Marginal Markings of The 1911-1928 Admiral Issue


One aspect of the Admiral issue that has become of widespread interest to specialists concerns the marginal markings that appear on the stamp sheets. There are three general categories of markings that are to be found on the sheets that were printed:

  1. Plate inscriptions, which appear in the top centre margin of the sheets. 
  2. R-Gauge and pyramid guide lines which appear at the sides.
  3. Lathework patterns found in the bottom margin of several sheets. 
This post will look at these in more detail.

Plate Inscriptions

Early printing of the 2c showing the order number at left and the plate number at right.

Image result for admiral plate block

Late printing of the 10c showing the print order to the right of the inscription. 

Close to 200 different plates were used to print the low values and many plates were still used for the higher values. This creates the possibility of collecting either complete plate blocks of 8, or plate strips that show the full or partial inscription. Given the number of plates and shades to be found on each value there must be at least 1,000 different possible plate inscription pieces for the series. While there have been many very strong Admiral collections offered for sale at auction in recent years, I cannot recall any that came even close to completion in this area. Furthermore, this is an area for which the pool of available material is constantly decreasing, at least in the case of the well centered blocks, which are often broken up to supply collectors with very fine never-hinged singles. So it represents a huge challenge for the budding specialist. 

The appearance of the inscriptions changed during the life of the issue and tracking these differences could be a project in itself. The earliest wet printings had he order numbers to the left of the Ottawa inscription, and earlier order numbers struck out. The plate number was in fancy coloured numerals as well, similar to the Edward VII issue that preceded this issue. By the time the printing method had changed from wet to dry, the appearance of the inscriptions changed from "Ottawa No." to "L.B.C Ottawa No. A #". 

I do not know if it is possible to obtain a complete collection of all plate inscriptions, since no complete collections have been sold, but I would expect that with patience and determination, you should be able to locate at lest half of them - particularly if you are prepared to accept less than stellar centering, as most blocks and multiples are not well centered. 

R-Gauge Blocks


The R-gauge inscription is found in the upper side margins of certain values from the dry printings of the second colours. It is very scarce, and is always collected in blocks of four. It is usually found right below the arrow cutting guides. Unitrade lists this type of inscription for the following values:

  • 2c yellow green.
  • 3c carmine.
  • 3c carmine part perforate coil.
  • 3c carmine imperforate. 
  • 5c violet.
  • 10c blue.
  • $1 orange.
For some reason these multiples are difficult to find well centered, with the result that Unitrade only lists most of them in fine condition. The 3c carmine stamps are an exception, where all three versions are listed in very fine condition. The 2c and 3c carmine are both very affordable, but the others are all very expensive, costing between $500-$4,000 each. 

Pyramid Guide Blocks


Like the R-Gauge above, the pyramid guidelines are found in the centre right or centre left selvage of most of the values issued between 1922 and 1924, as well as the 3c brown. Their purpose was to mark the mid-point of the sheet. Consequently, very few of these markings have survived as the sheets have long since been broken up. Typically. they are collected in blocks of 4, though a vertical marginal pair will be sufficient to show the full marking. In addition to the sheet stamps, some of the booklet panes exist with these markings, as well as the later wet and dry printings of the first postage due issue. Unitrade lists the following values with these markings:

  • 1c orange yellow.
  • 1c orange yellow booklet pane of 4.
  • 2c yellow green.
  • 2c yellow green booklet pane of 4.
  • 3c dark brown.
  • 3c carmine.
  • 3c carmine imperforate. 
  • 4c olive bistre.
  • 5c violet. 
  • 5c violet on thin paper.
  • 10c blue
  • $1 orange
Unitrade does not state exactly when these markings appeared, nor do they specify whether the markings exist for wet printings only, dry printings only or both. This would make a small, but challenging and important study. The fact that it is generally only found on stamps that were not issued earlier than 1922, nor later than 1924 (i.e. none for the 7c red brown, 8c blue and 10c bistre-brown) suggests that these markings were in use for plates laid down between 1922 and 1924. In terms of value, the 1c, 2c and 3c sheet stamps are very affordable, being in the $150-$300 range, but the others are all very expensive, again selling for between $1,000 and $5,000 each. 


Lathework first appears in the bottom margins of most sheets printed late in 1916, right through to the end of the issue. The purpose of lathework was to allow the press operators to judge the quality of the printing at a glance, for the lathework pattern would be less clear if an insufficient amount of ink were applied to the plates. When it finally got to be too weak to see, it would signal to the press operator that it was time to re-engrave the plate, or otherwise re-enter the worn subjects on the plate. 

The lathework itself consists of an intricate, engine turned pattern. Collectors who studied this issue began to notice that there were several different types of lathework, as well as varieties of the lathework, such as doubled patterns and inverted patterns. Thus the interest in collecting the different types of lathework was born. Lathework is typically collected as a marginal single, showing the pattern, or a block of four where the bottom pair shows the lathework. 

Because of the nature of the pattern, there are different strengths known, with some types being almost unheard of in anything other than a very weak impression, while other types are almost always strong. Specialists have identified 10 different types of lathework:

  • Type A
  • Type B
  • Type B inverted
  • Type C
  • Type C inverted
  • Type D
  • Type D inverted
  • Type D1
  • Type D1 inverted
  • Type E special, which was discovered very recently. 
The rest of this post will look at examples of several of these types along with a synopsis of which values are found with each type.

Type A

Image result for admiral type A lathework

Notes on the Royal Philatelic Society's (RPSC) website indicate that this type was in use from January to March of 1917, though Unitrade notes that it first appeared late in 1916 on the War Tax stamps. It exists for only a small number of values as follows:

  • 10c plum.
  • 2+1c brown war tax.
  • 2c violet postage due. 
Although the war tax stamp is relatively common with this type, the 10c plum and the postage due are both very scarce.  There are curently no known inverted examples of this type. Occasionally this type can be found doubled in the area where two successive bands of lathework overlap, and it can also be found with plate numbers under the lathework. It is usually full or 80% strength, except in situations where there are plate numbers underneath the lathework, in which case it is usually 40%.

Type B and Type B Inverted

Image result for admiral type A lathework

The above image shows the regular type B lathework pattern. The upright pattern will show the curved white lines touching the inner top frame of the lathework band whereas the inverted pattern will show these lines touching the bottom frame of the pattern. Unfortunately, I was not able to find an example of the inverted type. According to notes on the RPSC's website, this type was in use from March 1917 to October 1920. Consequently it exists on most all of the early values and colours:

  • 1c green.
  • 2c carmine.
  • 3c brown.
  • 7c yellow ochre.
  • 10c plum.
  • 1c yellow part perforate coil, wet printing.
  • 1c yellow imperforate issue.
  • 2+1c brown war tax. 
The inverted type is only known on the 3c brown and the 2+1c brown war tax stamps. Like type A, this type can be found doubled. Usually, it is either full strength or 80% strength. The notable exception is on the imperforate issue, where it is usually only found weak with 40% strength. It's use on the part perforate coils and imperforate issues is somewhat of an anomaly, given that these issues did not appear until 1924, long after the regular use of this type had ceased. 

Type C and C-Inverted

Image result for admiral type A lathework

The above image is an example of type C. Again I do not have an example of the inverted pattern, but it can easily be identified by the curve of the circular lines within the pattern which point upwards in the inverted version rather than downwards as the example shown above. According to the RPSC, this type was only in use from March of 1920 to January of 1921. I do  not think this is correct, as several of the values that were not issued until 1922 appear with this type. So I believe that this type was used well into 1922. This is a fairly scarce type with only a handful of values in the series being found with it:

  • 1c green
  • 1c yellow
  • 2c carmine
  • 2c green
  • 3c brown
  • 10c plum
The inverted type is only known on the two 2c values and the 3c and is rare in every case. On the first colours, this is a rare type and is quite expensive ranging in value from $200-$1,250 for a fine hinged single. However, it is quite common on the 1c orange yellow and 2c green and is only worth between $60-$150 for a fine hinged single. This type is usually full strength to 80% strength when found. 

Type D and D Inverted

Image result for admiral type A lathework

The above scan shows an example of type D lathework. It is most easily recognizable by the curved dark peaks that touch the upper frame of the pattern on the normal and the bottom on the inverted pattern. This was the type that was in  use the longest, being in use from November 1920 to December 1924 according to notes on RPSC's website. However, based on the fact that it is not found on the early low values like the 1c green or 2c carmine, suggests to me that it was not in use until 1922. One distinguishing feature of this type compared to all the others is that there is no outer frameline above the pattern. This is easily the most common type, being found on most of the values in the series:

  • 1c yellow orange
  • 2c green
  • 2c green on thin paper
  • 3c brown
  • 3c carmine
  • 4c olive bistre
  • 5c violet
  • 5c violet on thin paper (inverted only)
  • 7c red brown
  • 10c blue
  • 10c bistre brown
  • 20c olive green
  • 50c brown black
  • $1 orange
  • 2c green part perforate coil wet printing
  • 3c carmine part perforte coil wet printing
  • 1c yellow orange imperforate issue
  • 3c carmine imperforate issue
  • 2c on 3c carmine one line surcharge
Inverted patterns are known on all values except for the 3c carmine, 7c red brown, 10c bistre brown, and the 20c-$1 values, as well as the imperforate issue and provisional surcharges. This is the type that covers the transition of printings from wet to dry, so many of the values can be found with this lathework in both wet and dry versions. Generally speaking where this is the case, the dry printings are the scarce ones, with wet being much more common. Most of the inverted patterns, although being worth a premium are not significantly more expensive than the normal type D. The strength of this lathework varies greatly with full strength being common on some stamps and others only haaving either trace strength, 20% or 40%. 

Type D1 and Type D1 Inverted

The above image shows type D1 lathework. It is similar to type D, except that there is an outer frameline bordering the main band of the pattern, which is absent on type D. Unfortunately I do not have a better image of this type, as it is so scarce. It is only listed on the 1c orange yellow as an upright pattern and on the 2c green as an inverted one. In both cases is is scarce to rare. It is not known in full strength, generally being somewhat weak, ranging from 40% to 80% strength. 

Type E

The above scan shows the only known example of type E lathework. It was discovered on a single used 3c brown stamp in the recent past, which does suggest that there may be other types, or that at very least this type may have existed on other values. 

In addition to being able to collect all the basic types of lathework, wet printings, dry printings, shades and so forth. Many of these types can be found precanceled. There is not to my knowledge any definitive source that lists all the different known types for each of the known precancels. Compiling this list could be a lifetime project in itself. Finally, once you have the Admirals, you can expand this to include the postage dues and all the federal revenue stamps that were printed during this period, which also utilized lathework. 

There is a website, DGL Philatelics, which gives an excellent summary of the known lathework types on the Admiral Issue, the postage dues, and finally all the federal revenues that are found with lathework. What is nice about this website is that it gives rarity factors for each type and stamp. You can access it via this link:

This concludes my discussion of these three challenging aspects to this popular issue. 


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