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Friday, October 30, 2015

The Plate Blocks and Plate Sheets of The Karsh and Heritage Definitive Issue -1953-1967

Yesterday's post dealt with the paper, shade, perforation and gum varieties that are found on the this issue. Today, I want to talk about plate blocks and plate sheets. Although the basic plates are listed in the Unitrade catalogue for the regular and official issues, there is still little known about which of the varieties that I discussed yesterday are to be found on which plates, and there is no comprehensive listing of which plates are found with the different styles of precancels.

None of the plate blocks in this issue are particularly rare except for the 50c on fluorescent paper and the 50c with fishhook G, and full sheets should be obtainable with not too much trouble for all values up to the 7c. I have not seen many complete sheets of the higher values, although I have seen two of the $1, one being with the "G" overprint and the other without. The relative availability of them should make compiling a comprehensive study a fun and rewarding task. Another area for expansion and challenge would be to try to collect these plate blocks in used condition with in-period cancellations.

Basic Appearance and Format

Examples of the low value blocks are shown below:

The scans show blocks from the lower left and upper right positions. Each sheet would only have had a single plate block in the outer corner of the sheet, depending on which position in the plate of 400 the sheet of 100 was from. Thus in order to obtain a full set of these blocks for any given plate, a collector at the time would have to visit different post offices and convince the clerks to split up 4 different panes. This created a huge run at postal counters that were not equipped to handle the demand. For a time between November 1957 and May 1958 all inscriptions were trimmed off blocks to stop the public from disrupting post office operations in this manner. However, due to public outcry, the post office reversed its position. 

The blocks from the lower left position always have the plate number followed by the print order number in the left selvage. As far as I know the number is always the same for all blocks from the plate. However, a comprehensive study would be needed to confirm this. It would be interesting to try and determine the sequence of order numbers in order to learn more about their significance. On the bottom selvage of these blocks appears the CBN inscription and plate number. The font is a Times New Roman font. In addition, most lower left blocks, and some lower right blocks have a small dot in the lower right corner (lower left on lower right blocks) of the bottom selvage. I am not sure what the significance of this dot is, or why it does not appear in any of the upper positions. 

The upper right block only has the CBN inscription in the upper selvage. Blocks from lower right will have this same inscription in the lower selvage, while upper left blocks will have the inscription in the same position as the upper right blocks.

The scans below show some examples of the higher values:

On these blocks, in addition to the CBN inscription, there is a bilingual description of the subject matter depicted in the block. I am not aware of any varieties in the inscriptions, but spelling mistakes and mis-ordering of the words is a slim possibility, as it has happened on Canadian issues before - namely on the 1972 Krieghoff Issue. So it may be a good idea to pay close attention to the ordering and spelling of the French words in the inscriptions especially. 

Together, these blocks can be mounted in such a way as to form a miniature sheet of 16 stamps, surrounded by a border that has the inscription in all four corners. I find that this makes a rather appealing display. 

The Basic Listing of Plates

The plates listed in Unitrade currently for this issue are as follows:

1c violet brown: plates 1 and 2
1c violet brown official G overprint: plates 1 and 2
2c green: plates 1-6 - plate 6 is scarce and worth 10 times the normal amount. 
2c green official G overprint: plates 1, 2, 3, 4. Plates 1-2 are worth 3x normal.  
3c carmine rose: plates 1-4. Plate 4 is the good plate, worth 4-10 times normal. 
3c carmine rose official G overprint: plate 1-3. Plate 2 is worth 3.5x normal. 
4c violet: plates 1-6. 
4c violet official G overprint: plates 1, 2 and 4. Plate 1 is worth almost 3x normal. 
5c ultramarine: plates 1-3
5c ultramarine official G overprint: plates 1-2
7c blue: plates 1-2
7c blue official G overprint: plates 1-2
20c slate: plates 1-2
20c slate official G overprint: plates 1-2
50c light green: plates 1-2
50c light green official G Casson overprint: plates 1-2
50c light green official "flying G" overprint: plates 1-2
50c light green official fishhook G overprint: plates 1-2, upper right only
$1 grey: plates 1-2
$1 grey official overprint: plates 1-2

So there appears to be a few plates that don't exist when intuition says they should:

2c green official plates 5 and 6. 
3c carmine rose official, plate 4
4c official plate 3, and possibly 5 and 6. 
5c ultramarine plate3

These could very well exist somewhere and just be waiting to be discovered!

Quantities Printed

I don't know what the individual quantities are for the official issues, or for each individual plate, but the total number of blocks printed for each regular issue can be determined as follows:

1c violet brown - 3 plates - 169,000,000/100= 1,690,000
2c green - 6 plates - 338,000,000/100 = 3,380,000
3c carmine rose - 4 plates - 332,000,000/100 = 3,320,000
4c violet - 6 plates - 406,000,000/100 = 4,060,000
5c ultramarine - 3 plates - 109,000,000/100 = 1,090,000
7c blue - 2 plates - 161,820,000/50 = 3,236,400
20c slate grey - 2 plates - 104,975,000/50 = 2,099,500
50c light green - 2 plates - 63,075,000/50 = 1,261,500
$1 slate grey - 2 plates - 27,865,000/50 = 557,300

It has to be borne in mind that only a fraction of these blocks will still exist intact. A large number will have been lost to general use, as well as poor storage and mishandling. However, even taking that into account, one can see that overall the plate blocks of this issue are not rare, although there will undoubtedly be scarcer varieties. The other thing to consider is that the above figures are for all plates and all positions. So for example if you assume that all four positions of plates 1-3 are equally common for the 1c, then the above quantity, the number has to be divided by 12 to get the number of possible blocks for each position. This works out to be 140,833 blocks of each position, which starts to look a good deal scarcer, although still not rare.

Building Scope - Paper, Shade, Perforation and Gum Varieties

In yesterday's post I discussed the possible shade, paper, perforation and gum varieties that could exist on this issue and how the number of individually identifiable varieties could number as high as 338. 20 of these are on the coils, so subtracting these leaves 318 varieties. It is of course entirely possible that each of these may exist on several or all of the different plate blocks. It easy to see how the scope of a collection of plate blocks for this issue can expand very quickly. To look at it explicitly, let us repeat yesterday's calculation, modified for the numbers of plates and positions:

1c: (3 shades x 4 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 96 blocks
1c official: (3 shades x 4 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 96 blocks
2c: (2 shades x 4 papers x 6 plates x 4 positions) = 192 blocks
2c official: (2 shades x 4 papers x 4 plates x 4 positions) = 128 blocks
3c: (3 shades x 4 papers x 4 plates x 4 positions)  = 192 blocks
3c official: (3 shades x 4 papers x 3 plates x 4 positions) = 144 blocks
4c: (5 shades x 4 papers x 6 plates x 4 positions) = 480 blocks
4c official: (5 shades x 4 papers x 3 plates x 4 positions) = 240 blocks
5c: (5 shades x 4 papers x 3 plates x 4 positions) = 240 blocks
5c official: (5 shades x 4 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 160 blocks
7c: (3 shades x 5 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 120 blocks
7c official:  (3 shades x 5 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 120 blocks
20c: (2 shades x 4 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 64 blocks
20c official (2 shades x 4 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 64 blocks
50c: (2 shades x 6 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 48 blocks
50c official Casson G: (2 shades x 6 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 48 blocks
50c official flying G: (2 shades x 6 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 48 blocks
50c official fishhook G: (2 shades x 6 papers x 2 plates x 1 positions) = 24 blocks
$1: (2 shades x 4 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 64 blocks
$1 official: (2 shades x 4 papers x 2 plates x 4 positions) = 64 blocks

This totals to 2,632 potentially different blocks! Of course it is highly unlikely that every shade variety exists on ever paper and on every plate, but you get some idea of how much scope could be involved in forming a collection of plate blocks or full sheets. 

Potential Varieties in Addition to Paper, Shade, Perforation and Gum

Plate Varieties

The only documented plate variety occurs on the 50c light green from the lower left block of plate 1. They are the engraver's slips described in the previous overview post. However, to recap, the upper left stamp shows the left vertical frameline retouched, ending in an engraver's slip at the bottom. The lower right stamp shows an engraver's slip that curves up from the bottom of the design under the last "A" of "Canada" and ending under the "T" of Postage. 

This flaw is found on all lower left blocks from plate 1 on both the regular issue as well as both the Casson type G overprint and the "flying G"type. 

Varieties in Selvage Widths

The sheets were guillotined apart along marked cutting guidelines, so the widths of the selvage on the blocks should be more or less constant. Very small discrepancies may be quite common due to the inaccuracy inherent in such an operation. However, large variations of more than 2mm are varieties that are definitely worth studying in more detail. 

Cracked Plates

Occasionally, the plates used by CBN would acquire very fine cracks, which would show up as hairlines in the selvage of the stamps. These varieties have been documented on the two previous issues: The War Issue and the Postes-Postage Issue. However, there are no documented varieties of this kind on this issue, though I feel that they should exist on at least some of the values. 

Varieties of the G Overprints

The flying G overprint on the 50c light green is known to exist in a rare fishhook G variety, but this variety has not been found on any other value. The Casson G overprint is known to exist with a truncated crossbar to the "G", so that it has been dubbed the "Blunt G". There are currently no blunt G stamps known on this issue which would exist in plate blocks, so it may be worthwhile to try and seek them out on this issue. There are also possible spacing varieties either horizontally or  vertically with the overprint itself. To the best of my knowledge there has not been a comprehensive study done to check for these varieties. 

Used Plate Blocks

Occasionally these blocks are found used. I have only seen the low values, though I'm sure that many high value plate blocks exist used as well. Their size makes them ideal for capturing some of the larger cancellations such as barrel CDS's and complete roller cancellations. One could always take on the added challenge of collecting different cancellations on these blocks. 

Order Numbers on Lower Left Blocks

The following is a list of the order numbers on the lower left positions of each value. I will regularly update this post, as I examine more blocks from this issue:

3c carmine rose plate 1: 1303 
4c violet plate 1: 1221
4c plate 5: 1344
4c plate 6: 502
5c plate 2: 1304
20c plate 2: 1114
$1 plate 1 and 2: 1232

I am beginning to list a small quantity of plate blocks from this issue. To view them, click on the link below:

My next post will deal with the coil stamps and the booklet stamps from this issue. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Shade, Perforation, Paper and Gum Varieties on the Karsh and Heritage Definitives of 1953-1967

This post will explore some of the shade, perforation, paper and gum varieties that I have seen on this issue over the years that I have both collected and worked with these stamps. I should note upfront that I have never undertaken a disciplined study of these stamps. Consequently, the varieties that I am going to talk about may indeed not be all the varieties extant. Indeed, because of the large quantities printed and the fact that only about 10-20% of the surviving stamps are mint, it will likely prove necessary to study the used stamps in detail in order to be certain of identifying all the existing varieties. Fortunately all the stamps in used condition are very inexpensive and readily available for study. Certainly any statistically valid study of the paper and shade varieties must take the used and mint stamps into account, in all condition grades.

Shade Varieties

In general, the shade varieties on this issue are quite subtle and become most obvious when collected in large multiples that are mounted in such a way as for the multiples to overlap. That way, the contrast between the two shades will highlight each one and make the differences more obvious to your eyes. I will now describe and illustrate the shade varieties that I have seen on each value in the series:

1c Violet Brown

Unfortunately I do not currently have two different shades of this stamp to show here. However, I have seen a deep violet brown and a lighter, brighter purple brown as well as a milky brown.

2c Green

Here I have not seen any variation in the basic shade of green - only varying densities of ink, and at that not very often, The printer did a very good job of ensuring uniformity of this colour.

3c Carmine Rose

On this value I have seen the three shades shown above. The stamp in the middle is both lighter and brighter than the stamp on the left and can really be called a shade of cerise rather than carmine-rose. The stamp on the right is darker and more carmine than the other two and is the true carmine-rose shade. I have seen all three shades on both the sheet stamps and the coils. I haven't checked enough booklets to know which shades are found on the booklet stamps.

4c Violet

This stamp exhibits the greatest variation of all and I show five shades above. The shades at each end are both very similar and are a kind of milky violet, but the left shade is slightly deeper than the right. The second stamp from the left is the regular violet and the middle stamp is the light, bright violet. Then the second stamp from the right is a deep, dull violet. There are very likely other shades in addition to these and I have seen at least two shades on the coils. In all likelihood though, the coils will exhibit more than two shades, although probably not the same range as the sheet stamps because the quantity printed was so much less.  I haven't checked enough booklets to know which shades are found on the booklet stamps, though I have not typically seen the brighter violets and instead tend to see the deeper, duller violets.

5c Ultramarine

This stamp exhibits almost as much variation as the 4c violet. The first and second stamp from the right are the regular ultramarine, with the one on the right being slightly lighter than the one on the left. The second and third stamps from the left are especially bright versions of the ultramarine, with the middle stamp being brighter than the second stamp. Finally, the stamp on the extreme right is not ultramarine at all, but a shade of blue. It really is a completely different colour when compared to the middle stamp.

7c Blue

Although I only show 2 shades here, there are at least three. The stamp on the left is a brighter blue than the stamp on the right, and both are printings from the 1950's as signified by the horizontal ribbed paper. Later printings of this stamp made in the early 1960's show a distinct greenish tone to the blue, or a dull greyish tone.

20c Slate

I have not seen a lot of variation in the tone of this stamp, though I suspect that there are shades that exist that are closer to grey, lacking the bluish tone of the two stamps above. In the case of the slate shades above, I have seen clear differences in the intensity of the colour, with the stamp on the left being clearly darker than the stamp on the right.

50c Light Green

Unfortunately my scanner would not co-operate with me on this colour, giving me grey-scale images that did not show the very subtle shade differences to be found on this stamp. The green shade is basically a form of sea-green. There is a bright version of the colour and a dull, light version which is more commonly found on the later printings of the 1960's.

$1 Grey

There are two obvious shades on this stamp as shown above, and possibly two sub-shades of the grey stamp on the right. The two shades are slate on the left and grey on the right. They occur on both plates 1 and 2 and the slate shade appears to me to be the scarcer of the two. The slate has a clear, unmistakable bluish tone compared to the grey, which contains no blue whatsoever. The grey, in turn appears to exist in a lighter grey and a darker, almost charcoal grey. It is not surprising given that over 27 million were printed and issued over a 10 year period. I have seen both shades on the official stamps as well as the regular issue.


Unitrade lists the perforation of this issue, and all issues after 1935 printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company as 12. However, in actual fact, the perforation is 11.9 as measured on an Instanta gauge. This will prove significant, as sometime in 1961 or 1962, a new perforating machine was introduced, which produced 12.1-12.25. In a recent Canadian Stamp News publication, an article was written announcing the discovery of this later perforation measurement on the 7c. However, given that the 50c and the $1 were both used after 1962, I would expect that a detailed study of perforations on this stamp will turn up the later perforation as well.

Given the late date of its introduction, I would expect that it will be scarce on the 7c and $1, as well as the 7c and 50c official stamps, as these had all been either replaced or discontinued in 1963, just a short time after this perforation was introduced.

Paper Varieties

I have seen eight paper varieties on this issue, not all of which exist on all values. However, it is probable that at least three of the varieties exist on all the values. All the papers I looked at measure between 0.0035-0.004" thick on a micrometer for the mint stamps.

By far the most common, standard paper found on this issue is a horizontal wove paper, giving no reaction (dull white or light violet) under long-wave ultraviolet light (UV) and showing clear, strong ribbing on the paper surface and through the gum on the back. The second type is similar, but has less strong ribbing, being smooth on the paper surface, but showing the ribbing only when held to strong backlighting. As far as I know, both these types can be found on all the sheet and booklet stamps. I have not seen it on the coil stamps.

The third type, which I have only seen on the 7c is similar to type three, except that instead of being white is a creamy off-white, almost light straw colour. Like the other papers, this paper gives a dull violet reaction under UV light.

The fourth and fifth types which I have only seen on the coils is a vertical wove paper that shows either strong vertical ribbing or very weak to no ribbing.  Again, these papers give a dull white reaction under UV light.

The sixth type of paper that I have seen shows no ribbing at all, even when held up to a strong light. It was first introduced on the War Issue towards the end of its life and is common on the 1949-1952 Postes-Postage Issue. It seems to be a scarce paper on this issue, and I think it may exist on all the stamps, but I am not sure. Again, this paper gives a light violet or dull white reaction under UV light.

The seventh, eighth varieties I have only seen on the 50c light green. The seventh type is a speckled fluorescent, horizontal wove paper with a smooth appearance. The term speckled fluorescent means that the basic paper is dull, just like the other types, but contains individual fibres, sparesely spread throughout the stamp that give a bright bluish white reaction under UV light. This type of paper first appears toward the end of 1960-1961 and becomes common throughout the 1960's.

The eighth type is listed in Unitrade as "high fluorescent" paper and is very rare. It is a horizontal wove paper with weak ribbing that gives an overall bright bluish white glow under UV as shown in the picture below:

The stamp on the left is the normal dull paper, giving a greyish white reaction under the lamp, whereas the rare variety gives a bright white glow. However in the grand scheme of paper fluorescence, this variety is not nearly as bright as what we see on later issues like the Centennial issue or the commemoratives of the early 1970's. So while I do not agree that it is truly "high fluorescent", being really more of a low fluorescent, this is how Unitrade lists it at $200 against $5 for the normal stamp in mint NH condition.

Both types seven and eight are only listed on the basic 50c stamp, through I have to think that they must also exist on the official stamps, possibly on both the regular "Casson" font and the "flying G" varieties.


The basic gum is a smooth yellowish cream, bordering on yellow and is found on all the stamps in the series. There is also a lighter cream gum as well as shown in the scan below:

It is difficult to see, but if you look carefully, you can see that the left stamp has yellower gum than the right stamp. Also you can see the vertical ribbing in the paper more strongly on the left stamp.

On the horizontal and vertical larger format stamps the gum is a smooth cream that has very slight patchiness to it as shown on the left stamp. The later printings from the 1960's have super smooth shiny yellowish cream gum containing no uneven spots or streaks as shown in the stamp at right.

Obtaining a UV Lamp

Many collectors shy away from studying paper fluorescence because the UV lamps available in the trade are very expensive and often contain both short-wave, which is very dangerous in addition to the harmless long wave light. However, for Canadian stamps a cheap and readily available alternative is shown below:

This is a simple black light and can be found at any party supply or lighting store. They are sold for use in nightclubs and for dance parties. I think I paid something like $20 back in 2000 when I bought this, plus $15 for an extra bulb. This bulb has lasted me over 10 years. The light it gives off is strong enough that it can be used in a lit room to identify the more obvious varieties, although it still gives better results in a dark room.

Bringing it All Together

As as I am aware there are no studies that have been published for this issue dealing with these attributes. Nobody really knows what shade varieties are found on each plate, each paper type, each gum type or perforation. How large the potential scope could become for just the sheet and coil stamps can be illustrated below:

There are 19 basic sheet stamps if you count both types of G overprint on the 50c, and three coils. There are also five basic booklet stamps for a total of 27 stamps. Lets assume that there are 2 shade varieties of the 2c, 20c, 50c and $1; three of the 1c, and 7c and 5 each of the 4c and 5c. Lets further assume that types one through three and six of the papers exist for all stamps, types four and five exist only on the coils. Lets assume that type seven exists on both the 7c and the 50c, but eight only exists on the 50c. The gum types are tied to particular paper types, so lets assume for the moment that they add no further complexity. So the possible combinations of varieties are as follows:

1c: (3 shades x 4 papers x 3 issues) = 36 stamps
2c: (2 shades x 4 papers x 2 issues) = 16 stamps
3c: (3 shades x 4 papers x 4 issues)  = 24 stamps
4c: (5 shades x 4 papers x 4 issues) = 40 stamps
5c: (5 shades x 4 papers x 2 issues) = 40 stamps
7c: (3 shades x 5 papers x 2 issues) = 30 stamps
20c: (2 shades x 4 papers x 2 issues) = 16 stamps
50c: (2 shades x 6 papers x 3 issues) = 36 stamps
$1: (2 shades x 4 papers x 2 issues) = 16 stamps
2c coil (2 shades x 2 papers) = 4 stamps
3c coil (3 shades x 2 papers) = 6 stamps
4c coil (5 shades x 2 papers) = 10 stamps

For a total of up to at least 338 different, identifiable stamps - a far cry from just the basic set that it first appears to be.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Karsh, Wildlife and Heritage Definitive Issue of 1953-1963 An Overview


Upon the death of King George VI, it became necessary to replace the definitives bearing his likeness, with a new set of stamps with the new Queen's portrait. In addition, the Second World War had been over for over six years, and it was felt that the theme of the higher value definitives should be changed to reflect the new peacetime conditions. Some of these changes had already been introduced with the Natural Resource and Industry designs that had been introduced in the prior reign with the $1, 10c and 15c. However, it was felt that a new series of designs should celebrate the quintessential, cultural icons that make Canada unique. So while the 1c-5c low value definitives would be redesigned to feature the portrait of the Queen by Yousef Karsh, the high value designs would each depict a different Canadian cultural icon as follows:

7c: A Canada Goose
20c: A paper mill symbolizing the paper industry
50c: A spinning wheel symbolizing the textile industry
$1: A Pacific Coast Totem Pole

The low value stamps were not well received by the public. As we shall see in the section of proof material below, the Karsh portrait was a photograph and while it was felt that the photograph was excellent, many felt that the engravers did a poor job of rendering the portrait. Consequently, these stamps had a very short life and were quickly replaced in 1954 by the Wilding portrait.

The mid range and high range values continued in use for at least 4 years in the case of the 20c pulp and paper, and as long as 13 years, in the case of the 50c Textile Industry, which continued to be used until it was replaced by the 50c Summer's Stores design from the Centennial Issue on February 8, 1967.

Many collectors will think that there is nothing to this issue, and after just a few trips to the stamp dealer, all the interesting collecting possibilities would be exhausted. However, as we shall see, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, assembling a gold-medal calibre exhibit that tells the complete story of this issue, from conception though to issued stamps will prove to be a challenging and expensive task. However, for a collector of limited means, 99% of the material from this issue is readily attainable and very little studies have been done on this material, making it a very fruitful area indeed.

This post will act as an overview of the major points of interest that pertain to this set, and then in the next several posts, I will go into detain about the different points of interest discussed below, as to include all that detail in this post would result in a post that is simply too long to read. Finally, I will conclude with some suggestions as to how you might go about forming a specialized collection of this issue.

The Stamp Designs

The following 1c through 5c values were all designed by Herman Herbert Schwartz from a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II taken by famed photographer Yousuf Karsh.

The 1c value was issued in violet brown. For some reason, my scanner wasn't picking up the colour, so the above images are grey-scale. 

The 2c value was issued in bright green. Again, my scanner wasn't picking up the green "G" overprint for some reason. 


The 3c value was issued in carmine-rose. 

The 4c value was issued in violet. 

The 5c was issued in ultramarine. 

The 7c blue Canada Goose stamp was designed by Emanuel Otto Hahn, based on a model by Herman Herbert Schwartz. The engraving was completed by master engraver, Silas Robert Allen. 

The 20c Pulp and Paper Industry stamp was designed by Allan  L. Pollock and the engraving was done by Joseph Keller. 

The 50c light green was also designed by Allan L Pollock  and engraved by Joseph Keller. 

The $1 grey was designed by Emanuel Otto Hahn and engraved by Silas Robert Allen. 

Issue Formats and Quantities Issued

All the stamps of this issue were printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company. All of the low value sheet stamps to the 5c were printed from plates of 400 subjects, divided into four post office sheets of 100 subjects, while all of the high values were printed from plates of 200 subjects divided into four panes of 50 subjects each. The printer's inscription and plate number would appear in the outer corner of each pane. Thus four plate blocks of four could be collected - one for each of the four post office panes. In addition, the lower-left pane would contain the print order number as well as the plate number. Some examples are shown below:

All values were issued in sheet form and the issue quantities of the issued sheet stamps is as follows:

1c violet brown - 3 plates - 169,000,000 - only 2 plates, 1 and 2 were used for the official overprints.
2c green - 6 plates - 338,000,000 - only 4 plates 1 through 4 were used for the official overprints.
3c carmine rose - 4 plates - 332,000,000 - only 3 plates were used for the official stamps
4c violet - 6 plates - 406,000,000 - only 3 plates 1, 2 and 4 were used for the official overprints.
5c ultramarine - 3 plates - 109,000,000 - only 2 plates 1 and 2 were used for the official overprints
7c blue - 2 plates - 161,820,000
20c slate grey - 2 plates - 104,975,000
50c light green - 2 plates - 63,075,000
$1 slate grey - 2 plates - 27,865,000

The 1c, 3c and 4c were issued in booklet panes of 3 each, contained in what is commonly called a "chewing gum booklet". The stamps from these booklets are easily distinguishable from the next two because the top and bottom edges are imperforate, as is the right edge on the end stamps. These were issued in both English and bilingual formats. There were 305,550 English booklets (916,650 stamps of each value), and 154,050 bilingual booklets (462,150 stamps of each value). The 3c was also issued in 25c booklets, each containing 2 panes of 4 stamps plus 2 blank labels. Finally the 4c was issued in 25c booklets each containing 1 pane of 6. The 25c booklets containing the two panes of the 3c were issued in both Bilingual and English formats. There were 200,000 English booklets issued (1,600,000 stamps) and 50,000 bilingual booklets (400,000 stamps). The 25c booklets containing the panes of 6 4c stamps were also issued in both formats, with 2,502,000 English (15,012,000 stamps) and 700,275 bilingual booklets (4,201,650 stamps). Thus the number of booklet stamps issued of each value is:

1c violet brown - 1,378,800 stamps
3c carmine rose (chewing gum) -  1,378,800 stamps
3c carmine rose (25c booklet) -  2,000,000 stamps
4c violet (chewing gum) - 1,378,000 stamps
4c violet (25c booklet) - 19,213,650 stamps

The front cover of a typical chewing gum booklet and a 25c booklet are shown below:

The chewing gum booklet shown is actually the English version of the booklet for the previous King George VI Postes-Postage issue. But it gives you a good idea of how these booklets looked. You can see that it is about the same size as a piece of Wrigley's chewing gum, which is where they got their name. The 25c larger format booklet shown is the bilingual version of the 25c booket containing two panes of 4 3c. 

Finally, the 2c, 3c and 4c were issued in coil form. Each roll contained 500 stamps, perforated 9.5 vertically. Each roll contained 10 starter blank tabs onto which the denomination of the roll was handstamped, and 10 blank end tabs. The quantities of coil stamps issued were:

2c green - 5,000,000 - 10,000 rolls of 500.
3c carmine rose - 5,500,000 - 11,000 rolls of 500.
4c violet - 4,960,000 - 9,920 rolls of 500.

It is not known what the exact issue quantities of most of the official "G"overprinted issues are. However, they are all much scarcer than the regular sheet stamps.

As you can see, although the sheet stamps are quite common for all values, several of the booklet stamps and the coil stamps are not so common, especially nicely used examples with in-period cancellations and covers bearing attractive frankings of these stamps.

Periods of Use

Like many of the definitive sets issued by Canada, this set did not replace the previous one all at once. Thus there is some overlap between some values of the last issue and some of the values of this issue.

The first stamps of the series to appear are the 7c, which was issued on November 1, 1952,  the 20c paper industry, which was issued on April 1, 1952, and the $1 totem pole, which was issued February 2, 1953.  The next 7c stamp to appear was the 7c jet plane definitive, which was issued on March 11, 1964. The next 20c, was the green paper industry definitive, which was issued June 7, 1956.  The S1 was replaced by the Exports design on June 14, 1963. Thus the period of use for these two stamps is:

7c: November 3, 1952-March 11, 1964
20c: April 1, 1952- June 7, 1956
$1: February 3, 1953 - June 14, 1963

The low value definitive sheet stamps all appeared on May 1, 1953. However, the booklet stamps did not appear on this date, nor did the coils. The first booklet to be issued was the 4c pane of 6 on July 6, and then the 2 panes of 4 of the 3c on July 17. The chewing-gum booklet of the 1c, 3c and 4c did not appear until August 12. The 5c Wilding definitive appeared on April 1, 1954, with the other values appearing on June 10, 1954. The Wilding booklets containing the panes of the 1c and 4c were issued January 1, 1956, while the 5c booklets came out on July 14, 1954. Thus the periods of use for the sheet and booklet stamps are thus:

1c-4c sheet stamps: May 1, 1953-June 10, 1954
5c sheet stamp: May 1, 1953-April 1, 1954
1c booklet stamp: August 12, 1953-January 1, 1956
3c booklet stamp: July 17, 1953-June 10, 1954
4c booklet stamp: July 6, 1953-January 1, 1956

The 2c coil appeared on July 30, the 3c on July 27 and the 4c on September 3. The Wilding coils that replaced them were issued September 9, 1954, August 23, 1954 and July 6, 1954 respectively. The face values were 1c higher, on each as the rates had increased. So the correct periods of use for these stamps is:

2c green coil: July 30, 1953-September 9, 1954
3c carmine rose coil: July 27, 1953 - August 23, 1954
4c violet coil: September 3, 1953-July 6, 1954

The 50c was the last stamp of the series to appear on November 2, 1953. It was replaced on February 8, 1967 by the 50c Centennial issue. So the period of use is:

50c light green: November 2, 1953-February 8, 1967

No definite issue dates are given for the Official stamps. However, it is assumed that they would have been issued at the same time as the basic unoverprinted stamps. However, a postmark study could be undertaken to try and identify the earliest known usages.

Shade Varieties

All of the stamps in this set exist with variations in shade, although some are extremely subtle. I will discuss the shade varieties that I have seen on these stamps in detail in a subsequent post. However, suffice to say that the most obvious shades occur on the 4c violet, the 5c ultramarine and the $1 grey. Some of the shades I have seen are so obvious, i am surprised that they are not listed in Unitrade as sub varieties.

The shades on the 1c, 2c, 7c, 20c and 50c are all very subtle, but with patience and experience, you can definitely identify them.

Paper Varieties

The stamp paper of the 1950's exhibits several variations, none of which have received any attention in the Unitrade catalogue. Again, a subsequent post will deal with the varieties in detail, but a general summary is presented here.

The most common paper is a non-fluorescent white, horizontal wove paper, that shows a distinct mesh pattern when held to strong back-lighting. Usually the surface of the paper appears smooth and the gum appears smooth. However, occasionally, the horizontal weave is very strong, and distinct ribbing can be seen on the stamp surface and on the gum. Another type of paper found on the coil stamps is a vertically ribbed paper. Finally, all stamps can be found on wove paper that shows no distinct mesh pattern when held to strong back-light. The gum on this type of paper is usually completely smooth and shiny.

Plates and Plate Blocks

As stated in the issue quantity information above, a total of 54 plates were used to print all of the stamps including the official "G" overprints. Given that there are 4 possible corner positions for each plate, then there are 216 possible plate blocks, not considering any shade or paper varieties that exist. I am not aware of any studies that have been undertaken to identify all shade and paper varieties on all the plate blocks of this issue. So there are potentially many more collectible plate blocks possible with this issue.

Coil Stamps

As with all coil stamps printed by the Canadian Bank Note company, there are variations in both horizontal and vertical spacing between the subjects. Thus a variety of Jump strips, narrow spacing and wide spacing strips are possible. In addition to these, one can also collect repair paste-up strips, which came about when strips were joined to make the roll of 500. It is also possible to collect strips that show the cutting guidelines in the margins as well, with these being quite desirable and scarce. Finally, one can collect the start and end strips of 10.

In addition to to the basic varieties above, the coils can be found with different papers, different gums and printed in different shades.


As stated above, there were six basic booklets issued with this set. However, a specialist by the name of Peter Harris has studied the booklet cover dies and has noted that there were several types of different front and back covers used for these booklets. He lists a total of 22 different types for this issue. I will explain these types in detail in a subsequent post. However the main difference have to do with the positioning of selected dots on the dotted covers or the shape of selected letters contained in the cover inscriptions. Given the relatively low number of booklets issued, some of these types should be quite scarce and challenging to find.

Official Stamps

All the stamps of this issue exist with a "G" overprint for use by various government departments. The standard typeface used is shown on the 3c stamp at left. It is known as the 14 point Caslon font. It is possible to find small varieties in the thickness of the G that likely came about as the typeface wore (the early G's are thinner). On April 24, 1961, the typeface was changed to 14 point bold font as shown on the right. This is know to collectors as the "Flying G". It can also be found without any upper serif and with no protruding crossbar. This type, is known as the fishhook G and is shown below:

This type is very rare and worth a lot of money on the stamps in which it occurs.

It is possible to find narrow spacing and wide spacing varieties of the G overprints, although I have not seen any listed for this issue. It would be worthwhile, I think to conduct a detailed study of sheets and large blocks to see of any such varieties can be identified. Misplaced G's are also possible, though once again, Unitrade does not list any. The 50c exists with a blunt G overprint of the Casson font and a fishhook G.

Plate Flaws

There are no listed plate flaws on any value other than the 50c, although I have seen some minor flyspeck varieties on the low values:

1. I have seen the 5c with what appears to be an accent to the right of the 5c
2. I have seen the 3c with what appear to be two dots on each end of the "3"

Unitrade lists two plate varieties on the 50c that occurred in the lower left plate block from plate 1:

1. The first is a retouching of the left vertical frameline, ending at an engraver's slip at the bottom.
2. The second is an engraver's slip that curves upward from the bottom frameline from the last "A" of "Canada" to the "T"in postage.

These flaws can be found on the regular issued stamps and both types of official stamps.

Proof Material

There is a very wide range of essays, trial colour die proofs, hardened die proofs and plate proofs of this issue, although most of them are unique or very rare. Prices at auction vary from 1,000 up to $3,000 per item. I will list all the known items in a future post. But for now, here are some illustrations of some of the items that exist.


Postal History and Cancellations

A wide variety of covers can be collected from this issue, from local usages, to advertising covers, registered covers (both foreign and domestic), bulk mailing tags and acknowledgement of receipt forms and much more. Most of this material is not too expensive when offered by dealers and some wonderful specialty collections can be formed that document significant historical events that occurred while this series was current. I will discuss what some of these possible specialties are in a subsequent post, as well as offer suggestions as to how to identify the rarer and more desirable items.

CDS cancels were in wide use during this time, as were wide barrel cancellations. There were thousands of post offices open while this set was current as well as several that closed during this time. Thus one obvious and potentially inexpensive endeavour is to collect as many different in-period CDS town cancels as possible, including those from post offices that have opened and closed during the period.


The 2c, 2c coil, 3c, 4c and 5c all exist precancelled. There is but none style known of both the 2c, 2c coil and 3c, but the 4c exists in 4 styles, while the 5c exists in three styles. The most common style is six horizontal bars arranged in three groups of 2. However, some styles exist with numbers between the bars.

Sheets that were precancelled contain a large warning across the selvage of the top of the sheet that reads" Warning - To be used only as specifically authorized". Thus another item that can be collected are the warning strips of 20 stamps. The rarest item from this issue are two imperforate varieties on the 5c precancel that exist due to a perforation shift:

1. A vertical pair imperf between, and
2. Imperf between the top of the stamp and the margin.

Both of these are precancelled "0700" between bars. The imperf between pair lists for $5,000, while the second variety lists for $500.

Postal Stationery

A number of pre-stamped envelopes, post-bands, wrappers and post-cards were issued with the above two designs. I will discuss all the various types in a subsequent post, as well as offer suggestions as to how to build a specialized collection from this area. However, for now, you should be aware that there were two basic designs of stamp impressions:

1. The first issue from 1953-1961, which corresponds to the design of the issued stamps, and
2. A modified design as shown above, which incorporates the date "1961" in the bottom right corner. This design was in use from 1962-1964.

That concludes my overview of this issue. Hopefully you can see that there is much more to this issue that the simple catalogue listing would suggest, and it is possible to form a very extensive collection as will become apparent as I discuss each of the above topics in more detail.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Fascinating World of Written Correspondence - The Elihu James Davis Correspondence of 1869-1870

A few weeks ago I was visiting a local antique store when the owner told me about a small group of covers he had for sale from 1869 and 1870. He showed me the following envelopes:

As far as basic covers go, not much to write home about at all:common stampless covers with a common "paid 3" marking and one 3c dull red Small Queen with the stamp torn in half!

But all is often not what it seems in philately: these covers all had the original letters inside! This is very unusual for covers of this age, although it is far more common for material in the 1930's and onward. The letters were all very well preserved:

The first page of the first letter sent from Waterdown, Ontario to King City Ontario on September 15, 1869. 

Pages 2 and 3 of the same letter

The last page of the first letter. 

The first page of the second letter sent almost a month later on October 15, 1869. 

Pages 2 and 3 of the second letter. 

Page 4 of the second letter.

 The next three letters were all sent in quick succession on February 3, 1870, February 8, 1870 and February 16, 1870:

The third letter was a single page. Note the lovely embossed figure in the top corner for Extra Superfine paper. 

Page 1 of the fourth letter. 

Pages 2 and 3 of the fourth letter. Note that no paper was wasted, as the unused portion of the last page was neatly torn off. 

Page 1 of the 5th letter. 

Pages 2 and 3 of the fifth letter, sent on February 16, 1870. 

The owner had them all priced at around $15 each - too expensive for just the covers, given the poor condition  of them. However, I figured that the letters had to be worth at least $20 each, and I thought it would be fun to try and find out who sent them and to read them ans see what they were about. So I bought the lot. 

I started to read the letters in order, although many of the words are difficult to make out. What struck me about them was how little the writer had to say about themselves and their own thoughts. Most of the content was a reporting of everything that was going on with the lives of various members of the family, plus a very personal appeal in the last letter to "pursue God's work". The writer wrote about the weather being 16 degrees in the middle of an Ontario winter! I later wondered if this reference was in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius, but I suppose it is possible that winter back them was warmer in mid February. In any event, I found it really quite fascinating to read about the happenings in the life of the Davis family between the Autumn of 1869 and the Winter of 1870. 

I became interested to try and find out who the Davis family was and whether or not they were prominent Ontarians. Clearly the person sending the letter, E. Davis was a person of means because the last three of these letters were all sent a week apart and 3 cents back then was not a small sum. In addition the paper that the letters were written on is of very high quality. I googled Extra Superfine writing paper and found that it is manufactured by the Hampshire Paper Company in Nashua, NH to this day. 

I started googling the Davis Family in Ontario and noted that in the 1800's there was an Andrew Davis who owned a leather tannery business in Kingston, so I figured there was probably some relation. I couldn't for the life of me make out the name of the recipient - it looked kind of like Elizabeth, but the letters were wrong. So I put them all aside for a few weeks and worked on the rest of my material. 

Then yesterday I decided to do a finer Google search. I looked up "Davis Family in Waterdown"and "Davis Family in King City, Ontario". Both searches yielded results. The first one revealed that the only prominent Davis residents in Waterdown were indeed Andrew Davis and his wife Elizabeth Pease Davis. Certainly, it was possible that these letters were sent by Elizabeth Pease, as they were signed by "E. Davis". 

The second Google search was where I hit the goldmine though. It revealed a book that had been reproduced online that appeared to have been published late in the 19th century. It was about the early history of King City and had a long chapter describing all the early residents. Among that list was a certain Elihu James Davis, who acquired the tannery business from his late father Andrew Davis and became Reeve of King Township. I immediately went back to the letters and looked to see if I could recognize the addressee as Elihu. Instantly, I could recognize the  name. I just couldn't before because it is such an unusual name. 

So it quickly became apparent that Elizabeth Pease, who I found out was born in 1822 was writing to her then 18 year old son Elihu. She would have been 47-48 years of age when these letters were written. She was clearly writing the letters to report the family events, but also to admonish him in the third letter for not visiting or writing more often and then urging him in the last letter to find God and the church. In many ways not much has changed: a middle aged parent is trying to guide their newly minted adult child. 

I became interested to find out more about Elihu. It turns out that there is a Wikipedia Article written about him. Here is a picture of him in later life:

Elihu Davis.png

He was born in 1851 and died in 1936 at the age of 84. In addition to serving as the Reeve of the King Township, he represented York North in the Legislative Assembly as a Liberal member from 1888-1904. 

So this small group of seemingly plain covers turned out to be a correspondence from a mother to her son of a very prominent Ontario family and the son turned out to be prominent Ontario politician! This is what I love about philately - the mysteries that can be unraveled with good research. 

I will have the entire group of covers for sale in my store as one grouping either today or tomorrow. If you are interested in acquiring them,please click on the link below: