The Gum On The Wilding Issues Collectible Differences or Random Variations?

The study of gum on Canadian stamps is a subject that has received very little detailed study, except with regard to the authentication of whether the gum found on a particular stamp is original or not. Very little attention has been paid to studying the characteristics of stamp gum to see if there are patterns that enable philatelists to accurately place or date particular printings of long-running definitive stamps. I am not sure why this is. Perhaps it may be due to a long held perception that the characteristics are too difficult to describe reliably in a way that a philatelist reading the description can recognize and correctly identify in his or her stamps. Perhaps it is due to a perception that there is too much random variation in the appearance of gum on individual stamps and that therefore the differences are not collectible as it would be impractical to form a "complete" collection of all the types.

I will contend after handling over 1,200 mint stamps, coils, booklet panes, and plate blocks of this issue that there most definitely are differences in the gum used on these stamps - differences that could be invaluable in dating particular printings correctly. The purpose of this post will be to describe the different types of dextrose gum that I have observed on these stamps.

Gum is a chemical substance like any other substance employed in the production of stamps. As such, its physical characteristics will be influenced by its chemical makeup. It is a surface coating of adhesive that goes on wet and dries to a finish that has particular attributes. Those attributes are:

1. Colour
2. Evenness of appearance - i.e. smooth versus streaky.
3. Sheen

Colour on this issue varies from deep yellow to light cream. The evenness of appearance can result from different methods of application to differences in how the gum bonds to the paper surface and dries. Finally sheen refers to how shiny the gum is. I like to use the same language that painters use to describe paint finishes on walls, i.e. flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, gloss and high gloss. I find that describing gum this way is reliable and easy to understand and apply later to other stamps.

So how does the gum on this issue vary?

Generally, the gum on this issue can be divided into four groups:

1. Gum in use from 1954 to about 1956
2. The 1956-1958 gum
3. The 1958-1964 gum
4. The 1964-1967 gum

This study is where a parallel study of the commemorative stamps of this period becomes very useful, due to the very narrow window of use. Understanding the characteristics of the gum used on these issues will prove very useful in supporting the contention that there were four distinct types of gum used during the life of this issue.

From 1954 until late in 1956 the gum used on these issues tends towards a deep yellow to deep yellowish cream with much more yellow than cream. It is usually fairly smooth and looks relatively evenly applied on most stamps, although occasionally some streakiness is apparent. The sheen is glossy and semi-gloss.

Then in 1956 and 1957 the gum becomes much less shiny, being more of a satin sheen. It also becomes streaky in appearance, often looking like it was applied in vertical lines, as such lines can usually be seen running through the gum. There is less yellow in the colour, though still much more yellow than cream. This gum is only found on the commemoratives of this period, so I am fairly sure that stamps of this issue with this type of gum were from this period. From my study of the various plate blocks this seems to be consistent with the plate numbers on which this type of gum are found.

With the changeover from horizontal to vertical wove paper on the 1c-2c, 4c-5c, 15c and 20c, the gum takes on a much creamier appearance. Both smooth and streaky versions are found, often on the same sheet, so this difference would not appear to be a collectible one, at least within this small period. It is still not shinier than glossy, with it occasionally being satin in sheen.

Then starting in about 1964 the gum becomes much shinier - more of a high gloss. It is either found completely smooth, or evenly streaky or stippled, kind of like the outside of a strawberry appears, with the matte areas corresponding to the seeds and the rest of the strawberry, the shiny parts of the gum. As the low values had been all but replaced by this time, the only values you will see this gum on are the 10c, 20c, 25c, and 50c textile industry stamp of the previous issue.

Becoming comfortable with these differences will take some patience and experience. However after a while you will begin to see that even though they are all dextrose gums, they are all very different in their appearance and therefore they deserve to be studied. The regular pattern of their occurrence confirms the notion that they are not random differences because they are not found on all values at all times, Instead they follow patterns that begin and end at certain times, which supports the notion that they are indeed collectible differences that should be studied and described to aid in the identification of specific printings of these stamps.


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