplexes or 7-ring target cancels. I did have one dated CDS example dated November 22, 1874 for the perf. 11.6 x 12.1, and one dated May 13, 1874 for the perf. 11.6 x 12. I also had a few feint strikes that were hard to read, but appeared to be dated sometime in 1873 and 1874. 

Montreal Period - Perf. 11.75 x 12 and 11.75 x 12.1

In between 11.5 x 12 and 12, there exists a horizontal measurement of 11.75, which is noted by Hillson in his works. I can see that within this measurement, there is 12 and a 12.1 vertical measurement. This group appears to be just as scarce, if not slightly scarcer than the perf. 11.6 x 12 group. Hillson states that this perforation dates between 1876 and 1878. 


  • Most of the 1c stamps from this group are shades of yellow, with a very bright yellow being found. I have a single orange shade on a very thick horizontal wove paper perf. 11.75 x 12, but by and large orange shades are much less common in this group. 
  • The 3c stamps from this group seems to exhibit the same range of shades as the group above. However, there are more dull shades here than bright ones. 


  • The 1c stamps of this group seem to exist on a similar range of papers to the last group with vertical wove papers dominating. Most of them show mesh very clearly on the backs, but there are a few soft papers, where the mesh is less visible unless held up to the light. Under magnification, most of these papers appear perfectly smooth, though some have a slightly rough appearance. 
  • The same comments about paper for the 1c above applies to the 3c stamps from this group. 

Plate Characteristics:

  • Except for the very bright yellow stamps, most of the 1c stamps in this group have clear, sharp impressions and a good number show position dots at lower right. The bright yellow stamps are fairly sharp, but some of the finer details of the corner ornaments are not as clear. 
  • The impressions of the 3c stamps are pretty sharp, but it is in this group that we begin to see the first real signs of wear in the fine details of the upper corner ornaments and the value tablets. In addition the brighter red-orange shades show wear in the form of the horizontal shading lines that surrounding the portrait beginning to merge together in one solid mass of colour. 


  • All the 1c stamps in this group were cancelled with either a barred grid duplex or a cork cancel. I only had one dated example in this group unfortunately, and it is a bright yellow from August 1879. I did see a Hamilton 5 circular barred grid duplex once again. 
  • The stamps examined were cancelled with corks, 2-ring numerals, grids, bulls-eyes, 7-ring targets, 4-ring numerals and a few fancy cancels. There were no dated examples unfortunately. 

Montreal Period Perforated 12, 12.25 x 12, 12 x 12.25 and 12.25

Most collectors think of most Montreal printings as being perf. 12. However, there is also a 12.25 measurement that according to Hillson came into use towards the end of the Montreal period from about 1887. Hillson states that the 12 perforation came into use in about 1876. Thus it would appear that 12 was used concurrently with 11.6 x 12, and 11.75 x 12. In examining this lot it became apparent that all combinations of 12 and 12.25 exist, and that these make up the bulk of Montreal printings, with 12 actually being as common as all three others combined. Having said this, it would seem that two measurements: 12.25 x 12 and 12.25 x 12.25 are much scarcer, being of comparable scarcity to the earlier 11.6 x 12 and 11.75 x 12 stamps at least for the 1c, while only the 12.25 x 12 is scarce on the 3c value. 


  • The 1c stamps of this group do not show any more deep oranges or red-orange shades, though a very small number of yellow orange shades are found. The general shades found here are deep ochre yellow, yellow and dull yellow. There is a very pale yellow found in the perf. 12 as well as a bright lemon yellow. The range of shades for the perf. 12 is wider, and displays many of the same shades as the earlier Montreal period, which supports the notion that it was used at the same time as the other perforations. However, the range of shades for the perf. 12.25 combinations is much more limited, being mostly deep yellows, and dull yellows. The pale and very bright yellow found in the earlier period, does not seem to show up very often at all in this period. 
  • The 3c stamps seem to be primarily dull red-oranges, deep red-oranges and bright-red oranges at this stage. Dull red is gone, and the deep dull orange-red of the prior period is very seldom seen now.  There is a very bright red-orange that borders on vermilion that is from the very end of the period. It is distinguished from the second Ottawa shades by the fact that it contains more orange than red, whereas most of the common vermilion shades from the second Ottawa period contain more red than orange. 


  • The 1c stamps are found on a similar range of papers as before, but starting in the early 1880's we begin to see the quality deteriorate into the soft, horizontal wove paper that is rougher to the touch compared to the earlier papers and being almost a cross between good quality wove and newsprint. No ink offset ever appears on the backs of these stamps. Under magnification, nearly all of these papers appear smooth, though not nearly as smooth as the earlier printings. Some of the later printings have a rougher surface texture, though they are still much smoother than the rough unfinished appearance of the later second Ottawa printings. 
  • The comments above for paper on the 1c apply equally to the 3c value based on what I have seen so far. I have seen a rough, stout, translucent vertical wove on a 3c pale dull red-orange perf. 12.25 x 12.25, that I have not seen before on the 1c. 

Plate Characteristics:

  • Many of the 1c stamps show a lower left position dot, but many do not. Printings from the 1880's sometimes show a dot hidden in the design near the vignette oval at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. The general impression quality is pretty good, but on several of the later Montreal printings, the finer details of the ornaments are not visible and the horizontal lines surrounding the portrait are often not clearly visible as separate and distinct lines. As expected, none of the stamps with 12.25 in the measurement showed lower left position dots, supporting the idea that this perforation was not in use before 1880. Some of these stamps did have visible dots at 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock, but most did not have any dots at all. 
  • By now most of the 3c stamps show no position dot in the lower left corner and most all of those that do are perf. 12. I have seen a few of the other perforations with the position dots, which suggests that these perforations were in use earlier than 1880. I have not managed to find any 3c with position dots at the sides as yet, even though many should exist. What is most notable during this period though is the degree of plate wear on the later printings where the horizontal shading lines surrounding the portrait are a mass of colour and most of the finer details in the ornaments are not visible.  


  • The 1c stamps of this period are all cancelled with either barred grid duplexes, corks, CDS's (though uncommon), oval parcel cancels, bulls-eye or straight line registered cancels. Dated examples are still very scarce, with only a handful in several hundred used stamps. The Toronto barred "1" numeral duplex makes its appearance in this period. For the perf. 12 stamps my earliest date was February 1879, while my latest date was September 1888. The dates that I saw for the perf. 12.25 x 12 were between February 1887 and February 1888. For the perf. 12 x 12.25, my earliest date is June 1883 and my latest is July 7, 1889. For the perf. 12.25 x 12.25, my earliest date is September 5, 1882 and my latest date is May 8, 1893. This last stamp has many of the characteristics of a second Ottawa printing, except for the position dot at 9 o'clock, which should not be found on a second Ottawa printing. It is possible that this stamp was used late as it could have been lurking at the bottom of a postal clerk's drawer. 
  • All the stamps I looked at are cancelled with either some kind of cork cancellation, target, bulls-eye or barred grid duplex of some kind. I saw quite a few of the Halifax barred oval grid duplex on stamps from this period. I had one dated copy ending in a "6", but unfortunately cannot tell if it is 1886 or 1876. It is on a perf. 12.25 x 12.25, which suggests that it was probably 1886. I do have one dated copy of a perf. 12 x 12.25 from February 21, 1887. 

Second Ottawa Period Perforated 12, 12.25 x 12, 12 x 12.25 and 12.25 x 12.25

Probably about 60% of all the 1c stamps that I looked at fell into this period. The common measurements are 12 and 12 x 12.25. Both 12.25 x 12 and 12.25 x 12.25 exist, but would seem to be very, very scarce, based on the low quantities present. For 12.25 x 12 I had 9 used and 5 mint examples of the 1c, and for 12.25 x 12.25 I had six used and one block of four mint of the 1c, compared to around 200 copies each of the perf. 12 and perf. 12 x 12.25. 


  • The range of shades for the 1c during this period is much less extreme than before. The 1c stamps are predominantly yellow, bright yellow and orangy yellow and occasionally yellow orange. Gone are the ochre-yellows, dull yellows and pale bright yellows of the Montreal period. There may be a few exceptions, but generally most stamps are just plain bright yellow with a slight orange tinge. 
  • The 3c stamps of this period are very distinct, and with three exceptions, are all shades of vermilion - light, dark, bright and dull. In many cases, aniline inks were used and traces of bleeding can be seen through the back of the stamp. This is not found on the Montreal printings. Two tricky shades are the deep red-orange and bright red-orange shades that are very similar to those found in the Montreal period. These could almost be mistaken for Montreal printings, but for the fact that the printing impression is clearer than the Montreal printings of the same shade, and the paper is a little rougher under magnification. There are also the rose-carmine and deep rose carmine shades that came from the printings made at the Montreal Gazette in 1888, that are technically Montreal printings, but are classified by Unitrade as second Ottawa. 


  • For the 1c stamp the paper most commonly seen is a brownish cream paper that is soft and smooth, with a horizontal mesh that is visible only when the stamp is held up to the light. Under magnification, the surface appears rough and unfinished in comparison to the Montreal paper, though a few of the late Montreal printings have paper that is very similar to this. This paper picks up and has good ink absorption, with the result that many stamps show traces of ink on the backs from the stamps that the sheets were stacked on top of. This is never the case with the Montreal printings, at least not that I can see. Occasionally you will come across a slightly better quality horizontal wove with a smoother finish. This appears to be confined to a relatively short period after 1894. 
  • There appear to be three types of paper for the 3c value. The first comes from the end of the Montreal period and is a soft horizontal wove that is brownish cream in colour and appears somewhat rough under magnification. Then in the early 1890's we begin to see the very poor quality newsprint paper that looks totally unfinished. Then in around 1895, a better quality paper to the first type appears that is whiter and thicker. From the cancellation dates that I looked it, it would appear that all types of paper were used right up to 1897, when the issue was replaced by the Maple Leaf Issue. Like the 1c, the backs of many stamps from this period show ink transfer from other stamps. The paper of the Montreal Gazette rose carmine stamps is the rough, stout vertical wove of the Montreal period. 

Plate Characteristics:

  • For some of the early printings the print quality is poor, as they were made toward the end of the life of the old Montreal plates. But generally, most of the 1c stamps printed during this period show sharp impressions once again, as they were printed from new plates. So this can be a clue to their status when you have an undated copy: a sharp impression on poor quality wove is most certainly a second Ottawa, especially if it shows no position dots at all. A very small number of the stamps printed during this period may have position dots at 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock, but almost all will have no dots at all. 
  • None of the 3c stamps show any position dots of any kind. The earliest printings will show considerable plate wear before new plates were used to print the majority of the stamps. Most of the stamps from this period have very clear impressions, with clearly separate horizontal shading lines and ornament cross hatching. This is the strongest evidence that new plates were made near the beginning of this period. 


  • Nearly all the stamps I looked at are cancelled with a CDS date stamp. There are still a few corks, barred grids, squared circles, rollers and the like, but these are scarce. The Bickerdike flag cancels appear in this period as well, and are fairly common on this value. 
  • There is a fairly wide range of cancels on the 3c stamps of this period, though most will either be CDS's, squared circles or flag cancels. There are some fancy cancels and corks still in use, as well as targets and bulls-eyes. However, most of the cork and fancy cancels used in this period are the less heavy kind that do not deface the stamp as severely as those used in the Montreal period. 
Preliminary Conclusions

It would appear that the answer to the question: "were the different perforations used concurrently or in a logical progression?" is both. The 11.9 and compounds with 12 do not appear after the first Ottawa period. And the perf. 11.75 x 12 and 11.6 x 12 groups do not appear before 1873 or after 1881. The perf. 12's seem to run through the entire period and the 12.25's and combinations of 12.25 and 12 do appear to have been used much earlier than 1887. Furthermore, it would appear that they were in use pretty consistently until 1897. The fact that I have seen a 3c Montreal with a position dot in this later perforation group does suggest either that the position dots were still found on some stamps after 1880, or this perforation was in use that early. I suspect what happened was that there were several perforating machines that were run simultaneously as production took place:

1. In Ottawa, the original machines gauged 11.9 and 12 or combinations thereof. 
2. In Montreal the main machine in use gauged 12. Then sometime in 1873, additional machines were brought into production. These gauged 11.75 x 12, 11.75 x 12.1, 11.6 x 12, 11.6 x 11.75 and 11.6 x 12.1. After these machines wore out, they were replaced by machines giving a gauge of 12.25 x 12, 12.25 x 12.25 and 12 x 12.25. 
3. These machines were taken back to Ottawa and used to produce the rest of the printings, which is why all four perforations continue to be found in this period. 

Another take-away from today's study is that while position dots are useful for identifying Montreal printings, most Montreal printings are not going to have them. Also, looking at the appearance of the paper surface under a loupe just might be the best characteristic to use to sort your stamps after you have got done with checking the perforations. It is a fairly objective test that will help you identify right away which stamps are likely to be second Ottawa. Then later you can use the printing impression, shades and cancellations to make a final decision. Once you have separated out all the smooth surfaced papers, from the rough ones all the smooth ones are going to be Montreal by default. Finally, it is apparent that most, if not all of the barred grid duplex cancellations are from the Montreal period, so if you have a stamp with that type of cancellation, chances are it is a Montreal printing. 

So that concludes my initial insights on this issue until the rest of the stamps I purchased this week arrive and I can begin working on them. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Revisiting The Small Queens

About two months ago now I bought a three stockbook lot of used Small Queens. The lot consisted of a stockbook each of the half cent, 1c and 3c. I had bought them because my stock in this area is weak and I find that I can not generally keep them in stock when I do have them as they are extremely popular with collectors.

I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable philatelist, but this issue has always troubled me, as it does most collectors. The number one question most collectors have is: how can I tell if it is Montreal or Ottawa? This has become important due largely to the fact that the standard postage stamp catalogues list both Montreal and Ottawa printings, with the prices assigned to the Montreals, being as much as 10 times higher than Ottawas. This concern among collectors has been addressed by a plethora of articles purporting to provide an algorithm to enable collectors to sort through their stamps and identify them with 90% certainty. The problem is, most of the time when you try to apply these tests, you find that you are still uncertain about whether a particular stamp is one or the other.

I have been sorting this lot out now for for about a week and I can share some new insights that I have gained as a result of this effort, as to why this issue is so problematic. Once I get through my sort, plus another 3,500 stamps that I just purchased today, I will publish some new posts giving updated tips on how to sort these stamps by value.

One of the main reasons why this issue is problematic is that there was really no clear demarcation between the periods. Many collectors mistakenly think that up until 1887 in Montreal, the plant would be using one type of paper and ink and then somehow miraculously in March 1889 when the printing was moved to Ottawa, that the papers and inks would be completely different so that you would be able to clearly tell the differences between Montreal and Ottawa printings. Of course, the reality is not so clear cut. There are many stamps which on first glance appear to be Ottawa printings, but are in fact late Montreal printings from the late 1880's.

A second reason why this issue is problematic is that each of the tests used to identify the printings has exceptions or instances where the test fails. Therefore, it is critical to use all of the tests and then evaluate the results of all the tests in arriving at a decision as to which is which. It is important to bear in mind that the Scott or Unitrade prices for stamps are for the most common printings in each case. Thus even though the Ottawa printings are, as a whole more common than the Montreal printings, there are printings within each period that are scarcer than the others. It is also important to realize that there are also really two Ottawa periods. The very first printings of this issue were in Ottawa until printing was relocated to Montreal in 1871 I believe. Thus there are first and second Ottawa printings.

This post will look at what I have noticed about the various tests commonly employed to distinguish the printings of this issue. These are just my observations after having examined about 2,000 stamps so far this past week.

1. Use of Position Dots

A common test for Montreal printings and first Ottawa printings is to look for small dots in side the lower left margins of the stamps. The experts such as Hillson maintain that all stamps on the sheets printed before about 1880 except for the left column should have these dots. The problem is, I have seen many, many examples of 1c and 3c stamps now that I know are Montreal printings, that have no dot. It may be that these were all from the first column of the sheets, but I think that what is more likely is that the dots have been punched out by the perforations because the stamps in question were off-centre. Most of the stamps from this issue are off-centre. So while in theory, it should be possible to identify most Montreal printings by these dots, in practice, there will be many that will not show them. It also appears to me that no dots were used for the 1/2c, so this test cannot be used for that value.

What many collectors new to this issue do not know and what Hilson has pointed out in his articles, is that for all stamps except the 6c, the lower left dots were eliminated and the dots were moved to the sides of the design, near the portrait at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock. This was done in about 1880, so in theory, it should be possible to identify Montreal printings made between 1880 and 1887 by looking for these dots. The only problem is, these dots can be extremely hard to see. In the case of the 1/2c. I have seen blocks where some of the stamps have these dots and others in the same block do not. On the 1c, the colour is so pale, that it can often be very difficult to see the dots when they are present. I haven't gone through any 2c stamps yet, so I cannot comment on those. But I've been through many late Montreal printings of the 3c and have yet to see one with these side dots. Another problem is that some of the early second Ottawa printings can have these dots when printed from the older Montreal plates.


Unitrade greatly oversimplifies the perforations on this issue on the one hand and the recognized experts seem to be confused as to the significance of certain perforations on the other. Most catalogues list 11.5 x 12 and 12, but what most collectors may not realize is that there are actually many more such as:

11.9 x 12
12 x 11.9
11.75 x 12
12 x 12.25
12.25 x 12

The reason that this is important is that there are certain perforation combinations that seem to be confined to certain periods. Hillson states that 11.75 x 12 is only found from 1876 to 1878, while 11.5 x 12 covers the full period from 1873-1880. Thus the perf. 11.75 x 12 is actually scarcer than 11.5 x 12 and without this information a collector could mistakenly classify these as perf 12, since they don't match 11.5 on the gauge. In addition, the various permutations of 11.9 seem to exist only in the first Ottawa period. I have checked many perf. 12 Montreal printings, and I have yet to find one that measures 11.9, whereas nearly every first Ottawa Indian red or dark rose 3c that I have measured is some combination of 11.9 and 12. So it would appear that these two perforations are critical to identifying first Ottawa printings and Montreal printings from 1876-1878.

Then there is the compound of 12.25 and 12. Hillson says that this is only found in the Montreal period, but I have looked at enough known, dated second Otttawa printings now to know that he cannot possibly be correct in his assertion unless every one of those stamps were used 8 or 9 years out of period. It clearly is the most common perforation during the Montreal period after 1876, but it does extend into the second Ottawa period, though in this period it is less common than straight-up perf. 12. Thus perf. 12 is actually scarcer during the Montreal period than some combination of 12 and 12.25, while it is the most common perforation in the second Ottawa period from 1889-1897.

So you can use perf 11.9 compounds, 11.5 x 12 and 11.75 x 12 to positively identify printings as a fail-safe test. But for the other measurements, you will need to consider other tests.


Paper is another characteristic that is held up as a fail safe test, with many articles stating that the second Ottawa printings are always on poor quality wove that resembles newsprint, while the Montreal printings are on stout wove. The problem lies in interpretation as many beginners will not be sure how to identify stout paper, nor will they know how to judge quality. Another problem is that the poor quality paper actually came into use in Montreal, just about a year before the move to Ottawa. Thus there are several late Montreal printings that many collectors might identify as second Ottawa if they are only looking at the paper. On the other hand, the paper quality started to improve in about 1895 for a time, being of almost comparable quality to the earlier papers. So there are some second Ottawa printings that can resemble earlier Montreal printings but for the dates on the cancels. However, as a general rule, most papers showing clear mesh will either be Montreal or first Ottawa. Most of the second Ottawa papers can be identified by the lack of clear grain that only becomes visible when the stamp is held to the light, or the paper appears rough under magnification. In contrast, the earlier printings in Montreal and first Ottawa, have a smooth appearance under magnification.

Many publications talk about the paper feeling silky smooth or rough, but I find this to be too subjective to be reliable as a test, particularly for people who are not used to what the actual silky first Ottawa paper is supposed to feel like: many of the later papers can feel silky unless you have felt the true silky paper and know the difference.


From what I can see so far, shades actually hold a lot of promise as an aid to identification, provided that they are properly described using an external colour key like Gibbons so that other people can readily identify the shade. It is pretty clear to me that the shades found on the first Ottawa printings are unique and do not repeat into the Montreal period, which is extremely useful. Also most of the second Ottawa shades are very distinct and not seen in the Montreal period. There are however, a few shades that are found in both periods, so that in these cases, it will be necessary to look at other factors in making a determination.


Another important attribute which should prove very helpful are cancellations. Generally, it was against postal regulations until the late 1870's to cancel a stamp with a date stamp, so most dated examples will be second Ottawa printings. Conversely most of the cork and fancy cancellations are from the first Ottawa and Montreal periods, although care has to be taken because many of the cork cancellations continued to be used in the second Ottawa period. Having a handbook on the cancellations of this period that lists the dates between which certain cancels were used will prove invaluable to the study of these stamps. There are certain cancellations which are only found in  the second Ottawa period, such as roller cancels and squared circle postmarks. Even if no date is visible, you can be pretty certain that these stamps are second Ottawa printings if they bear these types of cancellations.

So these are my insights so far. The remaining 3,500 stamps I just bought should arrive next week and I will work on them over time, whenever I can. So I may not have a definitive post on the identification of these for a while, but I will share whatever insights I gain as the sorting progresses.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Issues of 1927-1952 A Highly Neglected Period of Canadian Philately

Before I move on with more posts about the Admiral Issue, I wanted to talk a little bit today about the material issued between 1927 and 1952, as I have for the past month, been organizing my stock of this period and getting it ready for sale. What has struck me the most as I have worked on this material, is just how much variation there is to interest a specialist, and how most of this detail has been ignored by the standard stamp catalogues. This is a pity because to look at the catalogue listings, one can easily come to the conclusion that the issues are straightforward, and that there is little to interest a specialist. Consequently, I believe that very little has been done with this material compared to the popular Large Queens, Small Queens and Admirals.

I'm not sure why this is the case and by the time you have finished reading this post, I hope you will agree with me that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I suspect that there is a perception among philatelists that most of the shade, paper and gum varieties are just random variations that are not collectible and not worthy of inclusion in the catalogue listings. However, this does not make sense when we look at the treatment afforded to modern issues like the 1972-77 Caricature Issue, or the 1967-73 Centennial Issue. On these issues, the catalogues now differentiate between completely smooth chalk-surfaced paper, chalk surfaced paper with slight vertical ribbing on the face and chalk surfaced paper with slight horizontal ribbing on the face. This is a level of detail that 20 years ago would have been unthinkable to include in even a specialized catalogue. Most of these varieties were known in specialist circles even back then. But it has taken the better part of three decades for them to become mainstream and popular enough for the catalogue editors to include listings and prices for them.

What convinces me though that the shade, paper and gum varieties are not random and are very much worth collecting is the fact that:

1. There exist, throughout the period, commemorative issues that are known to have had only one print run. On these issues, the shades, paper and gum show almost no variation at all. This is significant because it proves, that the British American Bank Note Company (BABN) and the Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) were very capable by this time of ensuring a high degree of consistency within a print run that included millions of stamps. If this wasn't the case, then we would see the same haphazard range of varieties on ALL issues, not just the definitives.

2. While a lot of the differences are subtle, there is a high degree of consistency in them and they come up over and over again on different issues. The uniformity of the commemorative issues makes them invaluable to a specialist because now the specialist can use them as a reference source to assign an approximate date range to definitives that share similar characteristics.

The nice thing about collecting this period at a specialized level is the fact that the variations are not infinite and that there is a high degree of consistency. For example, the 3c Small Queen has an almost infinite range of papers and shades. Sure, large numbers can be sorted into groups of papers and shades that are all highly similar, but will not, for the most part, be exactly the same. That aspect of them appeals to a collector who likes collecting in a very open-ended fashion and isn't concerned about attaining completion in his or her chosen field. However, some collectors like to have defined boundaries within which to collect and that can actually be completed. With this period it is possible to achieve completion, while at the same time challenging yourself with a manageable range of varieties.

So at a broad level, what are the main areas of interest in this period, and how can a collection be formed around these points of interest? In my opinion, after examining several thousand mint stamps from this period, the big points of interest are:

  • Variations in colour shades.
  • Variations in paper.
  • Variations in gum, both with respect to colour and sheen.
  • Variations in the dies used for the booklet covers.
  • Spacing varieties on coil stamps.
  • Die variations in the OHMS perfins and orientation of the perfin itself. 
  • Varieties in the thickness and positioning of letters in the OHMS and G overprints.
  • Plate and die flaws.
  • Plate blocks.
Lets take a look at each one in more detail. After I am finished with the Admiral Issue, I will write detailed posts on each issue that will go over these points again as they relate to each issue. But for now, lets take a look at each of these areas for the 25 year period as a whole. 

Variations in Shade

Most of the definitives, and all the postage dues from this period exist with shade variations. There are a few exceptions, but generally you can find between 2-6 varieties on almost every definitive stamp. Most of these are not as outstanding as some of the more prominent shade varieties on the classic pre-1897 issues. However, this is to be expected because the level of precision inherent in the printing process had improved leaps and bounds by this time. Despite this, there are many worthwhile varieties that can be found that are easily distinguishable as singles, and certainly as blocks. You can even find shade variations on some of the commemorative issues as well. The most notable example I can think of right now is the 1934 Founding of New Brunswick Issue that exists in a bright lake brown that is more red than brown and in a bright red-brown that is more brown than red. These two colours are completely different and are every bit as spectacular as some of the shades in the classic period. Another commemorative issue that shows some variation is the 1935 Silver Jubilee Issue, where you can find worthy variations on all values.

The use of the Stanley Gibbons colour key becomes invaluable in this regard in terms of identifying the shades. It is a matter of personal preference as to how many shade varieties you want to include in your collection. My rule of thumb is to include all the varieties that correspond to a different swatch on the colour key and can be distinguished according to intensity or the addition of another colour. For example, many of the blue stamps during this period are actually variations of Prussian blue and steel blue. There are very few pure dark blues or blues during this period. So for a shade like Prussian blue, I might distinguish between:

  • Bright Prussian blue (saturated)
  • Dull Prussian blue (addition of greyscale)
  • Light Prussian blue (addition of white to the colour)
  • Pale Prussian blue (less intense but nothing added to the pure colour)
  • Deep Prussian blue (more intense than the pure colour but nothing added)
  • Dark Prussian blue (addition of black to the pure colour)
where such variations exist, but no more detail than this. The good news is that for this period you generally won't find more detail than this, whereas in the classic period, for example, you could sort a 3c orange red Small Queen into bright, dull, light, pale, deep and dark and it still wouldn't be enough detail to adequately capture all the variations that exist.

What does become apparent as you look at the colour key names and the Unitrade catalogue colour names is how inaccurate the Unitrade catalogue colour names are. I already gave the example above for dark blue, but another example is the use of the name "Carmine". There are very few stamps that are truly carmine during this period. The closest one that comes to mind is the 4c Postes-Postage Issue, with all the other red stamps being variations of carmine-red, deep rose-red, scarlet or scarlet vermilion. 

Variations in Paper

Close examination of the stamps issued during this period reveals that some of the issues exist with distinct variations in paper. The variations manifest themselves as:

  • Differences in both the weave direction of the paper and how obvious the mesh pattern is to the naked eye when the stamp is viewed from the back or held up to a light source. 
  • Differences in the paper texture. 
For the period from 1927-1934 the main difference that one finds is differences in how visible the mesh pattern is. Most of the stamps are printed on vertical wove paper during this period, with the 1934 New Brunswick Issue being a notable exception on horizontal wove paper. I have identified at least two basic types:

  • Paper showing now clear mesh pattern unless held up to a strong light source.
  • Paper showing a very clear mesh pattern when viewed from the back. 
All the papers that I have seen during this period are smooth, so texture is not an issue, nor is thickness really that much of an issue. 

However, starting with the Canadian Bank Note Company period from 1935-1952, there are both differences in weave, visibility of mesh and texture:

  • The 1935-37 Dated Die Issue can be found with vertical wove paper that has clearly visible mesh, vertical wove with mesh that is only visible when held up to the light, horizontal wove paper, and horizontal wove paper with a ribbed texture. 
  • The 1937-42 Mufti Issue can be found with the same paper varieties as above, but in addition, a vertical ribbed paper can be found on the 10c Memorial Chamber definitive. 
  • The 1942-1949 War Issue can be found with the same paper varieties as above on the 1935-1937 issue, but in addition, the very last printings can be found on a smooth paper that shows no mesh pattern whatsoever, even when held up to the light. 
  • The 1946-51 Peace Issue can generally be found with the smooth no-mesh paper, and a horizontal wove paper that either shows light ribbing, distinct ribbing, or no ribbing. There is also a scarcer, thin paper that shows ribbing, and through which the design can be seen. Unitrade only lists this last type on the 14c and 7c values, but I suspect that it must exist on the other values as well. 
  • The 1950-1952 Natural Resources stamps can be found on the same range of papers as the Peace Issue, except for the thin paper. 
  • The 1949-1952 Postes Postage Issue can be found with the same range of papers as the Peace Issue, but there is also a thick, soft, ribbed paper, where the ribbing is very obvious on the face of the stamp. This paper continues in use for the early Elizabethan period and stamps on this paper often have ragged of short perforations due to the softness of the paper.
None of these variations are dealt with by Unitrade at all. 

Variations in Gum

This is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of these issues, which is mentioned in Unitrade, but not in any detail. There are clear variations in the type of gum used on the stamps printed between 1930 and 1952 that are clearly not due to climate or storage conditions. Indeed, many philatelists and dealers who are not familiar with Canadian material often erroneously describe many mint stamps as having "toned gum", not recognizing that some of the gums used were almost brown naturally. 

For the BABN period, which lasted from 1930-1934, we see generally eight types of gum:

  • A mottled, splotchy brownish yellow with a satin sheen. 
  • A smooth brownish yellow, or brownish cream that is very shiny. 
  • A deep yellowish cream with a stain sheen.
  • A deep cream with a mottled appearance and a satin sheen.
  • A transparent cream with a satin sheen. 
  • An opaque whitish cream with a satin sheen. 
  • A shiny cream gum showing vertical streaks used only on the low value rotary press stamps/
  • A white gum showing bubbles and vertical streaks again used only on the low value rotary press stamps. 
Examination  of the gum found on the commemoratives during this period reveals that the gum used evolved over time:

  • The mottled brownish yellow gum is only found on the 1932 Ottawa Conference Issue, so it is from before 1933. 
  • The smooth, brownish yellow, shiny gum is only found on some of the 1933 Grain Exhibition stamps. 
  • The deep yellowish cream, deep cream and transparent cream gums are found on the 1932 Ottawa Conference, 1933 UPU, Royal William, Grain  Exhibition issues and some of the 1934 New Brunswick Issue. So it can be concluded that definitives airmails, special delivery stamps and postage dues with this gum are generally from 1932-1934. 
  • The opaque whitish cream gum is only found on the 1934 commemoratives, so again any definitives, postage dues, airmails and special delivery stamps with this gum are probably printed in 1934. 
For the CBN period, we generally see ten types of gum again:

  • Vertically streaky yellowish cream, with a stain sheen often found on the issues from 1935-1938.
  • Smooth cream gum with a satin sheen found on the 1935-1938 issues.
  • Mottled, smooth brownish yellow with a satin sheen found on the 1935-1938 issues.
  • Smooth white gum found on the 1935-1938 issues.
  • Shiny yellowish gum found on the 1935-1942 issues.
  • Light cream gum with a satin sheen and finely crackly texture found on the 1938-1942 issues.
  • Blotchy cream gum with a satin sheen found on some printings of the 1942 War issue and 1946 Peace Issue.
  • Smooth shiny yellowish cream found on the 1946-51 issues
  • Streaky cream gum with a satin sheen found on the 1946-1952 issues.
  • Smooth yellowish cream gum that is extremely shiny, found on the 1950-1952 issues.
Most of the issues during this period will be found with as many as 3-4 types of gum. Like the previous period, the gum types evolved over time. The commemoratives issued during this period are generally confined to the 1947-1952 period, but we do have the 1937 Coronation and 1939 Royal Visit issues to provide some insight as to the gums that were in use in 1937 and 1939. 

Dotted Dies Used on Booklet Covers

The booklets during this period were issued initially in English and French versions. Each booklet generally had a front cover and a back cover, which differed in design. Different dies were used to print the covers and Peter Harris has published a book identifying the different types. Generally the front covers exist in at least two versions each for the English and French versions, while in 1949, bilingual versions were also issued. However, these are usually only one cover type. The back covers were often printed from 4 different dies, or more in the case of the small "chewing gum" booklets.  Every possible combination of front and back cover exists, so that there are 8 possible types for most English and French booklets. In addition, many of the booklets exist both with and without pages containing postal rate information, and when postal rates changed in 1943, many of the rate pages were surcharged or replaced with new rate information. Finally, the sizes of the staples used to make the booklets vary as well with 12 mm, 14 mm and 17 mm staples being possible. When you combine all these factors, a basic set of 5 or 6 booklets, can become a collection of  720 different booklets!(5 booklets x 2 languages x 8 cover types x 3 rate page types x 3 staple sizes). If you then factor in the paper and gum types that I just talked about above, that total can balloon up to over 2,000 different booklets!

Spacing and Other Varieties on Coil Stamps

The coil stamps issued during this period can be divided into three groups:

  • The Scroll Issue coils printed by the CBN
  • The BABN coils from the Arch and Medallion Issues. 
  • The remaining coils from 1935-1952 printed by the CBN. 
The main varieties on the Scroll coils that one can collect would appear to be mainly precancels and paste-up pairs and strips. All of the coils can be collected in start and end strips, which are scarce. In the BABN period, one finds line pairs and strips, which are generally also jump strips as well. The normal spacing between impressions on these coils is between 2.5 mm and 3.25 mm, with most being 3 mm. On the line pairs and strips, the spacing is 3.5 mm. In the case of the Arch Issue, one finds the popular "Cockeyed King" varieties on the line pairs and strips. 

Starting with the 1935 Dated die issue, the collecting of coils becomes much more interesting, with narrow and wide spacing strips being possible, jump strips, strips that show the cutting guidelines and plate flaws, as well as the usual range of papers and gums. Repair paste-ups also exist for virtually all the coils issued during this period as well, and these are generally quite scarce and desirable now. 

Die Varieties on OHMS Perfins

This is beyond my expertise, so I won't go into all the different types here, but Unitrade does describe two basic types of perfin on the 4-hole types. On one type the seventh pin on the "S" is extended whereas on another type the seventh pin is not extended. Many of the issues during this period exist with both types. In addition the OHMS can be found horizontally, vertically reading down, vertically reading up, double punched, etc. The issues up to the War Issue can be found with the rare 5-hole OHMS pattern as well.  Care has to be taken in collecting these, as many of these perfins have been faked. 

Variations in the OHMS and G Overprints

This in my opinion is a very under-studied topic. I have noticed that there are definite differences in the thickness and size of the G's used in the G overprints. The position and spacing of these also varies as well. Over the last several years, varieties such as the Fishhook G and the blunt G are listed in Unitrade, as well as the "no period after S" varieties on the OHMS overprints. However, I wouldn't be surprised if many of these varieties exist on other stamps from the period and have yet to be discovered. 

Plate and Die Flaws

This is the golden age of the plate flaws. The classic period was the golden age of the Re-Entry, but die to the durability of the printing plates used during this period re-entries are rare. However, there are a number of popular and prominent plate flaws listed in Unitrade:

  • The extended mustache varieties on the Arch Issue.
  • The cockeyed king varieties on the Arch Issue. 
  • The "broken E" on the 1932 Ottawa conference issue.
  • The "scarface" and "burr over shoulder" on the 1934 Cartier issue.
  • The "shilling mark" and "weeping princess" varieties on the 1935 Silver Jubilee issue. 
  • The "air" and "moulting wing" varieties on the 1935 airmail. 
  • The "narrow 1" and "damaged 2" varieties on the 1935 coils. 
  • The LL corner flaw on the 1949-52 Postes-postage coils. 
In addition to the above, I have found other unlisted die flaws that are very similar to the shilling mark. A popular way to collect these is in blocks of 4 with three normal stamps and one with the flaw. 

Plate Blocks

This is the golden age of plate blocks. It is a period where the plate block actually has philatelic significance and was not merely a collectible pushed aggressively on the public by the post office. Many plates were used to print the stamps of this period, with some stamps like the 1c and 4c War Issue having more than 30 plates each. The early blocks of this period are collected from the top centre of the sheet, but starting with the 1937 Mufti Issue, the plate inscriptions began to appear on the corners of the sheets and it is with this issue that the collecting of matched sets of corners becomes possible. When you factor in paper and gum differences, the number of possible blocks becomes staggering. In addition, most of the blocks during this period are not cheap: there is often a significant premium over the price of 4 mint singles for these. So assembling a complete collection is quite a challenge. 

So in conclusion, if you collect only mint stamps there is enough material from any of the major definitive sets during this period to occupy you for years if not decades: issued stamps, plate blocks, complete sheets, booklets, OHMS perfins and the like. Even a seemingly innocuous set like the 1939 Royal Visit can be a huge challenge if you try to get all the possible plate blocks, full plate sheets, and the different 5 hole OHMS perfins. If you collect used, then you have a wonderful opportunity to assemble a collection of CDS town cancels, as the larger high value stamps take these cancels very nicely. It is my hope that collectors looking for a field in which to specialize will consider this period and not be put-off by the relative abundance of material on the market, but will see that instead as an unprecedented opportunity to build up comprehensive collections of very beautiful stamps for a price that will not break their budget.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Paper and Gum Types on The 1911-1928 Admiral Issue

At last, I return to my detailed posts about the popular Admiral series of 1911-1928. This far I have talked about the difference between wet and dry printings, as well as covering all the major shade varieties to be found on each issue.

However, the next major topic that I have only alluded to in my posts about shades, and one that has not received much attention by Unitrade, is the topic of paper and gum. Those who have been collecting this issue long enough and have a keen eye for detail, will eventually notice certain patterns to the characteristics of the paper and gum types that run across the life of this issue. Once you become familiar with these, it will be much easier to distinguish the various printings and shades of the stamps that you have in your collection.

The papers and gum types fall into two distinct groups depending on whether the stamp is a wet printing or a dry printing. For the papers, the main characteristics that I will discuss are the thickness, measured in thousandths of an inch, and the visibility of the mesh of the paper, which can come in three basic types:

  • Coarse - readily obvious when the stamp is viewed face down from the back. 
  • Fine - not obvious unless the stamp is held up to a backlight. 
  • No visible mesh - not visible even when viewed through backlighting. 
In terms of the gum, I will refer to the colour, the sheen of the gum, and its texture. The gum colour on this issue varies from yellow gum on the early printings, to an almost colourless, cream gum on the late dry printings. The sheen of the gum refers to how shiny the gum is. The basic sheens that one encounters on this issue are satin and shiny. Satin gum can be though of as a semi-gloss sheen rather than a shiny gum that reflects a lot of light. The texture refers to how smooth the gum is. On the early wet printings, and the late dry printings, the gum is often streaky, showing distinct, uneven areas, while on others, it is perfectly smooth and even. 

I will attempt to illustrate the differences with scans, 

The Wet Printing Period 1911-1924

The stamps produced during this period can generally be classified into seven groups as follows:

  • 1911-1912 - Coarse or fine vertical (or horizontal) mesh, generally streaky yellow gum.
  • 1912-1913 - Finer vertical (or horizontal) mesh, generally smooth yellow gum.
  • 1914-1917 - Finer vertical mesh, generally a yellowish cream smooth gum. 
  • 1917-1919 - Fine vertical mesh, generally a creamy smooth gum that lacks the yellow of the 1914-1917 period. 
  • 1920-1924 - No visible mesh or no visible mesh and a smooth yellowish cream gum that sometimes has the appearance of being applied with a roller or sponge. 
  • 1923-1924 - No visible mesh and smooth cream satin gum. This is only found on the only wet printing of the $1.
  • 1924 - Very coarse mesh and shiny yellow gum. 
The vast majority of the mint wet printing stamps on the market today are either from the 1920-1922 period, or the 1914-1917 period as is the case with the War Tax stamps. The scarcer shades usually come either from the first two periods, or the 1917-1919 period. It is important to bear this in mind when looking at Unitrade's prices because for example a perf. 8 vertical coil stamp from the early periods before 1915 is considerably scarcer than a more common printing from 1920-1922, but Unitrade does not explicitly deal with this fact. 

As far as paper thickness goes, the stamps generally vary between 0.0035" and 0.0045". The so called thin paper from 1924 on the 2c and 5c is actually 0.0035" usually - no thinner than the normal paper. It only looks this way because of how coarse the mesh is and the fact that the dark colour makes it appear even thinner and more transparent. The thin paper will generally be 0.0025"-0.003", while thick paper must be 0.0045-0.005". 

I will now attempt to show you some of these characteristics.

1911-1912 Coarse or Fine Vertical Mesh and Streaky Yellow Gum

This is the back scan of the 20c grey green from the January 1912 printing. As you can see, the gum is clearly streaky and yellowish, and the vertical mesh is clearly visible. Below is a used example of the 10c first printing on this type of paper:

Here, the mesh is clearly visible, though not a lot more obvious than on the stamp from the 1920-1924 period below. Here is an example of a 1c dull bluish green coil with slightly coarser mesh:

Hopefully you can see that the mesh on this is quite a bit more pronounced than on the other stamps. 

1912-1913 Fine Vertical Mesh and Smooth Yellow Gum

This scan shows the back of a 5c indigo printed during this period. You have to look closely to see the veru fine vertical mesh, but the gum is unmistakably smooth and yellowish.  Below is an example with clearer mesh:

Below is an example of a used stamp from this period:

This looks almost identical to the stamp from the first period, so the difference between the 1911-1912 and 1912-1913 printings really lies in the gum, and even this difference is pretty subtle. 

1914-1917 Finer Vertical Mesh and Yellowish Cream Smooth Gum

This is the back of a 20c olive green War Tax overprinted stamp from 1915. As you can see the mesh is not clearly visible when the stamp is viewed face-down, but it becomes much more obvious when you hold it up to a strong light source. The gum, as you can see is very yellowish compared to the later printings and is perfectly smooth. Here is an example with clearer vertical mesh:

Here the main difference between these and the earlier printings is that the gum is more cream coloured and less yellowish. The mesh, when visible is always fine rather than being coarse, as is often the case with the early printings. 

1917-1919 Fine Vertical Mesh and Smooth Cream Gum

This stamp is a 50c silver black printed in 1917. Note how you cannot see any mesh and the gum is smooth and creamy in colour. The mesh is actually hidden by the gum and it shows up very readily on used stamps and when held up to the light. It is similar to the gum from the 1920-1924 period, except that it is slightly lighter and does not have the appearance of being sponged on on the way that the gum fom 1920-1924 tends to. Below is a used example of this same stamp:

Note the very clear vertical mesh pattern in the paper, similar to all the earlier printings. 

1920-1924 Finer Vertical Mesh or No Visible Mesh and Smooth Yellowish Cream Gum

The above is the back of a 7c red brown wet printing, which was issued in 1924. Note the lack of an embossing effect on the back, which is characteristic of wet printing stamps. Also, there is no visible mesh in the paper and the gum is yellowish cream coloured and smooth. Below is a used stamp on this type of paper:

This is the back of a 10c stamp in the common brown purple shade that falls squarely into this period. You can see very clearly the fine mesh pattern in the paper. Below is a used stamp from this period that has no visible mesh:

Generally, the mesh on the paper from this period is less obvious than on the earlier wet printings and on many is not visible at all, whereas on the earlier printings there is always at least a fine mesh visible. 

1923-1924 No Visible Mesh and Smooth Cream Satin Gum

The above is a scan of the back of a $1 red orange from the only wet printing made in 1923. The gum is a very light cream, almost white, with a satin sheen and the paper shows no visible mesh. Below is a scan of the back of a used example:

1924 The So Called Thin Paper - Very Coarse Mesh and Shiny Yellow Gum

Here is the back of a 5c blackish purple on the so called thin paper. You can clearly see very large dark spots on the paper, which are the gaps in the very coarse mesh. The gum is smooth and yellowish. Unfortunately, used stamps on this paper are quite scarce, so I do not currently have one I can illustrate. 

The Dry Printing Period 1922-1928

The stamps produced during this period can generally be divided into three groups:

  • 1922-1926 - Thin paper between 0.0035-0.004", with fine mesh and smooth satin or shiny cream gum.
  • 1924-1926 - Thicker paper between 0.004"-0.0045" with no visible mesh and smooth satin or shiny cream gum. 
  • 1926-1928 - Thicker paper between 0.0045" and 0.0055" with no visible mesh and streaky shiny cream gum.
I will now illustrate these types. 

1922-1926 Thin Paper With Fine Mesh and Smooth Shiny Cream Gum

The mesh is not obvious on this stamp when viewed like this, but it is obvious when held up to the light. The gum as you can see is perfectly smooth and cream coloured. This is the 7c pale red brown on thin paper. Unfortunately I do not have a used example of this paper to show here. 

1924-1926 Thicker Paper With Fine Mesh and Smooth Cream Gum

Above is a back scan of a $1 red orange dry printing from this period. If you look closely at the gum, you can see that the colour is even and the texture smooth. You can just make out dark spots in the paper, which are the gaps between the mesh. 

Below is a used example of a stamp with this type of paper:

You can just make out the fine latticework mesh, though it is very fine. It will become much more obvious when viewed through backlighting. 

1926-1928 Thicker Paper With No Visible Mesh and Streaky Cream Gum

Above is a scan of a brown orange $1 value printed during this period. If you look closely at the scan you can see distinct streakiness in the gum, which shows as alternating light and dark spots on the gum. This gum is generally quite shiny and unfortunately there is no way for me to illustrate that with a 2 dimensional scan. There is also clearly no mesh visible in this paper as viewed from the back. Below is what a used stamp on this paper looks like:

Note the lack of visible mesh. 

In conclusion, although the differences are subtle, it is clear that there are definite differences in the gum used during the life of the issue and that these differences can be used to assign stamps to different periods. The papers are more difficult to classify, as many look very similar, especially on the used stamps. However, if you use a micrometer to properly measure the thickness the task will be easier. Also, the used stamps that show no clear mesh pattern will almost always be from the end of each respective wet or dry period. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stamp Values Over The Years - An Interesting Revelation

The conventional wisdom in the hobby that I have always heard growing up is that if you want your stamps to increase in value you should buy the highest value stamps you can since rare stamps will always increase in value, while cheap stamps will always be inexpensive.

About 20 years ago, I predicted that superb mint examples of the low values up to the mid 1930's would increase by much greater amounts than the high value stamps would. My reasoning was rooted in simple economics: there are more collectors who can afford them and all collectors need them to complete their sets. So a collector who has already bought superb examples of the expensive stamps and needs the inexpensive ones, must compete with a larger body of collectors who could not afford the high values, but who can afford the low values. With a limited supply, this could only result in prices increasing.

This has come true in a big way. Earlier this month I had a chance to purchase:

  • A 1983 Lyman's Canadian Catalogue and
  • A 1994 Unitrade catalogue.
In addition to my 2016 Unitrade catalogue. Wouldn't it be interesting to look at how the catalogue values of a select group of lower value stamps from 1851-1935 has changed in relation to another group of high value, blue-chip stamps from the same period. I will show on the left, the 1983 value according to Lyman's, the 1994 Unitrade in the centre and finally the 2016 Unitrade value on the right. For the purposes of this exercise, the lower value stamps are:

  • #14 1c rose First Cents Issue, fine used: $50, $35, $40 
  • #25 3c red Large Queen, fine used: $18, $15, $20
  • #41 3c vermilion Small Queen, very fine NH: $70, $100, $240
  • #51 1c orange Jubilee, very fine NH: $21, $37.50, $120
  • #67 1c green, Maple Leaf, very fine NH: $27, $50, $210
  • #75 1c green, Numeral, very fine NH: $30, $56.25, $225
  • #89 1c green Edward VII, very fine NH: $36, $45, $280
  • #96 1/2c black brown, Quebec Tercentenary, very fine NH: $7.50, $15, $45
  • #104 1c green Admiral, very fine NH: $18, $27, $120
  • #152 4c bistre Scroll Issue, very fine NH: $34.50, $35, $70
  • #168 4c bistre Arch Issue, very fine NH: $24, $22.50, $50
  • #195d 1c green Medallion flat press, very fine NH: $2.50, $2.60, $12
Not all the stamps in this group increased significantly in value, most notably the first two stamps. However, all the others experienced very healthy price increases relative to their initial values. The catalogue value of the above portfolio in each of 1983, 1994 and today is:

  • $338.50 in 1983
  • $440.85 in 1994
  • $1,432 in 2016
That is an average increase of 423.5% over 33 years, which is a simple rate of just over 12% annually. Most of that increase has been in the past 10 years. 

The high value stamps are:

  • #2 6d slate violet Prince Albert, fine used: $1,300, $1,000, $1,100
  • #16 10c black brown, First cents: $2,300, $3,000, $3,500
  • #30d 15c grey Large Queen with script watermark, fine used: $1,750, $2,250, $4,000
  • #40 10c dull rose lilac Small Queen, very fine NH: $900, $1,350, $6,800
  • #65 $5 olive green Jubilee, very fine NH: $5,000, $4,250, $6,000
  • #73 10c brown violet, Maple Leaf, very fine NH: $520, $618.75, $2,400
  • #84 20c olive green, Numeral, very fine NH: $1,100, $1,350, $3,000
  • #95 50c purple, Edward VII, very fine NH: $1,800, $1,687.50, $5,250
  • #103 20c brown Quebec Tercentenary, very fine NH: $437.50, $562.50, $1,200
  • #122 $1 orange Admiral, very fine NH: $297.50, $250, $450, 
  • #159 $1 olive green Parliament, very fine NH: $612.50, $700, $900
  • #177 $1 Mt. Edith Cavell, very fine NH: $350, $437.50, $600
  • #198 4c ochre, Medallion, very fine NH: $105, $105, $150
These stamps, except for #2 all increased in value, but except for a couple of stamps like 30d, 40, and 95, the increases have not been that spectacular. The catalogue value of this portfolio by contrast in each of 1983, 1994 and today is:

  • $16,472.50 in 1983
  • $17,561.25 in 1994
  • $35,350 in 2016
That is an increase of 214.6% over the same period - roughly half of the percentage increase for the top group. Thus if in 1983 you bought multiple examples of each of the low value stamps - say 50 examples of each, which was entirely doable back then and even now, you would have had a holding worth more than double what the high value stamps are worth. Not only that, it would have been a less risky property to sell because the value is spread out over a larger number of stamps, which means that if you have a bad day at an auction, you can make up for it in another. In contrast, a poor realization on just one of the high value stamps would significantly lower your return. 

This is exactly the opposite of the conventional wisdom. So does this mean that you should just collect inexpensive stamps? Well not exactly. In the above examples, the low value stamps in superb condition or very fine NH condition were always scarce, even back in 1983 - its just that they were undervalued relative to the high value stamps. The only way you would know that is from experience. If instead of VFNH, you only bought fine, it would be a completely different story. If instead of these stamps, you bought sheets of post 1935 stamps, it would be a different story as well, because these stamps are readily available in VFNH condition. 

The moral of the story is that you CAN invest in stamps, but to do so successfully, you need to be able to identify stamps that are undervalued by the market. 

Food for thought. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Shade Varieties Of The Large Queen Issue of 1868-1897

I had thought that my last post had addressed the request of one of my readers, but I had misunderstood his request. He wanted to know about the shade varieties of the Large Queen Issue, as well as perforations and papers for the purposes of doing an album layout. So I will write a post today about the shades, papers and perforation varieties on this issue before I return to my next post about the Admiral Issue of 1911-1928.


This is quite a complicated issue despite the fact that most of the values were only in use for a few years. The 15c value by exception was never replaced by any subsequent issue in Queen Victoria's reign, so that a very large number of printings were made, resulting in an extremely wide range of shades. Gerald Firth, who was the premier student of this stamp, wrote an entire book on it, which I do not have. So I cannot give you a full list of every single existing shade of this stamp. However, I can give you a group that is fairly representative of all the shades. This will prove to be sufficiently detailed for most collectors.

I also do not have a sufficient number of stamps at the present time to provide illustrations of the shades, so at this time my post will be a narrative post only. I will in time, as I acquire a sufficient number of examples to illustrate all the shades, present comparative scans, much as I have done for the Admiral Issue.

The Duckworth paper types are a bit problematic as well as there is no reference source that I am aware of, except perhaps the Duckworth book that lists every existing paper, shade and perforation combination. Therefore my list is an educated attempt to derive a relatively complete list, based on what I know about the issue. I would welcome additions to my list and other feedback.

For the paper 6's, I only allocate one space per printing. If you want both a watermarked and an unwatermarked example, understanding that they are essentially the same stamp from the same sheet, then you should double the number of spaces on your pages for paper 6 printings.

1/2c Black

This value was used up until 1882, well into the Small Queens period, so that in addition to the Duckworth papers, it should also exist on the horizontal and vertical wove papers of the Small Queen Period. I have generally seen this stamp on papers 2, 3, 4 and 6. According to Unitrade, it exists on paper 8 and paper 10. I have seen an example once on thin tissue white, which is paper 9b, although Unitrade's table does not acknowledge it. As for shades, the stamp exists in three basic shades:

  • A regular black
  • A very intense jet-black
  • A grey-black
I don't have any reason to believe that any of these shades are limited to any specific printing. It seems reasonable therefore to seek out one of each shade for each of the paper types in which this stamp is found. As far as perforations go, the stamps are either perf 12 (actually 11.9) of 11.5 x 12. The perf. 11.5 x 12 stamps are from 1873 to about 1877 and are from the Montreal printings. They will therefore only exist on the later paper types, being either paper 4, or 10. Unitrade says that this perforation is found on the Bothwell paper, which is strange, given that it is one of the first papers used. 

Thus, if I were preparing a specialized album for this issue, I would allocate 33 spaces for this stamp as follows:

  • Black, paper 2, perf. 12.
  • Intense black, paper 2, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 2, perf. 12. 
  • Black, paper 3, perf. 12.
  • Intense black, paper 3, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 3, perf. 12.
  • Black paper 4, perf 12.
  • Intense black, paper 4, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 4, perf. 12.
  • Black, paper 4, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Intense black, paper 4, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 4, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Black, paper 6, perf. 12.
  • Intense black, paper 6, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 6, perf. 12.
  • Black, paper 6, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Intense black, paper 6, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 6, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Black, paper 8, perf. 12.
  • Intense black, paper 8, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 8, perf. 12.
  • Black, paper 9, perf. 12.
  • Intense black, paper 9, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 9, perf. 12.
  • Black, paper 9b, perf. 12. 
  • Intense black, paper 9b, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 9b, perf. 12.
  • Black, paper 10, perf. 12.
  • Intense black, paper 10, perf. 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 10, perf. 12.
  • Black, paper 10, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Intense-black, paper 10, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Grey-black, paper 10, perf. 11.5 x 12.
This ignores the plate varieties found on this stamp such as the chignon, spur, H spur and line above P of postage varieties. Conceivably all of these could exist on each and every stamp above. So I would deal with these by either having just one example of each on a separate page, or you could create one page of 36 spaces for each of the varieties. 

1c Brown Red

I have seen two basic shades on this stamp:

  • Brown red.
  • Venetian red
The Venetian red is much less brown than the brown red and closer to a pure red. I have not seen the Venetian red shade on the thin paper 1, but I imagine that it exists for all the other papers on which this stamp is found with the possible exception of paper 5, as only a handful of sheets were ever likely printed on the laid paper. 

Unitrade lists this stamp on Duckworth papers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 9b. The only perforation is 12, which simplifies things considerably. 

So I would allocate 16 spaces for this stamp as follows:

  • Brown-red, paper 1.
  • Brown-red, paper 3.
  • Venetian red, paper 3.
  • Brown-red, paper 4.
  • Venetian red, paper 4.
  • Brown-red, paper 5.
  • Brown-red, paper 6.
  • Venetian-red, paper 6.
  • Brown-red, paper 7.
  • Venetian red, paper 7.
  • Brown-red, paper 8.
  • Venetian red, paper 8.
  • Brown-red, paper 9.
  • Venetian-red, paper 9.
  • Brown-red, paper 9b.
  • Venetian-red, paper 9b.
Again, the above list ignores the "burr to the left of the head"plate flaw. I do not know when that flaw was corrected, but it may exist on all the above printings, in which case you may wish to create a second page for it. 

1c Yellow Orange

This stamp had a very short life, being issued just a year prior to its replacement by the 1c Small Queen. As a result, it is only found on three papers: paper 9, 9b and 10. Papers 9 and 9b are very scarce, with the vast majority of stamps being found on the distinctive paper 10. Unitrade lists three shades, but I feel that two more can easily be added:

  • Yellow-orange
  • Pale yellow orange
  • Yellow
  • Deep orange
  • Reddish-orange
Again, I have not seen any examples on papers 9 or 9b, so I do not know if they exist in all five shades above. However, I would assume that they do. Again, all the stamps are perf. 12. 

So based on this, I would allocate 15 spaces for this stamp as follows:

  • Yellow-orange, paper 9.
  • Pale yellow-orange, paper 9.
  • Yellow, paper 9.
  • Deep orange, paper 9.
  • Reddish orange, paper 9.
  • Yellow-orange, paper 9b.
  • Pale yellow orange, paper 9b.
  • Yellow, paper 9b.
  • Deep orange, paper 9b.
  • Reddish orange, paper 9b.
  • Yellow orange, paper 10.
  • Pale yellow orange, paper 10. 
  • Yellow, paper. 10.
  • Deep orange, paper 10. 
  • Reddish orange, paper 10. 
2c Green

There are more shades on this stamp than Unitrade lists, with at least a green and dark green shade, in addition to the bluish green and emerald green shades. There is a very wide range of papers for this stamp with papers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 being found, although Unitrade does not list this stamp on paper 2. So far all the stamps I have seen on paper 10 are the emerald green shade, and all the blue greens that I have seen are paper 3. All of the paper 1's I have come across are deep green. That is not to say that these papers do not exist in the other shades, but rather that certain shades seem to be limited to certain papers. Again all stamps are perf. 12. 

Thus my layout for this stamp would consist of 19 spaces as follows:

  • Deep green, paper 1.
  • Deep green, paper 2.
  • Green, paper 2. 
  • Bluish green paper 2. 
  • Deep green, paper 3.
  • Green, paper 3.
  • Bluish green paper 3. 
  • Deep green, paper 4.
  • Green, paper 4. 
  • Bluish green, paper 4. 
  • Deep green, paper 5 - this is the laid paper of which only 3 copies are known. 
  • Deep green, paper 6.
  • Green, paper 6.
  • Deep green, paper 7.
  • Green, paper 7. 
  • Deep green, paper 8. 
  • Green, paper 8. 
  • Green, paper 10.
  • Emerald green, paper 10. 
This listing ignores the "needle nose" and "spur" varieties, each of which could potentially have their own page. 

3c Red

Unitrade lists three shades for this stamp, though I would say that there are easily five shades:

  • Red
  • Pale red
  • Orange-red
  • Rose-red
  • Brown-red
I do not believe that any of these shades are limited to any specific printing, as I have seen the laid paper, for example in more than one shade. The papers that Unitrade lists are pretty extensive, with paper 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. There are no perforation varieties, with every stamp perf. 12. 

So based on the above, I would allocate 35 spaces for this stamp as follows:

  • Red, paper 1.
  • Pale red, paper 1.
  • Orange-red, paper 1.
  • Rose-red, paper 1.
  • Brown-red, paper 1. 
  • Red, paper 2.
  • Pale red, paper 2.
  • Orange-red, paper 2.
  • Rose-red, paper 2. 
  • Brown-red, paper 2. 
  • Red, paper 3.
  • Pale red, paper 3.
  • Orange-red, paper 3. 
  • Rose-red, paper 3. 
  • Brown-red, paper 3. 
  • Red, paper 4. 
  • Pale red paper 4. 
  • Orange-red paper 4. 
  • Rose-red, paper 4. 
  • Brown-red, paper 4. 
  • Red, paper 5. 
  • Pale-red, paper 5. 
  • Orange-red, paper 5. 
  • Rose-red, paper 5. 
  • Brown red, paper 5. 
  • Red, paper 6.
  • Pale red, paper 6. 
  • Orange red, paper 6. 
  • Rose-red, paper 6. 
  • Brown-red, paper 6. 
  • Red, paper 8.
  • Pale red, paper 8.
  • Orange-red, paper 8. 
  • Rose-red, paper 8.
  • Brown-red, paper 8. 
Again, like the other values, this list ignores the plate flaws, which on this value are the "goatee" and the "shaving nick" varieties. Like the other varieties, they likely do exist on all the above, so a separate page or group of pages can be designed to accommodate them. 

5c Olive Green

This stamp was not issued until 1875, so it does not exist on the large variety of papers that the other values are found on. Until this year, Unitrade only listed a single paper, the vertical wove paper, which was the only one that I have ever seen on this value. However, just this year they started listing the perf. 11.5 x 12 on horizontal wove, which is apparently just as scarce as the rare perf. 12. Unitrade, lists two shades: olive green and deep olive green, though I have seen a pale olive green as well. There are also three perforations: 11.5 x 12, 11.75 x 12, which is the most common and then 12. So based on this, I would allocate 12 spaces for this stamp as follows:

  • Olive green,vertical wove, perf. 11.5x 12.
  • Deep olive green, vertical wove, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Pale olive green, vertical wove, perf. 11.5 x 12. 
  • Olive green, vertical wove, perf. 11.75 x 12.
  • Deep olive green, vertical wove, perf. 11.75 x 12.
  • Pale olive green, vertical wove, perf. 11.75 x 12.
  • Olive green, vertical wove, perf. 12.
  • Deep olive green, vertical wove, perf. 12.
  • Pale olive green, vertical wove, perf. 12. 
  • Olive green, horizontal wove, perf. 11.5 x 12
  • Deep olive green, horizontal wove, perf. 11.5 x 12.
  • Pale olive green, horizontal wove, perf. 11.5 x 12. 

6c Brown

Unitrade lists four shades for this stamp, though there are quite a few more. Going through the stamps I have had in my stock in the past, I can see:

  • Deep dull brown
  • Dark brown
  • Black brown
  • Yellow brown
  • Chocolate brown
  • Deep reddish brown
There are no perforation varieties, with all stamps being perf. 12. There were two plates used to print the stamp and copies from each of the two plates can be identified. According to Unitrade, plate 1 stamps are found on papers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9b and 10, while plate 2 is only found on papers 8, 9, 9b and 10. The black brown shade seems to be limited to the first printings on paper 2, while the yellow brown only seems to be found on paper 10. The other shades, in all probability will exist on all the other papers in both plates. 

So based on this, my layout for the 6c would include 55 stamps as follows:

  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 2.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 3.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 4.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1 paper 6.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 7.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 8.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 9.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 9b.
  • Deep dull brown, plate 1, paper 10. 
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 2.
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 3.
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 4.
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 6. 
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 7. 
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 8.
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 9. 
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 9b. 
  • Dark brown, plate 1, paper 10. 
  • Black brown, plate 1, paper 2. 
  • Yellow brown, plate 1, paper 10. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 2.
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 3.
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 4. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 6. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 7. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 8. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 9.
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 9b. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 1, paper 10. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 2. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 3. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 4. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 6. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 7. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 8. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 9. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 9b.
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 1, paper 10. 
  • Deep dull brown, plate 2, paper 8
  • Deep dull brown, plate 2, paper 9. 
  • Deep dull brown, plate 2, paper 9b. 
  • Deep dull brown, plate 2, paper 10. 
  • Dark brown, plate 2, paper 8. 
  • Dark brown, plate 2, paper 9. 
  • Dark brown, plate 2, paper 9b.
  • Dark brown, plate 2, paper 10. 
  • Yellow brown, plate 2, paper 10. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 2, paper 8. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 2, paper 9. 
  • Chocolate brown, plate 2, paper 9b.
  • Chocolate brown, plate 2, paper 10. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 2, paper 8. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 2, paper 9. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 2, paper 9b. 
  • Deep reddish brown, plate 2, paper 10. 
Now, I do not know for sure whether all the above stamps exist or not. However, I would rather design pages with spaces for them and then re-design them at a later date when it became clear that certain stamps do not exist, than to leave them out. 

12.5c Blue

Unitrade lists only two shades, blue and milky blue. However, I believe that there are at least five shades as follows:

  • Deep bright blue
  • Milky blue
  • Bright milky blue
  • Deep blue
  • Deep greenish blue
There are no perforation varieties, and Unitrade lists this stamp on papers 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 10. All the shades appear to exist on all papers, except for the milky blue, which is only found on paper 10. 

Based on this, I would allocate 25 spaces for the basic stamp as follows:

  • Deep bright blue, paper 2. 
  • Deep bright blue, paper 3. 
  • Deep bright blue, paper 6. 
  • Deep bright blue, paper 7.
  • Deep bright blue, paper 8. 
  • Deep bright blue, paper 10. 
  • Milky blue, paper 10. 
  • Bright milky blue, paper 2.
  • Bright milky blue, paper 3.
  • Bright milky blue, paper 6. 
  • Bright milky blue, paper 7. 
  • Bright milky blue, paper 8.
  • Bright milky blue, paper 10. 
  • Deep blue, paper 2.
  • Deep blue, paper 3. 
  • Deep blue, paper 6. 
  • Deep blue, paper 7. 
  • Deep blue, paper 8. 
  • Deep blue, paper 10
  • Deep greenish blue, paper 2.
  • Deep greenish blue, paper 3.
  • Deep greenish blue, paper 6. 
  • Deep greenish blue, paper 7. 
  • Deep greenish blue, paper 8. 
  • Deep greenish blue, paper 10. 
15c Grey Violet/Grey

Unitrade splits this stamp into two catalogue numbers, #29 and 30, even though it is really one stamp. As I stated in the overview, it is the most complicated stamp of the Victorian era, with specialists spending a lifetime studying it. That being said, it is not practical in this post for me to list every single shade that has been documented, as there are dozens. However, I can add a few to Unitrade's listing that I think you are likely to see and can distinguish fairly easily. 

The very first printings of this stamp were in a red-lilac and then in the very early 1870's the shades are purple, containing no grey, or slate. Then in about 1873, the shade moves to greenish grey, becoming blue grey by 1875. Then in 1880, there is a printing on the thick carton paper in deep violet, and this shade is also found on horizontal wove. Around the late 1880's we begin to see the deep blue shades, with the Studd's cold blue appearing in 1887-1888.  After this, until the stamp was replaced is when we see the grey-violets, deep slates, slate violets, brownish grey violets, greys and so forth. 

So for ease of organization, I would divide this stamp into four groups:

  • Printings made before 1873
  • The period from 1873-1880
  • The period from 1881-1888
  • The period from 1888-1897
In my listings below I have completely ignored plate flaws and other varieties, such as the "pawnbroker" variety. As far as I know, these can be found on all printings, so you could potentially make additional sets of pages following my groupings if you decided to include those in your collection. 

Printings made before 1873

In this first period, we have three basic shades:

  • Red lilac
  • Greyish purple
  • Grey, without being a deep slate, or having any significant tinge
The red lilac shade is found on papers 2 and 3, while the greyish purple is found on papers 6, 7 and 10. All the stamps in this period are perf. 12. So for this period, I would allocate 7 spaces as follows:

  • Red lilac, paper 2
  • Red lilac, paper 3
  • Greyish purple, paper 6.
  • Greyish purple, paper 7.
  • Greyish purple, paper 10. 
  • Grey, paper 3.
  • Grey, paper 10. 
Printings Made Between 1873 and 1880

This period includes all the major rarities of this value, including the script watermark, and the deep violet on carton paper. There are five basic shades during this period:

  • Greyish purple
  • Greenish grey
  • Deep bluish grey
  • Bluish grey
  • Deep violet
The paper during this period is generally a horizontal wove paper similar to that found on the Small Queens, with the thick carton paper being the exception. The greyish purple is generally found only perf. 11.5 x 12, while the greenish grey is found both perf. 12 and perf. 11.5 x 12. The two bluish grey shades are perf. 12 only, and finally, the deep violet is found on both the thick carton paper and horizontal wove paper. So on this basis, I would allow 8 spaces as follows:

  • Greyish purple, perf. 11.5 x 12. 
  • Greenish grey, perf. 11.5 x 12, no watermark.
  • Greenish grey, script watermark, perf. 11.5 x 12. 
  • Greenish grey, perf. 12. 
  • Deep bluish grey, perf. 12. 
  • Bluish grey, perf. 12. 
  • Deep violet, horizontal wove, perf. 12. 
  • Deep violet, perf. 12, thick carton paper. 
Printings Made Between 1881 and 1888

In this period all the stamps are perf. 12 and all are usually found on either a horizontal wove, or more commonly a vertical wove paper, with fairly coarse mesh. There are generally four shades that predominate:

  • Deep slate
  • Slate-grey
  • Deep blue
  • Bright cold blue - nicknamed Studd's Cold Blue. 
During this period bluish hues dominate, even in the slate and slate-grey. The brownish grey violets and grey violet shades which are the most common, come in the last period. The Studd's cold blue is very distinct and occurs only on a late printing made between 1887 and 1888. Therefore, for this period, I would allocate four spaces - one for each shade above. 

Printings Made After 1888

Here, the paper becomes exclusively a poorer quality vertical wove, with a tight vertical grain. Many, many subtle shade variations exist during this period, through all of them fall within three broad shade groups as follows:

  • Grey violet
  • Slate violet
  • Brownish grey violet
So here, I would say that three spaces should suffice, with maybe as many as nine spaces if you want to include a deep and pale version of each shade. 

So in all 22 spaces should cover all the basic varieties of this stamp. However, you could easily expand this tenfold if you really want to get into the Firth shade names. 

Hopefully, this post was somewhat helpful to those of you considering how to design your album pages for this issue. If nothing else, it hammers home how extensive a basic specialized collection of this set really is and how you can spend a lifetime completing it, especially if you are picky and only collect superbly centered VF stamps.