This past year I spent some time thinking about how I could grow as a collector. I came to the conclusion that there are as many ways to do this as there are collectors. However, three ways in particular stuck in my mind: studying the printing process, studying the engraving process, and studying the history of the United States Postal System.
I started with number one. It had been a long time since I read about the printing of stamps and some of that knowledge was fading. Having my Scott’s catalog handy I started in on the front section that out lines the process of printing stamps.
After reading through the first article, my attention span wavered big time. Even though I have an interest in all things philatelic, technical articles on the subject can be dry reading. After eight hours of work on the computer for my day job, I need some excitement to keep me engaged.
When I read about the printing process, Scott’s, and other sources, gave examples of how the process could go wrong and what the term was for it. This gave me the solution I was looking for.
I decided to list these terms then find the stamp that exemplifies each term.
Mystic Stamps provides a nice over view on this topic: Freaks, Errors and Oddities
“Errors and freaks are stamps not prepared according to their design specifications and mistakenly released to the public. Errors are stamps which have mistakes in color, perforation or design. Freaks are stamps which show an inconsistency in their production.”
Oddities are stamps not covered under these two definitions.
Instead of just reading and committing to memory the concept of an ink blob, I would have the real life example of it on a stamp.
Seeing that stamp, right there on the end of the tweezers, with a dot of ink where it was not intended to be, would bring to mind the actual printing process that made it. I can imagine how the big Huck press operates as it runs at break neck speed printing tens of thousands of stamps a minute. In that whirl of rollers filling with ink, then transferring and imprinting the engraved image onto the paper speeding between them, one tiny drop of ink escapes from it’s place on the printing plate and lands on the stoic and stately portrait face of a famous American, giving one in ten million stamps an unintended birthmark.
As well as sparking my imagination, expanding my appreciation, and deepening my understanding of freaks, oddities and errors, it would start a new branch of my collection. Plenty of growth in the pages of the stock books and the pages of the collector’s mind.
In picking the stamp to work with, I decided to chose one from my early days of my collecting.
Some of the first stamps I acquired were from the Prominent Americans Series, 1965 – 1978. In that series the Francis Parkman 3-cent was the first one I bought at the post office in Bronxville, N.Y. At the time, I was not much taller then the counter at the window!
Here is what I have so far in my Francis Parkman sub-collection.
This is a nice example of an uneven concentration of ink on the printing plate, or, an ink blob. Unfortunately, it is not on Frances’ face but on his surname, and also on his first name in the lower stamp. There is a faint ink smear as well. This is a two-for-one error!
This plate block is good example of an ink smear which is produced from the same issue as the former error illustration. This issue seems to have had a lot of problems with over inking resulting in smears. However, blobs seem to much rarer an occurrence.
Cut shifts occur when the cutting process is shifted and the perforation falls inside the image of the stamp.
Here are two cut shifts, a vertical shift on the left and a horizontal shift on the right. Both stamps were printed in the sheet format, four panes comprising a full sheet with a horizontal gutter between the panes.
Here is another perforation error but on a coil stamp. These are excellent examples of the perforation step being omitted entirely. The term for that is in-perforation. The coils on the left are missing horizontal perforations. The example on the right has a cut shift as well, making it another two-for-one or a complex error. These two example have per-cancelations for use by not for profit organizations.
There are other terms describing these irregularities which I have yet to acquire. I have my eye on a paper fold errors but the price is slightly out of reach. If the seller was local I could offer a trade. Unfortunately, he is listed on eBay. Buying and selling on the internet has it’s pros and cons.
Interestingly enough, I have not found an error related to the engraving of the plate. No stamp with the denomination missing or Francis’s portrait facing the wrong direction or up side down.
But as time passes new opportunities arise for the diligent philatelist.
On a final note, this is a starting point in my philatelic journey. I still have a lot to collecting of examples and education on the finer points of freaks, errors, and oddities.
As always, happy collecting!