Plate Characteristics and Plate Flaws on the 1967-1973 Centennial Issue
At the broadest level there are three aspects of interest: plate characteristics, freaks and plate flaws. Plate characteristics are those properties of the printing itself that are intentional and by design. They are, consequently generally present on every stamp in the print run, and distinguish one printing from another, or one group of printings from another. Plate flaws on the other hand are anomalies in the stamp design that occur on a limited number of stamps in each sheet. Those which occur randomly in the printing are dubbed "non-constant", while those that occur on every sheet in the exact same position are called "constant plate flaws".
Freaks, which by their nature are random and thus difficult to document completely are those anomalies which are caused by mishaps in the actual printing. This is a topic for an entirely separate post, and will be addressed as such.
There are several different classes of plate flaws to be found on this issue, each of which is interesting for different reasons. Some of these are quite major, very scarce and eagerly sought after, while some are quite minor, and worth only a small premium over the price of a normal stamp.
Plate Characteristics - Die Type Differences
The most famous of the different plate characteristics which are widely known to Canada collectors are the die 1, die 2 and die 1a of the 6c black transportation. The dies are distinguished by differences in the depth of the engraving and strength of the shading lines. They are so prominent and notable that separate catalogue numbers have been assigned to them (or at least major variety status). These differences are detailed in the catalogues largely because several printings of the 6c that have the same paper, perforation or gum, differ only in terms of these die types, and so it becomes necessary to be familiar with them to sort the stamps.
The differences between the three dies are illustrated in the scans below:
On the die 1 stamps, the horizontal shading lines in the sky are uneven and weak. The framelines at the right and left are thin.
These differences are the ones that are identified specifically in stamp albums and in the catalogue. However, there are other instances in this issue where the die characteristics of the stamps differed notably from the standard Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) printings, that are not discussed explicitly in the specialist literature, but should be (at least in my opinion):
- The BABN printings of the 1c, 3c, 4c and 5c stamps that were issued in booklet form.
- The 2c and 3c stamps from the OPAL booklet.
- The 7c transportation as compared to the 6c values.
- The 6c orange perf. 10 sheet stamps, booklet stamps and coil stamp compared to the perf. 12.5 x 12 stamps.
- The 7c coil versus the sheet stamps (CBN versus BABN)
- The 8c coil versus the sheet stamps (CBN versus BABN)
Here is the normal design of the CBN printed sheet stamp. The strength of the printing does vary slightly with some of the later printings being somewhat weaker, across the entire design. But there are several characteristics to note:
- The lines of the Queen's hair are clearly defined, but there are not many contrasting highlights in the hair itself.
- The Queen's eyebrows are full and evenly shaded.
- The shading lines on the cheek are weak.
- The detail in the shading of the dogs is complete and in the sled: the pack is clearly visible, as are both feet of the sled. You can usually see the face of the eskimo.
- The lines of the Queen's hair are clearly defined, and there are many highlights that make the detail stand out.
- The Queen's eyebrows are fullest toward the centre of the forehead and become weaker as they extend toward the temples.
- The shading lines on the cheek are stronger.
- The detail in the shading of the dogs is much weaker, as well as in the sled: the pack is much less clear, and you have to look more closely to see both feet of the sled. The detail of the eskimo's face is often not visible at all.
Here is the CBN printing of the 3c sheet stamp. As with most of the CBN sheet stamps, the shading on the neck is of uneven strength, and the shading on the face is of uniform strength. The detail of the hair is visible, with some, but not many highlights. The impression overall has a fine appearance.
Here is a CBN printing of the 5c blue. Generally speaking the shading in the sky is quite light, and is of moderate strength. Again, the overall printing impression appears fine.
Even though the engraving appears to be of almost uniform depth, there is still plenty of white in the design to give it depth and contrast.
Here is a typical BABN sheet stamp showing the characteristic even-depth engraving, fine vertical lines and thick right hand frameline that is characteristic of this value.
- Constant plate flaws found on certain booklet and sheet stamps.
- Cylinder flaws that are also constant, but numerous and minor in nature.
- The "totem pole eyes" on many of the 2c stamps, which occur at selected positions on different panes within the sheet of 600 stamps.
- Plastic flow varieties, which result in doubling of certain parts of the design on some stamps. These have a similar appearance to re-entries, but are less sharp, and have a different origin.
- Ink drag flaws, some of which are listed, like the "extended line from lobster trap" and some of which are not.
- The "airplane in the sky" variety on the 1c BABN booklet stamp perf. 12.5 x 12.
- The "line through 5" on the 5c sheet stamp, which comes from position 11 on plate 3.
- The broken necklace on the 5c BABN booklet stamp.
- The "doubled C" on the 6c orange perf. 10, which comes from position 10.
- The "extra spire" variety on the 8c parliament, which comes from plate 4.
- The "scratch on forehead" variety on the 8c parliament, which comes from one of the later plates.
- Over 100 varieties are known on the 6c orange.
- 86 varieties are known on the 7c emerald green.
- 75 varieties are known on the 8c parliament.
- 6c black die 2
- 8c Alaska Highway
- 15c Bylot Island
- 25c Solemn land on hibrite paper only