Today's post will deal with the topic of chalk-surfaced papers on Nigerian stamps of the colonial period. The standard postage stamp catalogues, such as Scott, make no distinction at all as to the use of chalk-surfaced papers over the normal, unsurfaced, plate-glazed wove paper. However, the Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue does list both chalk surfaced and ordinary unsurfaced papers where both were used. What many collectors may be unaware of though is the fact that more than one type of chalk-surfaced paper was used in some cases. The stamps in question were printed by De La Rue in London, and during the King Edward VII Period, the stamps of Great Britain also show these variations. The difference though is that the specialized Stanley Gibbons catalogue does distinguish between the normal chalk surfaced paper, and a very thick, opaque paper, which it calls Dickinson Coated Paper, which was used on an experimental basis in 1913.
It stands to reason therefore, that similar differences probably do exist on many colonial issues as well, depending on when they were printed. Today's post will look at some of those differences that I see, based on my examination of several hundred Edward VII period stamps from Lagos, Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria.
The stamps in question, that we will be looking at today are:
1. The Edward VII Issue of Lagos, Watermarked Multiple Crown CA.
2. The Edward VII Issue of Northern Nigeria, Watermarked Multiple Crown CA
3. The Edward VII Issue of Southern Nigeria, Watermarked Multiple Crown CA
The Lagos issues first appear on chalk-surfaced paper in September 1905, with most values appearing on this paper by September 1906.The 2.5d value only appears on chalk-surfaced paper. The issue from Northern Nigeria first appears in August 1905, but the chalk surfaced versions do not appear until 1906 and 1907. The later issue, for which the colours were changed, first appeared on January 30, 1910, and was in use until the King George V issue replaced it In September 1912. All the values above the 2.5d were printed on chalk-surfaced paper, and all appeared between November 1910 and September 1911. Finally, the issues of Southern Nigeria first appeared on chalk-surfaced paper in 1905, with some values not appearing until 1908. The 3d and 10/- values of the 1904-1909 issue are only known on chalk-surfaced paper, while all values above 2.5d of the 1907-1911 issue are only known on chalk-surfaced paper. Unlike the later Northern Nigeria issue, the later Edward VII issue of Southern Nigeria appeared on a staggered basis between 1907 and 1911.
Detecting Stamps on Chalk-Surfaced Paper
If you read the traditional stamp literature, the recommended method for distinguishing chalk-surfaced papers from the ordinary papers is the use of what is known as the silver test. The silver test involves gently rubbing the blunt end of a silver wire on the paper, usually in the selvage or outer margins of the stamp. The idea is that the silver will react with the chalk in the paper coating and leave a visible grey mark. There are a few practical problems with this test though:
- Silver wire is not something that is easily obtained.
- The repeated use on stamps can damage them.
- Not all chalk-surfaced papers respond to this test.
- The presence of pores in the paper surface.
- The presence of surface rubbing or the appearance thereof.
- The visibility of the watermark.
- A dull sheen to the surface, with alternate shiny and dull spots.
- The cleanliness and uniformity of the printing lines.
- No visible pores on the paper surface when viewed under high magnification. The surface is somewhat rough compared to chalk-surfaced paper, with small dents in places, but no pores as such.
- There is no surface rubbing, though the inks of some stamps can have the same diffuse appearance that often appears on the stamps printed on chalk-surfaced paper.
- The watermark is almost always visible from the back of the stamp without the aid of either a watermark tray or watermark detector. In addition, the paper mesh will often, but not always be visible also.
- Although all De La Rue stamps have relatively clean printing lines, the ink absorption on the stamps printed on unsurfaced paper is often uneven, resulting in lines that are not of uniform intensity, whereas on chalk-surfaced paper, the lines are usually sharp, clean and of uniform intensity.