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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Medallion Issue of 1932-1935 Part 1

The next two posts will deal with what in my opinion is one of the most overlooked of all the definitive sets: the Medallion Issue of 1932-1935. I must admit that in my early youth, I did not care much for the art-deco bas-relief designs. However, they have become far more attractive to me with the passage of time. I do think that one factor that has resulted in the series being less popular is the relatively small number of stamps in it. For some reason, the decision was made not to replace any of the high values of the previous Arch Issue, and only to reissue the Old Quebec Citadel design in the new denomination of 13c when the local registered rate increased from 12c to 13c. The result was a definitive set that consisted of only 8 basic stamps - 6 low values from 1c to 8c, the 13c Old Quebec Citadel, and the 20c special delivery stamp reissued with "Cents" replacing "Twenty Cents" in the value inscription. However, what can be a weakness to some, can also be seen as a strength, as the relative lack of high values can make this a more affordable set to collect if your budget is more limited. Of course, you may be of the view that the true complete set includes any printings of the 20c, 50c and $1 from the previous set that were made while these stamps were current.

As we will see, there are many, many directions in which a collection of this set can be taken, and quite a good proportion of the collectible material from this set is quite scarce. This was the last set to be printed by the British American Bank Note Company (BABN) before losing the contract to the Canadian Bank Note Company in 1935. Consequently, the stamps suffer from the same problems in regards to perforations and centering that the other BABN issues do. The 1c-3c stamps were printed using Stickney Rotary Presses, but the remaining values were all printed using flat printing plates. The designs were based on a sculpture of King George V by Edgar Bertam Mackennal, who was a very active designer of the stamps of Great Britain at the time.

The Stamps Designs, Formats and Quantities Issued

Canada 195 USED 1932 King George V Medallion Issue 1

1c Dark green King George V
Issued December 1, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
527,450,000 sheet stamps
1,021,152 booklet stamps
13,573,000 coil stamps

2c Dark brown King George V
Issued December 1, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
514,300,000 sheet stamps
1,359,408 booklet stamps
19,265,000 coil stamps

3c Deep red King George V
Issued December 1, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
1,162,700,000 sheet stamps
21,781,168 booklet stamps
28,310,000 coil stamps


4c Ochre King George V
Issued December 1, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
7,017,000 sheet stamps

5c Dark blue King George V
Issued December 1, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
54,500,000 sheet stamps


8c Red orange King George V
Issued December 1, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
4,465,000 sheet stamps

13c dull violet Old Quebec Citadel
Issued December 1, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
5,017,000 sheet stamps

20c brownish vermilion 
Issued December 24, 1932
Replaced June 1, 1935
600,000 stamps
Points of Interest

A specialist who wants to focus on this issue can take it in several different directions, by concentrating on one or more of the following aspects:

1. Shade varieties
2. Paper and gum varieties
3. Plate blocks, positional multiples and full sheets
4. Plate flaws, re-entries and retouches
5. Booklet panes and complete booklets
6. Die types
7. Imperforate pairs
8. Proof material
9. First day covers
10. Postal history and cancellations
11. Precancels
12. Coil stamps and spacing varieties
13. OHMS Perfins
14. Postal stationery

Today's post will over the first 6 of these, and next week's post will cover the last 6. 

Shade Varieties

Although this issue does not have a large number of shade varieties in comparison to many of Canada's earlier issues, there are still enough varieties out there to form the basis for an interesting collection, especially when those shades are paired either with the plate blocks, paper & gum varieties, or both. Below is a list of some of the shades I have encountered on the stamps I have handled over the years:

  • 1c myrtle green
  • 1c deep myrtle green
  • 1c deep dull green
  • 2c blackish brown
  • 2c dark yellow brown
  • 2c deep yellowish sepia
  • 3c deep scarlet vermilion
  • 3c scarlet
  • 3c bright scarlet
  • 3c deep scarlet
  • 4c bright brown ochre (ochre with a hint of brown)
  • 4c bright ochre brown (brown with a hint of ochre)
  • 4c ochre yellow
  • 4c orangy ochre
  • 4c light yellow brown
  • 5c deep steel blue
  • 5c steel blue
  • 5c deep Prussian blue
  • 5c indigo
  • 5c dull indigo
  • 5c dull steel blue
  • 5c dull Prussian blue
  • 8c deep red orange
  • 8c red orange
  • 8c reddish orange
  • 8c orange red
  • 8c deep orange red
  • 8c bright red orange
  • 13c deep dull reddish lilac
  • 13c deep dull violet
  • 13c deep dull lilac
  • 13c deep lilac
  • 13c deep reddish violet
  • 13c deep dull reddish violet
  • 20c brownish vermilion
  • 20c deep Indian red
  • 20c deep brownish vermilion
  • 20c very deep brownish orange vermilion
  • 20c dull scarlet
  • 20c light brown red
  • 20c brown red
Although some of these variations are subtle, they are readily apparent when placed next to one another. collecting in blocks of four will allow you to see the differences quite readily. 

Paper and Gum Varieties

This issue was released during the period in which the gum used by the BABN underwent considerable changes. The variations depend on whether the stamps were printed from flat plates, or rotary plates. It should be noted, that as far as anybody knows, the 1c value is the only one to have been printed using both flat plates and rotary plates, at least in the case of the sheet stamps. Why this is remains a mystery. My guess is that the BABN had considered using flat plate technology, but abandoned it in favour of the rotary presses, once they had to print larger and larger quantities of the 1c, 2c and 3c stamps. 

The papers vary in thickness as well, with the rotary press printings being on thicker paper than the flat plate printings. The paper for both the flat plate printings and the rotary press printings can be found with mesh that is either not readily visible, or with clearly visible vertical mesh. 

Rotary Press Printings

The gum on the rotary printings is usually creamy off-white in colour, but what varies is the degree of sheen to the gum, as well as the presence or absence of dark vertical streaks running through the gum. These can either be very dark and prominent on the stamps, or can be almost invisible. 

Flat Plat Printings

The early printings from December 1932 and very early 1933 have very dark coffee coloured gum, which often appears quite mottled. It can either be quite shiny as well, or have a less shiny satin sheen. Moving into 1933, it becomes more yellowish, less brownish and not mottled, being clear and usually quite shiny, though printings from later in 1933 have gum that has more of a satin sheen. On the 1934 printings the gum is cream coloured and has a satin sheen, being completely different from the earlier gum. Some philatelists who are unfamiliar with the gum differences on this issue, often make the mistake of thinking that their stamps are damaged, when they are perfectly sound. 

All the 1c, 4c, 5c, 8c and 13c stamps that I have examined seem to show the full range of gum types, as one would expect. 

Plate Blocks, Positional Multiples and Full Sheets

Although not as extensive as the Arch Issue, a good number of plates were used to print the stamps of this issue, so that a large number of plate blocks can be collected. In addition, most if not all values of this issue probably still exist in full sheets, though these must be getting scarcer by the year, as they get broken up to harvest the well centered NH singles. All of the blocks exist in 4 positions (except the lower positions of the 4c, 5c, 8c and 13c which are blank, so blocks from different plates are indistinguishable), and the following plates were used to print the various stamps of this issue:

  • 1c green - 6 plates were used for the printings made by the rotary process.
  • 1c green - 3 plates were used for the flat plate printings.
  • 2c black brown - 3 plates were used. 
  • 3c deep red - 2 plates were used for the die 1 rotary press printings.
  • 3c deep red - 10 plates were used for the die 2 rotary press printings.
  • 4c ochre - 2 plates were used.
  • 5c dark blue - 2 plates were used.
  • 8c red orange - 2 plates were used.
  • 13c dull violet - 2 plates were used.
  • 20c brownish vermilion - 1 plate was used in upper positions only.

Ignoring the possible shade, paper and gum varieties, there are thus 130 different plate blocks. Most blocks from this issue are worth quite a bit more than the price of the corresponding single stamps. This is true regardless of whether the blocks are fine, or very fine, hinged or never hinged. 

Plate Flaws, Re-Entries and Retouches

There are two major plate varieties listed in Unitrade, both of which occur on the 5c:

  • The major re-entry, which involves doubling of the letters in Canada and some details of the crown at upper right, and
  • The so called "blue nose" re-entry in which a shift of the horizontal shading lines resulted in a doubling of the horizontal shading lines on the King's nose. 
Both of these re-entries are described and illustrated by Ralph Trimble in his Re-Entries website. The major re-entry is from position 10 of the upper left pane of plate 1, whereas the blue nose re-entry is from position 79 of the upper left pane of plate 2. You can access Mr. Trimble's website via the following link:

Both of these re-entries were retouched to correct them. However, some of the doubling is still present, and it is this detail that enables us to identify them. According to him there are no other re-entries reported on the stamps of this issue. I find it hard to believe that there aren't any more on the other values. I believe that there must be other plate flaws, re-entries and the like - they just have to be discovered and properly documented.  

If you look at the 20c stamp illustrated above, you can see a slash - like flaw passing through the lower right "20". It is flaws like this that need to be studied further to determine their significance. 

Booklet Panes and Complete Booklets


The 1c, 2c and 3c values of this series were all issued in booklet format. The two formats encountered are shown above:

  • Panes of 4 with two labels, which form a very wide margin tab, 
  • Panes of six with a narrow selvage tab. 
All of these were printed using the flat plate method, so many of the paper and gum varieties should exist on these as well. 

The Panes of 4 Plus 2 Labels

These were all issued on September 19, 1933, almost eleven months after the issue first appeared. The 1c and 2c panes are scarcer than the 3c panes, as they were only issued in one particular 25c booklet that contained one pane of each value. 125,000 such booklets were issued in English, and 40,292 were issued in French, so that only 165,292 panes were issued for the 1c and 2c. Both these booklet panes can be found with either completely blank tabs, or tabs that show a portion of the plate inscription for "Plate" or "No. 1". 

The 3c was also issued in a second 25c booklet that contained two panes of 4. The 216,000 French booklets that were issued, were released earlier than the English booklets on August 22, 1933. 2,424,000 English booklets were issued on November 13, 1933. Since these each contained 2 panes, the total number of 3c panes issued was 5,445,292 (165,292 + (216,000 x 2) + (2,424,000 x 2)). The 3c panes can be found with the same tab inscriptions as the 1c panes, but also a third variety showing a partial inscription "No. 2". 

The Panes of 6

These were issued only for the 1c and 2c values, with both coming from completely different booklets. 

The 1c panes came from booklets containing 4 panes of 6, and were issued on different dates, depending on whether the booklets were English or French. 27,087 English booklets were issued on December 28, 1933, while 15,461 French booklets were issued on March 26, 1934. The 1c panes can be found with either "Plate" or "No. 2" inscriptions in the tabs. 

The 2c panes came from booklets containing 2 panes of 6, and were issued on September 7, 1933. 103,000 English booklets and 10,284 French booklets were issued. These can also be found with either "Plate", "No. 1", and "No. 2" in the tabs. 

Collecting the actual booklets themselves opens up additional possibilities because there are two different types of booklet covers for each of the basic booklets. Like the Arch issue before, the booklet covers were generally printed in a colour resembling that of the stamps inside, with  a black coat of arms on the front. The type differences lie in the inscription on the cover:

  • Type 1 booklets have a "Post Office" or "Les Mandats" inscription, 
  • Type 2 booklets have a "Register" or "Recommendez" inscription. 

Then, any of those booklets can be found with either "Plate", "No. 1" or "No. 2" on the tab of one or more booklet panes inside. Unitrade does not parse this out, listing these on one line. But given that each booklet contains between 2 and 4 panes, the number of possible pane combinations is very large:

  • The booklet containing 4 panes of the 1c: 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 2 x 2 = 328 different booklets.
  • The booklet containing 2 panes of the 2c: 4 x 4 x 2 x 2 = 64 different booklets.
  • The booklet containing 2 panes of the 3c: (4 x 4 x 2 x 2) - 16 = 48 different booklets.
The reason why so many possibilities exist is that each pane in the booklet can either be blank or contain an inscription. Only 48 possible booklets exist for the booklet containing 2 panes of the 3c, as the type 1 booklets with tabs that are inscribed are not known in French. These booklets are all very expensive, due to their considerable scarcity. They all list in Unitrade in the $170-$1,200 range. Given that there could be as many as 440 different possible booklets to collect, getting them all, if they even exist, would be a lifetime endeavour. 

Die Types

There is one well documented instance of two dies types on this issue, which comes upon the 3c value. Basically, the first two plates, which were die 1, had the top point of the 3's even with the white horizontal line above the word "cents". It seems curious to me that there wouldn't have been similar die type differences on the other values as well. It would be an interesting exercise to examine a large lot of used 1c and 2c stamps to see if any similar differences could be discovered. 

This concludes my first post about this fascinating issue. Next week I will cover the remaining aspects.