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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Case for Modern Stamps - Why Collecting Modern Material is NOT a Poor Choice

Anyone who is involved in this hobby for any significant length of time will no doubt have either encountered the perception that the only stamps worthy of serious study or collection are those issued before World War II, or they hold that belief themselves. However, it is my belief that while classic stamps are undoubtedly very appealing and beautiful, collectors who eschew modern material are limiting themselves quite significantly. Of course, if as a collector you simply do not like modern stamps, then there is no reason to collect them. However, I think that it always makes sense to periodically examine one's beliefs and fully understand what drives our perceptions and beliefs. The very process of doing this can result in those perceptions and beliefs changing and opening up new possibilities and opportunities for us in general. Doing this with our collecting can open up enjoyable avenues that before would have gone unconsidered.

Today's post has been inspired by observations I have made while spending a week organizing my modern Canadian stamps, getting ready to list them in my store, as well as my observation that daily readership has fallen since my topic posts have become more modern-centric. I am going to talk a little about my observations surrounding this widely held belief. Then I will discuss some of the many factors that I think drive this belief, many of which are themselves other widely held beliefs. Finally, I will make the case for why collecting modern Canada (i.e. those stamps issued after 1946) can be so enjoyable and rewarding to you as a philatelist.

This Attitude is Not New

The first thing to recognize is that this bias has always existed in organized philately, but the cut-off date keeps creeping forward with every passing decade. It is human nature to romanticize the past and collectors have done this for generations. If you look at literature from the 1950's you will notice that very little attention was paid to stamps issued in the 1890's and onward. Most of the interest at that time was limited to what we would now regard as the hardcore classics: the Pence Issues of Canada, Penny Blacks for Great Britain, the very first issues of the US up to the 1869 Pictorial Issue and so forth. Issues from the 1890's to about 1920 were collected, but not to any great depth. Most material issued after 1920 was treated back then in much the same way as modern post war material is treated today.

By the 1970's and 1980's the focus had shifted from the very earliest classics, which were now beyond the reach of most collectors to material issued between 1870 and about 1900. The early 20th century was just beginning to gain popularity, but not to anywhere near the extent that it is popular today. Material from 1900 to about 1940 was considered very collectible, but again not to any great depth: catalogues did not distinguish printings or shades beyond the most obvious varieties. And, once again material after 1945 was treated as mere postage.

This started to change again by the 1990's and 2000's. During this 20 year period, which is the period during which I came of age philatelically, material from before 1940 was considered worthy of specialist attention and for the first time modern definitive issues like the iconic Machin Heads of the UK began to receive really serious attention from a large body of collectors. Issues from the pre-1940 period in superb quality began to take off in popularity with the best material being offered at auctions where it realized astronomical prices relative to what it had been worth only a decade or two earlier. Issues like the 1938-1954 Prexies of the US, the 1909-1922 Washington Franklins of the US, the 1911-1928 Admiral Issue of Canada and the 1913-1937 Kangaroo and King George V issues of Australia are just a few examples of areas which always had a following of dedicated, forward-thinking philatelists, but whose following until very recently was extremely small in comparison to the following that material enjoys today.

The takeaway? All material is modern when it is first issued. There are no exceptions. The Small Queens and Large Queens were just ordinary postage stamps back in the 1890's. Packet material. There was nothing special about them. There are stories of collectors who in the 1930's were given bags containing hundreds of used 5c Beavers and Large Queens, who found them boring and traded them in for more colourful and exotic modern stamps, which today are worth much less than the stamps they traded in. So every issue has the potential to become a classic at some point in time. With the decline in issue quantities in recent years the potential for very modern issues to become scarce is actually quite excellent because they are getting overlooked.

There are several factors that have influenced philatelists over the years and have served to reinforce this belief that modern material is not worth collecting seriously:

1. There is a belief that modern stamps are too common and will never have any real value.
2. There is a belief that modern stamps are too contrived and philatelic unlike the classic stamps which are believed to have been issued only for valid postal use. Closely related to this is a belief that there are just too many stamps issued nowadays.
3. There is a belief that modern material is too mass produced unlike the old days when everything was done by hand and engraved.
4. Some collectors believe that there is little to interest a specialist unless you are collecting definitive stamps - that there just aren't the same kinds of varieties available in the modern period.
5. A very large majority of collectors believe that modern stamps are a bad investment.
6. There are many who would opine that modern stamps have little artistic appeal.

I'm going to spend some time now, discussing each of these in greater depth and offering a different perspective of my own.

Modern Stamps Are Too Common And Will Never Be Worth Anything

Value ultimately comes down to supply and demand as anyone with a basic understanding of economics knows. The supply of all stamps is fixed and finite at the time of issue, and only decreases over time, as stamps are mishandled, neglected and otherwise lost to philately. Of course, general handling and storage practices have improved greatly over the last 60 years, with the result that the amount of material that is lost to accidental destruction now is probably much less than it was 60 years ago. However, there was a greater number of amateur participants in the hobby 60 years ago and consequently there was a larger demand for the more common stamps than there is today. This means that much of the destruction of material that took place 60 years ago that was not the result of mail being thrown out was accidental. Of course, most non-collectors threw their envelopes from their mail out and didn't save their stamps at all, so the vast majority of used stamps 60 years ago did not survive. But, that element of destruction is probably greater today than it was back then as fewer people know stamp collectors than was the case 60 years ago and therefore fewer non-collectors are taking steps to preserve stamps for collectors that they know or charities that they support than they used to. The long term consequence of this is that many of the modern issues other than the most common first-class stamps are hard to find in nice used condition, particularly on cover. I have said this before, but if you want a truly impossible challenge, pick any country that interests you and try to find all the se-tenant issues and souvenir sheets properly used on in-period commercial covers. I can almost guarantee you that you will never be able to complete such a collection, or if you can, it will take a very, very long time to do.

That is the supply side of things. But what about demand? Demand is influenced by several factors. One is people's tastes in terms of what they consider to have historic or artistic merit and it is these two things that drive most collector interest. People either think the stamps are beautiful, or they are fascinated by the history that the stamps evoke. One reason why very modern stamps tend to be in less demand when first issued is that they do not yet evoke any sense of historic interest because they are too new. Thus it is almost a certainty that this element of demand will develop as time elapses. The stamps of the 1960's can seem like "just yesterday" to a collector in their 80's who remembers when they were on sale at the post office. But those same stamps are very old to someone born in 1980 for example. Aesthetic tastes also change over time and we have a strong tendency to romanticize that which is old. The most recent example I can think of is the 1950's and 1960's modern minimalist aesthetic. I can remember in the early 1980's when buildings were being renovated to rip out all the teak panels , wall to wall carpeting, terrazzo flooring, chrome railings and other elements of design from this period. Today, with TV shows like Mad Men glorifying the era and vintage shops, you regularly see items from this period selling for hundreds and thousands of dollars - stuff that was junk a decade or two before. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine a time 20 years from now when the entire concept of anything printed is considered quaint and of interest to people who have spent their entire lives online and in a digital world.

Another driver of demand is fascination with the technical complexity of the stamps. There will always be a small minority of collectors that like the challenge of collecting that which is complex and trying to form a complete collection consisting of one of each possible variety. We have seen this type of demand serve as the driving force behind the increasing  prices being paid for specialized paper, perforation varieties, shade varieties and cancellations on issues which until relatively recently were fairly inexpensive and plentiful. What happened was that a core group of collectors studied these issues and quickly discovered that there was more to them than met the eye. Then they began to pursue the varieties and found over time that while many of them were readily available, there was always that 10-20% of the existing varieties that were highly elusive. That scarcity only served to heighten their interest in the issue at hand because it represented a challenge. It also helped attract other collectors who may not have paid much attention to this material before.

The takeaway here is that every period will always have a very large number of stamps whose value in real economic terms is no greater today, or not much greater than when first issued. Sure, many stamps that could be bought for 5 cents each in 1970 or 1980 are 50 cents or $1 today. But $1 today does not buy very much more than 5 cents bought in 1970, so the relative value of many stamps has not changed that much. But for every period in philately, there are elusive varieties that are valuable and whose value has risen steadily over the years. The modern period is no exception to this, with many rarities and scarcer items that are definitely worth more in real terms than when they were issued. A second takeaway is that the demand for any given issue will tend to increase over time as its historical appeal increases and as people begin to perceive it as having artistic merit relative to the current prevailing design aesthetic within the larger society. So it is not really correct to say that modern stamps will never be worth anything. It may be correct to say that many stamps in general are too common to ever be worth very much, and that this applies to classic and modern stamps, but my experience has shown me that being modern does not automatically doom a stamp to being worthless forever.

That being said, the fact that the majority of the material available is common and not worth much financially, is not in and of itself a bad thing. For one thing, it is important when you are trying to determine your interest level in a particular philatelic field to have a ready supply of relatively inexpensive material available. That way, if it turns out that you aren't really all that interested, you can switch to something else before you have sunk too much money in. The other thing is that a hobby should be something you can pursue without having to stretch yourself too much financially. While it is important to have some rare and expensive items to offer a challenge and sense of accomplishment, it is no good if most of the stamps in your area of interest are beyond your means. That will only lead to immense frustration down the line when you run out of affordable material and cannot add to your collection. As a professional philatelist, I have encountered this a lot and would say that it is one of the leading reasons why a collector who is not giving up the hobby winds up selling their collection.

A good rule of thumb that I like to use to gauge how affordable an area that piques my interest is what I call the "pack of smokes" or the "case of beer" rule. Most people of modest means could find a way to afford a regular pack of cigarettes or a case of beer when these things were widely consumed. Today the habits are different, but the principle is the same. Maybe today, it is the "Starbucks Rule". In any event the idea here is that if you can buy a stamp and the financial impact feels similar to what you would experience if you bought a pack of smokes, a case of beer or a regular drink at Starbucks, then you are likely collecting within your means. If you are regularly stretching yourself financially for your acquisitions, going into debt and the like, then you are probably not collecting within your means and will eventually become frustrated by your inability to afford to advance your collection. One of the nice things about modern material is that most of it fits very nicely within this rule. If you are a collector who only likes to collect visually different stamps and are not interested in pursuing specialized varieties, then modern material is one of the few areas that offers so much affordable scope. It is very difficult to achieve that with early material unless you either cast your collecting net very wide, compromise on condition or both. But with modern material, you do not have to do either. You can choose to collect one country, or a small group of countries and potentially never run out of affordable material to collect.

Modern Material is Too Contrived and Philatelic

Another common objection to modern material is that it is completely contrived and produced only to be sold to collectors and not for true postal purposes. It is this belief in particular that has hurt the market for First Day Covers and has caused the collecting of First Day Covers to fall very much out of favour in recent years. Many traditional collectors who grew up at a time when only a few issues were released each year point to the proliferation of new issues as a blight on the hobby.

However, what many do not realize is that many classic rarities were also contrived as well. The provisional surcharges of the Niger Coast Protectorate, issued between 1893 and 1894 and worth thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars today were completely philatelic, being produced in such a manner as to create artificial scarcity. The special reprints of the classic US stamps made between 1875 and 1880 that are also worth tens of thousands each were philatelic also and had no particular postal reason to exist. Nearly all British Colonial stamps with a value over 1 shilling or 1 rupee or its equivalent were issued only for fiscal use and were never intended to be used in the postal system. Finally, there were those issues that are worth a lot of money today, but which had no postal reason whatsoever to exist and were only produced largely in anticipation of the revenue that could be raised from collectors. Some iconic, well known examples are:

  • The 1893 Columbian Issue of the US, and the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Issue.
  • The 1897 Diamond Jubilee issue of Canada.
  • The 1929 PUC pound of Great Britain.
  • The 1948 Royal Silver Wedding high values.
All the above were philatelic. At the time these issues came out, their philatelic nature had a very negative impact on collector demand for them. The Columbians, Trans Mississippis and Diamond Jubilees could still be bought for little more than face value as recently as the late 1930's. When the 1948 Silver Wedding Omnibus Issue was released by the Crown Agents in the UK there was an outcry and boycott of the issue due to the perception of collectors that the post office was exploiting collectors. Considerable pressure was exerted in the UK to have the Crown Agents surcharge the high values down to low values so that more collectors could afford them. However, such efforts did not succeed, and today all the above issues are highly prized and are some of the most sought-after stamps in the world. All of them are iconic and almost instantly recognizable to collectors who do not even collect the countries which they hail from. 

Am I suggesting that most philatelic items are going to eventually be this highly sought after? No, of course I'm not. But the point that I am trying to make is that the fact that a particular stamp, cover or souvenir sheet is of philatelic origin does not automatically relegate it to the philatelic scrap heap forever. Eventually, with the passage of time those items that possess historic, artistic or technical merit, or are otherwise scarce will be in demand. 

Modern Material is Mass Produced, Not Like The Good Old Days When Everything Was Engraved

Another commonly held sentiment among those that eschew modern stamps is the idea that the classic stamps were produced "by hand" and that modern stamps are mass produced by computerized printing machines. It is true that some issues were indeed printed with a very large degree of manual labour. One example that comes to mind are the early line-engraved imperforate Perkins Bacon classic stamps of the British Empire. Perkins Bacon printed using mechanical presses, but the laying down of the printing plates was done by hand and it is the in-exactitude of the platemakers who worked for Perkins Bacon at the time that has made superb examples of these stamps so rare today. It is also true that stamp designs up to the mid 20th century were generally engraved by a master engraver working from a sketch prepared by the stamp's designer. The engraver was using the best technology available at the time to translate the artist's sketch into a workable copy that could be reproduced en-masse. We are very much kidding ourselves to think that Perkins Bacon, De La Rue, Waterlow, Bradbury Wilkinson, Canadian Bank Note Company or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing were not mass producing stamps in the 19th century - they absolutely were. They used the cheapest and most efficient technology available at the time, which was either engraving, lithography, typography or embossing. If modern photogravure printing existed back then you could be sure they would have used it.

As it stands now, all stamps are still designed by an individual. That individual is still calling upon their creative talents to conceive of their design. So in a sense, the milieu of current stamp designs after 1945 represents a world wide pool of creative artistic talent from around the globe and across the generations and cultures. This is another way to look at modern stamp design, whereas the classic stamps were designed by a relatively small number of career men who worked all their lives for the above mentioned firms who prepared the stamps in question. To study classic 19th century stamps of most countries in detail is to appreciate the artistic work of one, two, or maybe three men at most. To study the modern stamps of most countries is to appreciate the artistic work of many individuals from a variety of different cultures, generations and genders. The only aspect to stamp production today that is faster and simpler than 100 years ago is the step of taking the artist's design and producing the stamp. But in my opinion, this is just a technical step.

However, the main takeaway here is that all stamps are mass produced, even the Penny Black, the world's most famous stamp that was issued in May 1840.

There Just Isn't Much to Interest A Specialist Unless You Collect Definitives

Another widely held perception among those that dislike modern philately is the belief that there is little to interest a specialist since most stamps issued since 1945 are commemoratives and since they are typically issued over such a short time, there wouldn't be any significant collectible varieties worth pursuing. Nothing could be further from the truth. The postal administrations of the world since 1945 have faced different challenges from the postal administrations of the 19th century, with the main challenge being to devise a more efficient way to process the growing volume of mail in a way that would not expose them to loss of revenue from fraudulent re-use of stamps. Handling the growing volume of mail in a timely manner meant that mechanization of the mail sorting and cancelling processes was necessary and that this, in turn required new technology, which, in order to work properly required stamps to be re-engineered to exacting specifications. As postal administrations experimented with different ways to do this, they also had to adapt to issues they encountered with the papers and inks used, as well as the ability of the printed product to properly absorb the cancellation ink.

All of this meant that postal administrations throughout the 1950's through the 1970's experimented heavily with tagging, printing inks and papers. Most of this experimentation would have straddled the commemorative issues that were in use at the time that new papers or inks were tested. The result is that there are several commemorative issues where you can find differences in tagging, paper and ink. Some administrations introduced new perforating machines as well, whose gauge differed from previous machines. The differences are of course much smaller than with 19th century material, but they are incredibly exact and consistent over a very large number of stamps. So it is possible, if you know what to look for, and are patient to find collectible varieties on most commemorative issues.

Modern Material is a Bad Investment

This belief is closely related to the first argument about the stamps being too common to ever be worth anything. However, it has been fueled by the fact that for a time in the 1970's there were a number of outfits that promoted "investment portfolios" consisting of quantities of modern mint never hinged stamps, and that much of this material was overvalued due to speculation and collapsed in the period from 1981-1982 when short term interest rates went into the double digits. However, this didn't happen because the material was modern. It happened for the same reasons as any other market crash. One of these reasons is that the investors knew nothing about stamps.

Any investment is a bad investment if the price paid is too high relative to the expected increase in value. Of course the projected value increase for any particular investment depends on what your holding period is going to be. A stamp that is a superb long term investment, may be a very poor short term investment and vice versa. One of the surest ways I can think of to go broke is to amass a large collection of 4-margin Penny Blacks buying them all at full retail prices and then attempting to sell them at auction within 5 years. Why? Because Penny Blacks are not rare, they are just expensive. So if you buy a bunch of them for top dollar and attempt to turn them over in the short run for a profit, that is an extremely risky investment. On the other hand forming a collection of modern mint singles that includes one example of each of the elusive and scarce printing varieties that you form over a 20 year period and then selling that at auction is probably not risky at all. Even though most of the stamps in the collection will not be worth what you paid, the 10-20% of your material that is scarce will probably be worth, far, far more than you paid. If you look at the price of many of the better perforation varieties in the 1988-2000 period for Canada, they are much, much higher today than they were just a few years ago. So it is not necessarily the case at all that modern stamps are a poor investment. Any stamps from any period and any country can be a poor investment if you pay too much for them and do not hold them long enough, or if you only buy the most common stamps.

As with any investment, knowledge of scarcity, and acquisition of quality is key. Neither has anything to do with age. Going back to the Penny Black example, that same collection could be an excellent long term investment if you were to study the plating of the stamps and the cancellations and the stamps you acquired were all better cancellations or undiscovered plate varieties. In that case, even if you paid top dollar today as basic Penny Blacks you might find that the scarce plate varieties or cancellations increased significantly in value over the time held. It all depends on how you approach the collection and what your timeline is for forming, holding and selling your collection.

Modern Material Has No Artistic Appeal

Many collectors simply do not like the appearance of multi-colour modern stamps and find that they have no artistic appeal from a collector's point of view. I believe that part of this perception stems from the incredible diversity that exists in today's stamp designs. There are so many different styles that it is very unlikely that you are going to love every single one of them as a collector. With the classic stamps, they were all designed by a relatively small number of individuals. Consequently, the style will generally be the same, so that if you like the stamps of a particular classic issue, there is a very good chance that you would like all, or most of the stamps of that country, since the styles are so similar. It follows with modern stamps that there will be a large number of stamps that do not appeal to you. However, there will be some that you will find just as beautiful as the classic stamps. There is certainly no rule written in stone that says you have to include every stamp issued in your collection. You could simply decide to focus on collecting the stamps that speak to you and appeal to your artistic tastes.

The Case For Collecting Modern Canada From 1947 to Date

So what I have tried to show up to this point is that most of the reasons that collectors give for not collecting modern stamps are not really completely valid when you scratch beneath the surface. It is entirely possible to form a very rewarding, fun and impressive collection of modern stamps.  If you are only interested in engraved stamps the stamps from 1947 until 1968, offer an uninterrupted run of engraved stamps, with the exception of just two stamps: the 1965 Churchill Memorial issue and the 1967 Votes for Women issue. After 1968, there are many fewer engraved stamps and several that combine engraving with either photogravure or lithography. However, the Centennial issue of 1967-1973 is a fantastic series of beautifully engraved stamps that are among the finest in the world from this period. If you like colourful stamps, then the best period is probably after 1971 when multi-colour printing became the norm.

Modern Canada can be divided into several different periods, each of which is defined by either some predominant technological innovation, or aspect of production that distinguishes it from the others. Each one has something different to offer in terms of complexity for specialization, potential for rare items, artistic merit and the like. No matter what your predilections are, I am fairly certain that you would find plenty of appeal in specializing in one of more of the six periods below

The Karsh and Wilding  Period - 1947 to 1962

The first period of the modern era gets its name from Yousuf Karsh and Dorothy Wilding, who took the royal portraits of King George VI and then Queen Elizabeth II that adorned the stamps issued during this period. The design aesthetic during this period is the early modern design of the late 1940's and early 1950's with very clean lines and uncluttered designs. Lettering and frames are very simple, with no ornate corner ornaments and extra elements. Many collectors find these stamps plain, but there are also collectors who appreciate the fine engraving work that they represent.

This is the period before electronic mail sorting was introduced, so the appearance of tagging and other forms of luminescence is confined to the very tail end of the period in 1962. However, some experimentation was done with paper fluorescence during this period, though it is very limited. Other paper changes were made throughout the period with papers having different textures being used, and there were also experiments with different inks as well. Finally, there were two perforation changes, which although small, were consistent and can add an interesting layer of complexity to those so inclined.

This is a good period in which to specialize if you want to focus mostly on postal history and cancellations without being distracted too much by shade and paper varieties, since these varieties are kept to a minimum during this period. There were a lot of historic world events that took place during this period as these are the early years of the cold war. Not only that, but the Canadian political history saw some important changes during these years whose stories can be told through the stamps and postal history.

This is also a good period for those interested in stamp booklets, as the complex dotted covers were still in use and there are many, many different types of booklet covers that can be collected for the definitive issues. Also the large cellophane packs of 25 or 50 stamps that sold for $1 were introduced during this period and continued into the next period. Finally, this period encompasses almost the entire life span of the overprinted official stamps that were in use from 1949 until 1963. So this represents another aspect of Canadian philately that can be studied to completion and that fits within this period.

Most all of the material issued during this period is very affordable. There are some pricier paper varieties, but by and large there are very few expensive items. One notable exception is the very rare St. Lawrence Seaway invert from 1959 which is worth between $6,000 and $10,000 depending on condition.

The Cameo Period - 1962 to 1967

This period which covers the middle half of the 1960's gets its name from the very simple design of the Queen on the definitive stamps. Most of the stamps during this period are nicely engraved stamps whose designs are a little more substantial than the stamps of the prior period. There is a beautiful provincial flowers issue that was released between 1964 and 1966, and many other very attractive stamps that are printed in rich colours.

It is during this period that Winnipeg Tagging to aid in the use of automatic cancelling machines becomes fully established, and the experimentation that took place to ensure the right chemical makeup of the taggant, the right intensity of tagging, placement and paper can keep a specialist occupied for years and years. of all the varieties that can be found on stamps, it is in the tagging that most of the complexity of this period lies. For the shade collector, there are some shades, but not a huge number. This is a good period for the flyspeck hunter, as constant plate flaws start to appear more regularly in this period, though the later periods have many more items in that regard than this one does. However, it is a fantastic period for those who want to focus on engraved stamps and who want to focus on postal history. If you like paper fluorescence varieties, there are several to collect in this period, though they are not overwhelming.

It is not a great period for booklet collecting, as the range of booklet varieties is somewhat limited. If booklets are your thing then either the Centennial period, the Bankruptcy Period of the Millennial Period is where you want to focus your attention.

There are very few major rarities from this period, though there re about 5 or six items that will cost more than $3,000 to buy if you can find them. However, all the other material is very affordable.

The Centennial Period - 1967-1972

I named this period after the definitive issue that has come to define it: the Centennial Issue, which was in use from 1967 to 1972. This period saw the most experimentation in stamp production than any of the others bar none. During this period we see:

  • The introduction of integral booklets, i.e. those whose pane is glued to the booklet cover rather than being stapled, which allows the booklet to be opened out and displayed without dismantling it. 
  • The introduction of multi-colour photogravure printing, the hybrid of engraving and photogravure printing and colour lithography.
  • The switch from dextrose, cellulose based gum to polyvinyl alcohol gum and some hybrid forms of gum that were very short lived. 
  • The switch from line perforating to comb perforating. 
  • The introduction of general Ottawa tagging to replace the less effective Winnipeg tagging.
  • Massive experimentation with different papers.
The experimentation during this period has resulted in one of the most highly collected and specialized definitive sets in the world. Much of the experimentation extended to the commemorative issues as well, so there is lots and lots of scope for the specialist. There are fewer engraved stamps during this period, but lots and lots of very attractive early multicolour stamps. 

This is a fantastic period for postal history due to the fact that there were several rate changes during this period, with four major ones:

  • Increase in the domestic forwarded rate from 5c to 6c in 1968.
  • A further 1c increase to 7c in 1971,
  • A further 1c increase of 8c in 1972, and finally,
  • The introduction of a flat 15c all-up airmail rate which replaced the tiered rates in effect before. 

This period again is very affordable with only a few rarities in the centennial issue, and most of these are highly specialized paper varieties that you could leave out if you weren't interested in getting that deep. The basic issues themselves are all completely affordable with nothing costing more than $50 or so.

The Ashton Potter Period - 1972 to 1983

This is one of my favourite periods out of all the periods in the modern era. I used to think there was very little to it, but after many years of working with these stamps it turns out that this period is almost as complex as the Centennial period, with many, many varieties of paper, that have only just begun to be listed in Unitrade over the last 10 years or so. I have named this period after the firm Ashton Potter, which became the primary printer of Canadian multi-colour lithographed stamps.

This is the period in which very modern design takes over and the 70's vibe really takes hold.

It is during this period that general Ottawa tagging completely replaces Winnipeg tagging and experiments are done with the width and depth of the tagging bars. There are experiments done not only with the fluorescence of the paper, but also the thickness and texture of the paper surface, with various ribbed and smooth papers existing on many issues. Almost none of these varieties were listed anywhere 10 years ago, but the scarcity of several of them has become apparent over the years, and it is doubtful whether all of them have been discovered yet. Also every single stamp issued during this period exists without tagging, which is an error, and in every case these stamps are typically in the $75 to $100 range. This period starts with Scott #559 and ends with #975, so there are over 400 such varieties that could be sought out, all of which are scarce to rare.

There are several errors that exist during this period that are worth several thousand dollars each, but none of the basic issues are particularly expensive.

It is a challenging period for postal history due to the large number of se-tenant issues. Although there are only two major rate increases during the period, there are a lot of se-tenant pairs and blocks that you can seek out on cover that will be very, very difficult to find. It is ideal for the postal historian who wants to focus on destinations and usages rather than rates, as the rate increases during this time were minimal.

The Bankruptcy Period - 1983 to 1995

I give this period its name due to the fact that the primary supplier of paper which Canada Post had come to rely on, Abitibi Price, went bankrupt. This forced Ashton Potter to look for different paper suppliers and it is during this period that we begin to see the appearance of Clark, Harrison, Slater, Peterborough and Coated Papers papers. Toward the end of the period, Ashton Potter itself also went bankrupt and was re-named Ashton Potter Corporation. However, there was a brief period during which the printing of Canada's stamps had to be contracted out to an Australian firm, Leigh Mardon. It is possible, with a great deal of skill and patience to distinguish between the work of the two printing firms. The Canadian Bank Note Company also got involved in printing some of the definitive issues during this period as well.

This period is important because we begin to see the use of different papers with different supplier names being used on specific issues. Of course this always raises the possibility that some issues will exist on more than one paper, with one being common and the other one being very rare. Only a few such instances have been discovered so far, but I am certain that other instances have occurred and have simply not been discovered yet. The same goes for perforation differences. There were several unannounced perforation changes during this period, many of which have turned out to be extremely elusive and once again, I am sure that many more are waiting to be discovered by a collector with  keen eye.

Tagging starts to appear on all four sides of stamps during this period and fluorescence of paper becomes a lot less varied with most stamps being on non-fluorescent paper. However most of these issues can be found with additional, unlisted tagging varieties.

Some really beautiful stamps were issued during this period, such as the Art Canada series, which appears in 1988 and ran until the early 2000's in the following period. It is during this period that we begin to see many more novel designs that were not featured before. Booklet production exploded during this period with many commemorative issues that were only issued in booklet form and we also begin to see many, many more se-tenants and souvenir sheets.

Unlike the previous period, this period is very challenging in terms of the postal history as there were rate increases almost every year, and the large number of booklet panes, souvenir sheets and se-tenant blocks or pairs means that in addition to seeking out rates, a postal historian can also focus on scarce usages of the booklet panes, se-tenants and souvenir sheets.

The first self-adhesive stamps appear in 1988, but they do not become regular issues until 1995. The first hologram stamp makes its appearance in 1992.

The Millennial Period from 1995 to Date

During this period the self-adhesive stamp replaces the gummed sheet stamp as the primary form in which stamps are issued. There are several multi-year commemorative series during this period that were issued in both booklet form and as souvenir sheets. The coolness factor of the designs goes up astronomically with some truly unique subject matter, as well as some interesting shapes for stamps, such as triangles, ovals and irregular shapes. The first lenticular stamps printed on plastic appear during this period, as does the first stamp of the Canadian flag printed on fabric.

Permanent stamps, whose value is basically whatever the first class postage rate in effect at the time of use is, make their appearance during this period and replace the denominated stamps as the predominant domestic stamps in use.

Picture postage also makes its appearance during this period. Picture postage were basically blank stamp frames that you could attach a personalized photo to to create a never ending number of personalized stamps - a very novel concept.

By now the paper type in use has become Tullis Russell Coatings paper for most all issues, with very little if any fluorescence, very few tagging and perforation varieties that we know of. However, it is very unlikely that much of what actually exists has even been discovered yet. So I think this period is ripe with possibilities.

Postal history continues to be extremely challenging for this period, as there are so many souvenir sheets, booklets and se-tenants, combined with the annual rate increases, that finding proper commercial usages is very difficult, as so little mail from this period has been preserved because of how new it is. Most souvenir sheets during this period are issued in relatively small quantities too - 200,000 to 300,000 of each, which in the grand scheme of philately is nothing. So these are going to be very highly prized items 50 years from now I think.

Finally, there are many issues during this period that were issued in a form that could only be bought through special promotions, the quarterly packs and souvenir collections. Many of these were printed in much smaller quantities than you would expect, and are going to be expensive in the future.

This brings me to the end of my discussion about the merits of collecting modern Canadian stamps. Hopefully it has given you some food for thought and a reason to seriously consider this period of Canadian philately. Next week I will resume my regular posts with my final post about the 1962-1967 Cameo Issue.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Cameo Issue of 1962-1967 Part Two

Today's post continues my discussion of the Cameo issue, and will explore the following aspects of this issue:

  1. Plate blocks.
  2. Booklet panes and complete booklets.
  3. Cello paqs and miniature panes.
  4. Coil stamps.
  5. Official stamps.
Plate Blocks

Inscription Blocks

This is the first issue printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company in many years for which no order numbers appear on any block, nor do any position dots appear on any of the plate blocks that I have seen. However, I have come across blank blocks of the 5c that occasionally show a position dot in the lower selvage. I haven't seen any, but it is possible that some of the blocks may exist with re-entries in the inscriptions themselves. As for the layout and placement of the inscriptions themselves, the inscriptions consist of "Canadian Bank Note Co. Limited" and "Ottawa No. 1" in two lines of text that are centered with respect to one another. On the 1c through 5c, the inscriptions appear in the bottom or top selvage tabs, while on the 7c through $1 values, the inscriptions are located in the side margins. 

There are not a huge number of plates for this issue, so that a basic collection of plate blocks can be put together fairly quickly. However, adding perforation, paper, gum and shade varieties into the mix can increase the scope of a collection quite significantly. The following is a list of the plate numbers and total number of blocks known for each value:

  • 1c brown - plates 1-3 - 12 blocks.
  • 2c green - plates 1-4 - 16 blocks. 
  • 3c purple - plates 1-3 - 12 blocks.
  • 4c scarlet - plates 1-5 - 20 blocks.
  • 5c violet blue - plates 1-3 - 12 blocks.
  • 7c jet plane - plate 1 - 4 blocks.
  • 8c jet plate - plate 1 - 4 blocks
  • 15c violet blue - plates 1-2 - 8 blocks.
  • $1 carmine rose - plate 1 - 4 blocks.
So a basic set of plate blocks of this issue consists of just 92 blocks.

Blank Corner Blocks

Although not technically plate blocks, many collectors are interested in the blank corner blocks, because this is they only way that the Winnipeg tagged stamps can be collected in corner blocks, since the post office trimmed all inscriptions off the tagged sheets. The 8c on 7c jet plane definitive is also known only in blank corner blocks, so that these have become quite collectible in place of plate blocks. 

One thing that Unitrade does not distinguish, that I feel is just as collectible, is the position in the sheets that these blocks come from. As I stated in the overview article about this issue, these stamps were printed in sheets of 600 stamps that were arranged in six panes of 100 stamps each. This means that the outer selvage of all six panes would be wide, but the lower selvage of the top three sheets, and the side selvage of the two middle panes would all be narrow. Thus, it is possible to distinguish a corner block that has come from an outside pane from one that has come from an inside pane, by looking carefully at the widths of the selvage on each side of the block in question.

The following scans will illustrate what I mean:

This is an example of a block that comes from the corner of the lower right pane in the layout of six sheets. This can be determined from the fact that the selvage on the right is the normal width for blocks of this issue, while the bottom selvage, where the inscription would normally have appeared, has been trimmed. 

This block comes from the top centre pane in the layout of six panes. I can tell that this is the case because the selvage on both sides is narrow because the panes were guillotined apart, and the right selvage will therefore be narrower than the selvage on a block that comes from one of the outer panes. 

Finally, this block comes from upper centre pane in the layout of six panes. Again, I know that this is the case because the selvage on the bottom is narrower than the normal trimmed bottom selvage from the lower panes. It is the same width as the side selvage, which suggests that it comes from where the panes were guillotined apart. 

Thus, an advanced collection of these blank blocks, including all the tagging varieties listed in Unitrade, would consist of:

  • 1c brown - 3 varieties x 4 blocks x 3 selvage widths = 36 blocks.
  • 2c green - 2 varieties x 4 blocks x 3 selvage widths = 24 blocks.
  • 3c purple - 7 varieties x 4 blocks x 3 selvage widths = 84 blocks.
  • 4c scarlet - 9 varieties x 4 blocks x 3 selvage widths = 108 blocks.
  • 5c violet blue - 2 varieties x 4 blocks x 3 selvage widths = 24 blocks. 
  • 8c on 7c jet plane - 4 blocks.
So, assuming that there are no unlisted varieties of tagging bar widths, which we already know isn't true and spacing varieties between tagging bars, a basic collection of these blocks consists of 280 blocks - over three times the number of inscription blocks!

Booklet Panes and Complete Booklets

For this issue, there were two basic booklet formats issued, both of which sold for 25c, and for which there was no premium over the face value of the stamps inside the booklet. One booklet, shown in red above contained a pane of 5 1c stamps and a pane of 5 4c stamps. The local letter rate (within city limits) at this time was 4c, while the forwarded letter rate (to all other destinations in Canada) was 5c. So a user of this booklet could send either local, or forwarded letters.  A second booklet, which had a blue cover, contained 1 pane of 5 5c stamps, and would be bought by someone only intending to send forwarded letters.As we shall see, there are several varieties of covers, though not nearly as many as had existed in the dotted cover die period, which ended in 1956. In addition to the cover varieties, it is possible to find booklets in which cutting guide marks appear on one or more panes, one or more covers, or both. Finally, the panes can also be found on a paper which give a low fluorescent bluish white reaction under long wave ultraviolet light, with a sparse concentration of low fluorescent fibres visible in the paper as well as the normal dull fluorescent paper. 

Pane Layouts

All three panes found in these booklets, being the 1c, 4c and 5c appeared as shown in the scan above, with a label in place of what would have been the first stamp in the pane, and 5 stamps arranged in a 3 x 2 format. The label always reads: "Avoid loss use postal money orders" in English and French. 

Front Cover Designs

Outside Covers

The first booklets of this issue used the above design, which was a continuation of the design that was used for the last booklets of the previous Wilding issue. The width of the entire design was ordinarily 62 mm. However, a later printing was made in which the design width was 65 mm. This difference can easily be seen in the following scan showing both types of the 5c cover:

The booklet on the top is the normal 62 mm and the bottom one is the scarcer 65 mm design. There was no 65 mm design reported as yet for the 4c+1c booklet, though it is entirely possible that one may exist. Toward the end of the life of this issue, in preparation for Canada's centennial year, the cover design of the 5c booklets was changed to feature the centennial emblem on a lighter blue background, as shown below:

Once again, although this design is known in red and white on the centennial issue 1c+4c booklets, it is not currently known for the 1c+4c booklets of this issue. 

Inside Covers

The scan above shows one example of the basic design that was used for the inside front covers of the original design. This one is the latest of three types, on which the words "Give stamps to shut-ins" appears just below the postage rates. The second type is identical to the above, except that the phrase "Give stamps to shut-ins" does not appear. Finally, the first type is identical to the second, but is rubber stamped "local letters" in violet. an error type also exists in which the rubber stamp is missing, so that there is no word "local" on the cover. This error is so far only known on the 5c blue booklets. All three of the types are known on both booklets. 

When the 5c blue booklets were changed to the centennial cover design, the design of the inside cover was changed as well:

Back Cover Designs


The above scan shows the design of the outside back cover that was used for the original, non-centennial booklets. The centennial cover 5c booklets had a different back cover design as follows:


The above scan shows the inside of the back cover that was used for all booklets using the original cover design. No varieties have been recorded so far with respect to this design. However, there may be varieties out there that have simply not been discovered yet. 

This scan shows the inside design used for the back cover of the "centennial" design 5c booklets. Again, there are no recorded varieties of these design, but that does not necessarily mean that none exist. I would always check your booklets and look carefully at the dimensions of the design, spacing between lines and words of text and then finally the text font itself. 

Cello Paqs and Miniature Panes

The cello-paqs that were first introduced on the Wilding issue in 1961 were continued into this issue as well. There were three formats of cellophane packs that were available to the public, all of which sold for $1:

  • A green and white pack that contained 2 panes of 25 of the 2c green.
  • A red and white pack that contained 1 pane of 25 of the 4c scarlet.
  •  A blue and white or red and white pack that contained 1 pane of the 5c violet blue in either the untagged, or Winnipeg tagged format. 

Text Types

The basic design of the packs was as shown below:

Two text panels appear across the centre that read "For Pocket or Purse" in bilingual text, and will say either 50 x 2c = $1.00, 25 x 4c = $1.00 or 20 x 5c = $1.00. At the top of the pack, the bilingual repeating inscription "Tear Here" appears, and at the bottom of the pack, appears the repeating inscription "Postes Canada Postage" The lettering is on a white ground and is generally in the colour of the stamp, although as I stated earlier, the 5c packs are known with red instead of blue lettering. In 1967 the packs had the centennial emblems repeating across the front centre instead of the text panels containing the bilingual "For Pocket or Purse" inscription. 

The lettering and design of the cellophane packages is an aspect of this issue that I do not believe has received any attention at all philatelically. I am not sure why this is because if you look closely at the packs there are clear differences between them, which I feel are fully collectible. The above pack for example has a prominent white dash at the top edge of the cellophane and the lettering of the inscriptions is thick. Contrast that to the pack shown below, which has no white dash, and for which the lettering appears noticeably thinner:

I do not know how many different varieties could potentially exist on these, but I'm sure that there are probably at least 5 or 6 types. Studying them carefully to identify differences in the size and font of lettering, the size of the text boxes and the spacing between them could prove to be a very rewarding exercise. 

Aniline Ink Variety on 5c Pane

As I stated in last week's post, the 5c blue is known printed in an aniline ink, which is very obvious when the stamps, or panes of stamps are viewed from the back. The aniline ink shows very clearly through the back of the stamps, as opposed to just being visible. The pane on the left is the aniline ink, whereas the pane shown on the right is the normal, non-aniline ink. 

Coil Stamps

This was the first issue since the 1911-1928 Admiral issue to have coil stamps that were perforated horizontally. The coil stamps for this issue consisted of the 2c, 3c, 4c and 5c issued in rolls of 500 that were perforated 9.5 horizontally. For some unknown reason, the centering of these coils was particularly poor, with the result that well centered pair and strips are particularly difficult to find. Like the previous CBN coil issues, they can be collected in a variety of ways as discussed below:

Repair Paste-Up Pairs and Strips

The above scan shows the front and back of a repair paste-up strip. These can be found on all four values of the series, and it may be possible to find strips that contain one of more of the additional varieties identified here.

Jump Strips and Pairs

All four values can be collected showing jumps in the horizontal direction. The jumps can be quite subtle and easy to miss if you are not looking for them. The easiest way to spot them is to look for either pairs or strips in which the width of the margin on one side is not exactly the same along its entire length. 

Cutting Guideline Strips

The coils were produced in large sheets which were guillotined into strips. Cutting guidelines appeared along each column to assist in the placement of the guillotine. On very poorly centered strips, it is often possible to find the cutting guidelines in the margins - usually the right margin. These are highly collectible and sought after by specialists. 

Spacing Varieties

The normal spacing in the vertical direction between the subjects in the roll, is just over 4 mm - probably close to 4.125 mm. Strips and pairs can be found in which the spacing between two ore more stamps is either wider or narrower than the normal spacing. 

Official Stamps

This was the last issue to be overprinted for official government use, as the use of official stamps was discontinued in 1963. Consequently, in-period, postally used examples of these stamps are quite a bit scarcer than their mint counterparts. The 1c, 2c, 4c and 5c were all overprinted with the 3.5 mm Casson font, as shown in the block above. The normal placement of the G was just off to the lower right of the Queen's profile. 

Blunt G

The normal Casson font G, is shown on the bottom stamp in the above scan. There is a clear crossbar that protrudes beyond the front of the "G". However, on both the 2c green and 4c scarlet, the G is known with the crossbar truncated, where it meets the upward vertical stroke, as shown on the first stamp in the above scan. This is known to collectors as the "blunt G". On the 2c it occurs on positions 39 and 91, and only on position 91 of the 4c. The 2c from position 39 is customarily collected as a block of 9, with the variety appearing in the centre stamp, whereas the 2c and 4c from position 91 are usually collected in blank lower left corner blocks of 4. 

Misplaced G's
Canada #O47iii XF/NH Badly Shifted G Variety Pair **With Certificate**

Occasionally it is possible to find examples where the G is quite badly misplaced, as shown in the above pair. Unitrade only lists this for the 2c, but I am fairly confident that such varieties could probably be found on the other values as well. 

Spacing Varieties

The normal spacing between the G's in the sheet was approximately 21 mm in the horizontal direction and 18 mm in the vertical direction. It is possible to find pairs in which the spacing is wider than 18 mm vertically. Unitrade lists a wide spacing pair on the 2c green only at the present time. However, once again, I am fairly confident that both horizontal and vertical spacing varieties likely exist on all the values, and are just waiting to be discovered. 

Other Varieties

The 1c is known with a double G as shown above, while the 2c is known with the "G" omitted, which is usually collected in a pair. 

Corner Blocks

No plate blocks exist of these official overprints. They are all collected as blank corner blocks. However, just as was the case with the regular issue stamps, it is possible to collect each position with different selvage widths, which denotes the particular pane from which the block came in the layout of the six panes of 100, that comprised each full sheet. 

That brings me to the end of my second detailed post about this neglected Elizabethan definitive issue. Next week's post will cover the remaining aspects, which mostly have to do with the postal history and postal stationery. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Cameo Issue of 1962-1967 Part One

Today's post will examine the first four aspects of this issue that I outlined in last week's overview post:

  1. Shade varieties.
  2. Paper and gum varieties.
  3. Tagging varieties.
  4. Perforation varieties.
Shade Varieties

Most of the values of this issue can be found with at least two shades, with the 3c purple being an outstanding hunting ground for many, many shades of purple that can be found due to difficulties that the CBN experienced with the stability of the colour. The only stamps that seem to show almost no variation are the 2c green and the jet plane stamps. However, I'll bet that with enough searching, it is possible to find some subtle shades of even these stamps. I will try to show some examples of the main shades I have seen in the stamps that I have worked with so far over the years. Of course, there are likely others (many others in the case of the 3c) that are not shown here. But this will hopefully give you some idea of the scope that exists. 

1c Brown

The basic shades with this stamp are deep brown and deep reddish brown. If you carefully compare the two stamps, you will see that the sheet stamp on the left has a reddish undertone to the brown, whereas the booklet stamp on the right does not. The stamp on the left is the deep reddish brown, whereas the one on the right is deep brown. 

2c Green

This stamp shows almost no variation in colour at all. There is a very subtle difference with the stamp on the right being a little brighter than the one on the left, but you really have to look carefully to see the difference.  

3c Purple

This is the most complicated stamp in terms of shades, for the entire series. The colour initially was the bluish violet of the coil stamp in the centre. Gradually, it started to get more and more reddish as the printer tried to match the shade of the previous printing, instead of referring back to the original colour. The stamp on the right shows an example of the deep reddish violet shade, while the stamp on the left is almost an exact match for Gibbons' purple shade. There are several other intermediate shades of each of these three main ones. However, they are all very subtle and would probably not show up very clearly in a scan, so consequently, I have only shown these three here now. 

4c Scarlet and Rose Red

Although this colour appears at first to be quite uniform, there is quite a bit of variation. I have found some fairly deep shades on the coils, like the pair on the left, which is closest to Gibbons' deep rose red. The block in the middle is a light, bright scarlet, which is often found on the later printings of this value, while the one on the right is the most common scarlet shade. 

5c Violet Blue

The basic shade of this stamp is the dull violet blue that is shown on the stamp in the centre. The stamps on either side of this are a deep, bright blue which lacks the violet undertone. There also exists a bright blue shade printed in aniline ink, which I do not have, and unfortunately cannot illustrate here (yet). There is a bright blue shade in a regular ink which is shown in the block below:

Lastly, there is a deep violet blue shade that I have seen on the coil stamps that is quite distinct:

7c Blue, 7c on 8c Blue and 8c Blue

The basic shade of this stamp is dull blue. However, the earlier printings of the 7c and 8c on 7c surcharge can be found in a dull blue that has just the slightest hint of green to it, as shown on the left stamp. 

15c Violet Blue

Unfortunately the variation that I have to illustrate here is the most subtle one. The right stamp is the regular pale dull violet-blue, while the stamp on the left is a brighter pale violet blue that appears much less violet. It is possible to find a deeper shade than the stamp on the left, as well as a slightly brighter shade than the stamp on the left. 

$1 Carmine Red

There are three principal shades on this stamp that I have come across so far:

  • Carmine red - on the left.
  • Carmine rose - in the middle
  • Bright carmine red - on the right.
In case you are having trouble seeing the differences between the shades, here they are individually:



Bright carmine-red.

Paper and Gum Varieties

Low Values

The low values seem to exist on six different types of paper, four of which  are illustrated below:

The differences between the papers do not show up quite as readily when they are presented together like this, so I will re-produce larger scans of each type and describe them below:

The above scan shows the first type of paper. This paper has  completely smooth, burnished surface on the printed side of the paper. It is a vertical wove paper that shows some very light horizontal ribbing on the gummed side. The gum is generally a yellowish cream that shows intermittent vertical streaks and a semi-gloss sheen. The paper is quite white in colour to the naked eye. Under long wave ultraviolet light, this paper can give quite varied reactions from a non-fluorescent violet reaction, to a dull fluorescent bluish white reaction, with a sparse concentration of low and medium fluorescent fibres being visible in the paper itself. 

The second type of paper is shown in the scan above. I have found this type of paper only on the booklet stamps. Unlike the first paper type above, this one is a horizontal wove paper, and as you may be able to see from the above scan, there is a very, very slight vertical mesh visible on the gum side. The surface on the printed side, is smooth also, but more porous than the first type of paper, and the paper is somewhat thinner, for if these are placed on a black surface, some of the black will show faintly through. Under long wave ultraviolet light, this paper can give quite varied reactions from a dull-fluorescent greyish reaction, to a low fluorescent bluish white reaction, with a sparse concentration of low and medium fluorescent fibres being visible in the paper itself. The gum is  yellowish cream that is usually smooth with a satin, rather than a glossy, or semi-gloss sheen. To the naked eye, this paper is off-white in colour. 

The above scan shows the third type of paper. This paper has the same, smooth, burnished look on the printing surface as the first type of paper has. Like the first type, it is a vertical wove paper, but unlike the first type, it does not show any clear ribbing or mesh. The gum tends to be a yellowish cream colour, that is smooth, with a semi-gloss sheen. Under long wave ultraviolet light this paper tends to appear a dull fluorescent bluish white, usually with no fluorescent fibres being visible in the paper. This paper is quite white to the naked eye. 

The above scan shows the fourth type of paper. This vertical wove paper shows very strong horizontal ribbing on the gum side. The printed side is smooth under a loupe, but shows intermittent pores, unlike the first three paper types. The gum is smooth, yellowish cream and has a semi-gloss sheen. Under ultraviolet light this paper tends to give a dull fluorescent bluish white reaction, with no fluorescent fibres being visible in the paper. This paper also appears quite white to the naked eye. 

In addition to the normal non-fluorescent and dull fluorescent reactions, there is also a paper type which gives a low fluorescent bluish white reaction and usually contains some fluorescent fibres. The fibres are usually a medium fluorescent bluish white, and are usually sparsely distributed through the paper. 

Finally, there is a sixth paper type that I have only found on the coil stamps of this issue. It is a horizontal wove paper, which shows very, very light horizontal ribbing on the gum side. The gum is deep yellowish cream, smooth and has a semi-gloss sheen. The paper surface on the printed side is both smooth and porous. 

Jet Plane Stamps

The 7c, 8c on 7c and 8c jet plane stamps seem to exist on three types of paper, two of which are illustrated below:

The first type of paper on which these stamps are found is shown in the scan above. This is a horizontal wove paper that shows just the slightest hint of vertical mesh on the gum side. The paper surface on the printed side is smooth, but quite porous. Then gum is cream coloured, smooth and has a semi-gloss sheen. Under ultraviolet light, the paper gives a dull fluorescent greyish reaction, and the ink fluoresces greenish blue. This paper appears quite creamy and off-white to the naked eye. I have found this paper type on the 7c jet plane and the 8c on 7c jet plane stamps. 

This scan shows the second type of paper, which I have so far only found on the 8c jet plane stamp. It is also a horizontal wove paper that shows clear vertical mesh on the back. The surface of the paper, like the first type above is also smooth and porous. The gum is smooth and creamy like the 7c. Under ultraviolet light, this paper usually gives a low fluorescent greyish white reaction. 

A third type of paper is the same in all respects as the second type above, except that instead of a low fluorescent reaction under ultraviolet light, it gives a dull fluorescent greyish white reaction, with a sparse concentration of low fluorescent fibres visible in the paper. 

15c Geese

This value seems to come on two different types of paper, which vary principally in terms of how porous the paper appears on the printing surface, when viewed under a 10x loupe, whether there is any visible horizontal ribbing on the back and the sheen of the gum. 

The above scan shows the first type of paper. This type of paper is a horizontal wove paper that shows very clear horizontal ribbing on the gum side of the stamp. On the printing surface, you will see very, very fine pores in the surface of the paper if you look at it under a 10x loupe. The appearance of this paper under long wave ultraviolet light is generally a dull greyish reaction, so the paper is termed "dull fluorescent". The gum is generally  yellowish cream with a semi-gloss sheen.

The above scan shows a second type of paper on which this stamp can be found. This is also a horizontal wove paper, but this one has no visible ribbing on the gum side and only a faint horizontal mesh is visible. The gum is also yellowish cream, but with a glossy sheen. Under long wave ultraviolet light the paper also gives a dull greyish reaction just like the first paper above. Like the first paper, this one also has a porous surface when viewed under a 10x loupe.

 $1 Exports

The first type of paper on which this stamp is found is shown above. This is a vertical wove paper that has a creamy appearance in normal light, and which shows clear vertical mesh on the gum side as shown above. The printed surafce is smooth, with very few pores being visible under a 10x loupe. The gum is a deep cream, smooth and hs a semi-gloss sheen. Under ultrviolet light, the paper gives a dull fluorescent greyish white reaction, with no fluorescent fibres visible. 

This scan shows the second type of paper on which this stamp is found. This paper is a horizontal wove paper that shows very faint, but visible vertical mesh on the gum side. The colour in normal light is off white also. Under a 10x loupe, the surface of the paper is smooth, but much more porous than the other paper. The gum is  cream colour, often shows intermittent horizontal streaks and has a semi-gloss sheen. Under ultraviolet light, this paper usually gives a dull fluorescent greyish reaction. 

The third type of paper on which this stamp is found is shown above. This paper is similar in most respects to the second type, except that the paper is thinner, with the design usually showing through the back. As a result, the vertical mesh is much more obvious than with either the first or second type of paper. The colour in normal light is again off-white, but under ultraviolet light, the paper gives a dull fluorescent light violet reaction. 

The fourth type of paper I have seen on this stamp is shown in the block above. Here there is no mesh visible at all, the paper appears off white in normal light, but gives a dull fluorescent greyish reaction under ultraviolet light. The surface is smooth but quite porous when viewed under a 10x loupe. It is  horizontal wove paper and the gum is usually a smooth cream gum that has a satin sheen. 

Finally, the fifth paper type, known in Unitrade as the low fluorescent paper appears almost identical to the first type of paper. The only difference is that under ultraviolet light, the paper gives a dull fluorescent greyish white reaction with a sparse concentration of low fluorescent fibres that gives an overall low fluorescent effect. 

Tagging Varieties

The tagging varieties on this issue form a fascinating field of study in and of themselves. The low values of this issue were all produced with Winnipeg tagging that was applied to selected sheets in various configurations to continue experimentation with the SEFCAN automatic cancelling machines. The tagging is just a form of overprint in which the "ink" is the phosphorescent taggant. In studying the tagging on this issue, there are the following attributes to consider:

  • The number of tagging bars on each stamp, i.e. the configuration of the tagging.
  • The number of bars that were applied to each pane in the sheet.
  • The width of the bars that were applied
  • The spacing between the bars
  • The intensity of the taggant applied.
I will now discuss each of these in detail. 

Configuration of the Tagging

All the low values other than the 4c, had the tagging applied down the columns between the stamps, so that half of each vertical bar would appear on each side of each stamp in the sheet, thus giving the appearance of 2-bar tagging. These two bars were used to denote, regular first class mail usage. The 4c value was issued for local letters only, and so to distinguish it from the other stamps, only 1 bar was applied to each stamp. However, five different styles or settings of the tagging overprint were applied, which resulted in the 1 bar appearing either at the centre of the stamp, or down either the left side or the right side of each stamp. 

In the scan above, the 2c green stamp has the normal 2-bar tagging, the centre stamp has a 4 mm centre band tag, while the one on the right has the 8 mm side bar at the left. 

Number of Bars Applied to Each Pane

Each of the panes of stamps had 11 columns of perforations. So for all values except the 4c, each sheet had 11 vertical bars of taggant applied to each pane in order to give the 2-bar effect to each stamp. The 5c stamps issued in the miniature panes of 25 stamps had six vertical bars of tagging applied down each vertical column of perforations. For the 4c stamp, each of the five different styles or settings of overprint, utilized a different number of bars per pane:

  • the stamps with a centre band had 10 vertical bars of taggant applied to the sheets.
  • The stamps with 1-bar side tagging had either 6, or 5 vertical bars of tagging applied down alternate columns of perforations, depending on whether the first bar was located on the left hand perforations of the left hand stamp, or whether the overprint started withe the right hand perforations. 

The Width of the Tagging Bars

As best I can tell, the standard with of the tagging bars used on the values of other than the 4c is 8.5 mm. It does appear however that for the outer columns of each of the inner panes, the outer tag bars were 7 mm rather than 8.5 mm. This is what gives rise to the wide and narrow tag bar strips that are listed in the Unitrade catalogue. You will generally notice that these strips have narrow selvage, since they cannot come from the outside edges of the outer panes in the sheet.   The 4c stamp used bars of different widths as follows:

  • Those with 1 centre band had either 10 4 mm bars or 10 8 mm bars applied to the pane. The 4 mm bars was the earliest type that was used from February 1963 to April 1964. The 8 mm bars were in use for only short time from August 1964 to November 1964. 
  • For 1-4 weeks in April 1964, experimentation was done where 5 bars measuring 9-10 mm was applied down alternate vertical perforation columns of selected sheets. These are fairly easy to identify by the non-uniform width of the bars. It would appear that whatever device was used to contain the taggant and ensured a bar of uniform width had not yet been perfected, which is why these sheets have up to a full millimeter of variation in the width of the bars. 
  • Starting in December 1964, sheets had 6 8.5 mm (Unitrade says they are 8 mm, but I measure 8.5 mm) bars applied down alternate vertical perforations. It is from these sheets that "split bar pairs can be collected. These pairs have tagging down the side perforations on each end of the pair, but not down the middle perforations. 
  • Commencing in March 1965 and continuing to February 1967, sheets had 5 8.5 mm (again Unitrade says 8 mm) bars applied down alternative rows of perforations. Pairs from these sheets will have tagging down the centre perforations, but not at the sides. These pairs are fairly easy to distinguish from the scarcer 9-10 mm bar pairs by the fact that the bars are of uniform width and are never more than 8 mm wide. 
  • There is another type which is not listed in Unitrade, which appears to consist of 6 4 mm bars applied down alternate vertical perfs. 
The scans below illustrate some of of these types. 

This is an example of the upper right block of the 5c showing very light 2 bar tagging, with all bars being 8.5 mm wide. The selvage is normal width on both sides, which indicates that this block is from the upper right pane.

Here is a strip of three of the 5c from one of the inner panes, showing the narrow 7 mm band at the right, and regular width bands elsewhere. This could be from any of the left four panes. 

A lower left block showing an example of the 5 9 mm bars per pane. The selvage on this block is narrow on both sides which suggests that it cannot be from any of the lower panes in the sheet. Recall that these stamps were printed in layouts of 600 subjects in six panes of 100 stamps. Thus, the width of the selvage suggests that this must have come from either the upper centre pane, or the upper right pane. 

An example of the last type discussed above from the upper right position. You can clearly see that the width of the bars is not more than 4 mm. The selvage is narrow on both sides of this block, which suggests that has to have come either from the lower centre pane or the lower left pane. 

Here is a lower right corner block showing an example of the 6, 8.5 mm bar tagging. You can instantly recognize that it is the 8 mm type from how light and clean the bars are, as compared to how heavily applied and non-uniform the 9-10 mm bars are. Here the selvage is wide on the right and narrow at the bottom, which suggests that it is from the upper right pane. 

Here we have a lower left corner block with the 5, 8.5 mm bar tagging. Again, notice how clean and uniform the lines of the tagging are. This block has narrow selvage on both sides, which suggests that it must be either from the upper centre, or the upper right pane. 

The Spacing Between the Bars

The spacing between the vertical bars does vary, with the spacing often being narrower on the left position blocks than it is on the right blocks:

  1. The spacing between the tag bars on the sheets that had 6 8.5 mm bars applied, appears to be 19 mm on the right positions. 
  2. The spacing between the tag bars on the sheets that had 6 4 mm bars applied appears to be 20.5 mm on the right blocks and 19.5 mm on the left blocks. So it would appear that the spacing between the tag bars varies from 19.5 mm between bars to 20.5 mm between bars. 
  3. The spacing between the tag bars of the 8.5 mm bars that were on the 1c, 2c, 3c and 5c values seems to vary between 15 mm and 16.5 mm between bars. 
Unfortunately I do not have  strip of three or larger of the 4c centre band for either size, nor do I have any strips of the 5 x 8.5 mm or x 9-10 mm bars to be able to measure the space between them. However, I will update this section as those pieces become available and I can obtain the necessary measurements.

The Intensity of the Taggant Applied

The post office experimented extensively with the amount of taggant that was applied to the stamps in order to get the optimal result from the SEFCAN machines. Consequently, you can find stamps for which the bars are lightly applied and can barely be seen with the naked eye. Such stamps will not show any sign of having been tagged when viewed from the back. This I call "light tagging". Here is an example of light tagging on the 5c blue:

You have to look very closely at the scan to see the two side tag bars. Now, let's take a look at the back of this stamp:

Notice how there is no evidence of any tag bars from the back of the stamp. So this is light tagging. 

Then there are the majority of the tagged stamps, which had tagging that was very clearly visible, but which did not seriously discolour the stamps to which it was applied. From the back, however, the tagging bars could be seen. I call this type of tagging "moderate" tagging. Here is a strip of three 5c stamps showing moderate tagging:

Here you can see quite clearly that the stamps are tagged, but the tagging itself is not very heavy in appearance. However, unlike the last stamp, a shadow of the tagging appears on the back:

See how the vertical areas near the perforations are darker than the rest of the stamps? That is the taggant that has soaked into the paper and has discoloured it. 

Finally, there are stamps for which the taggant has been applied heavily, resulting in deep yellow discolouration of the stamp. This tagging is very obvious both from the front, and the back:

Notice how yellow the tagging is. This is not my best example, as I have seen stamps where the tagging is even darker than this. 

Again, you can see that the tagging is very obvious from the back of the stamps as well. 

Tagging Shifts

The above discussion of the tagging configurations for the various stamps assumes that the stamps have the tagging  in the correct position. However, just like any printing ink, the tagging can become shifted over from where it should be. On the 4c, these errors will be difficult, if not impossible to distinguish from the regular centre bands in all cases except where the outer band on one of the centre panes where the outer bands are narrower becomes shifted, forming a centre band that is 7 mm wide. It can be distinguished from the regular centre bands in this case because of the smaller width. On all the other values, shifts will often result in stamps that have 1 bar tagging and an 8.5 mm centre band. These are quite scarce and highly sought after. 

Perforation Varieties

As I stated in my overview post, Julian Goldberg, a philatelist living in Toronto has discovered a perforation change that he believes occurred in 1962, whereby the CBN changed the gauge of its perforating machines from 11.95 to 11.85. I believe, based on what I have seen that this change must have been phased-in over a couple of years because I have found the old perforation and compounds of the new and old gauge on stamps issued in 1963 and 1964. The following summarizes the perforations that I have found so far:

1c brown: 11.85, 11.95, and 11.95 x 11.85.
2c green: 11.95 x 11.85, and 11.85.
3c purple: 11.85, 11.95, and 11.85 x 11.95.
4c scarlet: 11.85, 11.95 x 11.85, and 11.85 x 11.95.
5c violet blue: 11.85, 11.95, and 11.85 x 11.95. 
7c jet plane: 11.95, 11.95 x 11.85, 11.85, and 11.85 x 11.95.
8c on 7c jet plane: 11.95, 11.95 x 11.85, 11.85 and 11.85 x 11.95.
8c jet plane: 11.85, 11.95 x 11.85, and 11.85 x 11.95.
15c geese: 11.95 x 11.85, 11.95, 11.85 x 11.95, and 11.85.
$1 exports: 11.95, 11.95 x 11.85 and 11.85. 

Now, I have only checked  few dozen of each value, and based on the pattern above, it does seen highly likely that all values can be found with all four perforation combinations. This immediately raises the question of which ones are scarce if any? Who knows? This would be a fantastic research project to a specialist to tackle, as you could study the perfs on the regular stamps, the tagged stamps, the booklet stamps, the miniature pane stamps and finally, the official stamps. The coils are listed in Unitrade as being perforated 9.5 horizontally. My Instanta gauge does not go below 9.8, so unfortunately I cannot verify the exact measurement. 

That brings me to the end of my discussion of these aspects of the Cameo issue. Next week I will look at the plate blocks, booklets, miniature panes and coil stamps of this issue.