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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Work of Bradbury Wilkinson in Printing Nigerian Stamps

Image result for Nigerian stamps         Image result for Nigerian stamps

Bradbury Wilkinson, a printing firm based in New Malden, Surrey, UK, was responsible for some of the most beautiful stamps of the British Commonwealth between the early 1930's and early 1950's. Indeed who can forget the 1933 Centenary issue of the Falkland Islands, the iconic 1929 PUC pound of Great Britain, the 1933 Wilberforce Issue of Sierra Leone and the 1934 Centenary Issue of St. Helena? They were master engravers and excelled at bi-colour designs. As much as I admire De La Rue's work, the printing of this firm is in my opinion, the best out of the four major UK firms that dominated stamp production at that time: Waterlow & Sons, De La Rue, Bradbury Wilkinson and Harrison & Sons. 

It is a pity then that their involvement in Nigerian philately was limited to just five issues: 

  • The 1937 Coronation issue.  
  • The low value King George VI definitives, of which the 1/- is shown above.
  • The 3d and 6d 1949 Universal Postal Union Issue.
  • The 1953 Coronation Issue shown above. 
  • The postage due issues from 1959 to 1973. 
Despite this relatively limited run, the King George VI definitives is a very happy hunting ground for the specialist who likes paper and shade varieties. Also, despite the relatively low catalogue value of these stamps, there are some very scarce printings that should be valued at prices more in line with the scarce 4d orange. They are all very beautiful stamps as well, that will make a wonderful display in your albums. 

Printing Process

Bradbury Wilkinson was primarily a bi-colour engraver, as this was the process they used for most of the stamps they printed. Three of the four issues above were printed using the process of engraving. Occasionally they did print some stamps in one colour and in fact, all the stamps they printed for Nigeria, except for the Coronation Issue were monocoloured. The first postage due issue of 1959-1960 was lithographed - a process, that as far as I know, was only employed by them for this issue. Similarly, the second postage due issue, which came out just after independence in 1961 was printed by typography - the process used primarily by De La Rue. Again, I am hard pressed to think of any other issue that this company printed using this method. 

Plate Characteristics And Layout

There were two basic sheet formats for the stamps printed by Bradbury Wilkinson: 

  • Sheets of 60 arranged in 6 subjects x 10 rows. This format was used for the 1953 Coronation Issue and possibly for the 1949 UPU Issues, though I have never seen a complete sheet of any UPU issue printed by Bradbury Wilkinson to confirm this. However, the size of the stamps suggests that this was the likely format. 
  • Sheets of 120 arranged in 12 subjects x 10 rows, as shown above. 
The early sheets of 120 bore no plate numbers and no sheet numbers as shown above for this 1942 printing of the 1/2d. They did  bear a single inscription which read :Bradbury Wilkinson & Co. Ltd. New Malden, Surrey, England.". This inscription extended across the four middle stamps in the sheet, covering the selvage of the middle two, and extending just into the outer two of the four stamps. Later sheets bore a plate number in an itallic number underneath the second last stamp. These numbers could be either a single number, or a number and alphabetic suffix, such as 1, 1a, 1b. As far as I know there is no "c" suffix, and no comprehensive sheet studies have been completed to identify all the existing plate number combinations that are possible. The sheets of 60 will usually be found folded, as they are taller than any sheet album or sheet file on the market today. Some of the sheets can be found with black sheet numbers printed in the margin just to the right of the last stamp in the top row, or they can be found with the number printed just above this stamp. 

Paper and Gum Characteristics

The 1937 Coronation issue was printed on a stout vertical wove paper, which shows clear vertical mesh when viewed face-down on a black background, or when the stamp is held up to the light. The gum used on this paper is usually a light cream, which is a fine diagonal pattern of surface cracks. It's sheen is usually like that of satin. 

The printings of the King George VI definitives is usually on a paper that shows the same thickness and mesh characteristics as the 1937 Coronation issue, however it differs greatly in the characteristics of the gum, which is very distinctive. The gum on these printings has no visible surface cracks, is cream in colour, streaky and has a satin sheen. The watermark usually appears somewhat indented as well. It is so distinctive, that you can usually pick it out from a large number of mint stamps very quickly.  Mid-period printings made between 1941 and 1943, are usually on a vertical wove paper, which is whiter than the earlier cream paper, and on which the mesh is much less obvious. The gum on this paper is white or light cream and again, shows a diagonal pattern of surface cracks. 

From about 1943 until 1945, the paper becomes translucent and the gum becomes a toned cream colour and very smooth, with no surface cracks. This paper is very distinctive in the sense that the watermark is very highly visible in a way that it is not on the other printings. Between 1945 and 1949 the paper goes back to the white paper of the 1941-43 period with smoother white or light cream gum. From 1949 to late 1950, the paper retains the same characteristics as before, but the gum becomes shinier and is smooth. Then in late 1950 to early 1953, there is a very distinct paper that was used that has mesh running both horizontally and vertically, with very smooth, white gum. Eventually, by 1953 the paper reverts back to the paper found on the 1949-1950 issues. 

The paper found on the first postage dues is similar to that from the 1950-53 period, although the gum is slightly shinier and more cream, while that found on the second postage due issue is a thick, opaque white, chalk-surfaced paper that has a satin cream gum that has extremely fine surface cracks. 

Inks and Shades

There are some patterns to the appearance of some of the colours used by Bradbury Wilkinson during the life of its stamps, that are worth noting here:

  • Green inks of the 1930's are generally very dark, and crisp, containing a good balance of yellow and blue, appearing neither yellowish or bluish, but do contain a hint of black. By the early 1940's they lose the black and become just deep green, and between 1945 and 1948 they become yellowish. From 1948 until 1950 or so, they become strongly bluish in appearance and then finally, they revert back to the deep blackish green of the 1930's.
  • Carmine inks of the 1930's are either very true carmine, with the characteristic bluish undertone, or they are a deep, bright scarlet, that is susceptible to being changed into a deep orangy scarlet by exposure to water. Between about 1941 and 1943, the colour is almost pure scarlet, with no bluish undertone at all. In 1943, the colour reverts to the pure carmine of the late 1930's, but is not as soft as the earlier colour. In 1945 it reverts back to the scarlet or carmine red of the early 1940's. 
  • Turquoise inks of the 1930's contain are a very bright and vibrant blue. Then betwen about 1940 and 1943, they become progressively duller and greener in hue. After 1943, they begin to lose the green and become more vibrant again, eventually losing all the green and becoming more of an icy blue by the early 1950's. 
  • Orange inks of the late 1930's are a very deep and pure orange that is neither yellowish nor reddish. As time progresses, the inks become more and more reddish. 
  • Olive green inks of the late 1930's are closer to a sage-green, being more greyish than they are brownish. From about 1940 until 1945, they become progressively browner and browner. After 1945 they begin to lose the brown, until by 1951 or 1952, they are a pure olive colour. 
  • Red-brown inks of the late 1930's are a good balance between red and brown, being quite warm and soft. They become more and more brownish as one approaches the late 1940's and then they become redder and redder as one approaches the 1950's. 
  • Black inks of the late 1930's always contain a hint of grey or silver, which they lose into the 1940's as the colour becomes jet black. 
  • Scarlet inks of the late 1940's are more of a carmine-red and as the 1950's approaches they acquire a rosy hue. 
  • Blue inks of the late 1930's are either a greyish indigo or are a pure, deep indigo that is very vibrant. As the 1940's approaches, the colour becomes less intense and duller. By the late 1940's the blue starts to acquire a greyish undertone, which becomes more and more pronounced into the 1950's. 
  • Violet brown inks of the 1930's are really a pure plum colour, being an almost perfect balance between purple, black and brown. They are rich and vibrant. As time goes on, the colour becomes more and more browish until it is purple brown by the early 1950's. 
That concludes my discussion of Bradbury Wilkinson's work as it relates to Nigeria. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Work of Waterlow and Sons In Producing Nigeria's Stamps

Image result for niger coast protectorate stamps        Image result for nigeria postage stamps

Waterlow and Sons is another well established printing firm that was based in London Wall in London, United Kingdom. Their work was prevalent near the turn of the 20th century, when they printed beautiful, mostly bi-coloured stamps for North Borneo, Labuan, Uruguay, Costa Rica and a large number of other Latin American countries, as well as the exquisite monocoloured stamps of Niger Coast Protectorate. They more or less disappear as a printer of stamps after 1913 and do not reappear until the 1930's. From this point on, they are a major player in the production of British Commonwealth engraved stamps until about 1961 or 1962, when photogravure replaces engraving as the preferred method of stamp production, and Harrison and Sons becomes the dominant printing firm. A distinguishing characteristic of their later work is that the vast majority of their stamps are monocoloured, and their colours are often cooler tones as opposed to warmer ones.

Printing Process

Waterlow printed the Niger coast Protectorate Issues from 1894 to 1906, when the protectorate was amalgamated into Southern Nigeria, and then the following issues of Nigeria:

  • The 1935 Silver Jubilee Issue.
  • The 1d and 1/- values of the 1949 UPU Issue.
  • The 1953-1961 Definitive Issue.
  • The 1956 Royal Visit Issue.
  • The 1958 Victoria Centenary Issue.
  • The 1/- Northern Nigeria Self Government Issue of 1959.
  • The 1960 Independence Issue
All but the last issue were produced by engraving, which is the process that Waterlow was best known for. The 1960 Independence Issue was printed by photogravure, but as this was not a printing process that the company employed extensively, the quality of the work was not their best. 

Plate Characteristics and Layout

Image result for niger coast protectorate stamps

The above sheet shows that the early Niger Coast Protectorate stamps were printed in sheets of 30. The above sheet is from the later watermarked issue as shown by the red sheet number in the top right corner of the sheet. The earliest issues from the first designs in 1894 had no markings in the margins of the sheets, whatsoever. When the stamps were re-designed in 1894 with the name "Niger Coast Protectorate"replacing "Oil Rivers" and printed on unwatermarked paper, the earliest printings had ni marginal markings, but later printings had a sheet number marked in red wax pencil in the top right corner. As the printing numbers for these stamps were relatively low, even for the common 1/2d and 1d stamps, examples showing any marginal markings are worth a very significant premium.

The later issues were generally always printed in sheets of 60, which had the following characteristics:

  • The 1935 Silver Jubilee Sheets had a cross in the margin between the firth and sixth horizontal rows on each side, printed in the colour of the frame. There was no marginal inscription and the sheet number would be printed in the top right hand corner of the sheet in black ink above the sixth stamp. 
  • The 1953-60 Definitive Issue sheets had an inscription in the bottom margin underneath the two middle stamp that read "Waterlow & Sons Limited, London Wall, London, E.C.". There would also be small coloured (frame colour of the stamps) targets in the margins opposite the stamps on the sixth horizontal row, and opposite the stamps in the fourth vertical row. On some sheets, those markings are found opposite the stamps in the fifth and third, or the fifth and fourth rows respectively. Occasionally the target markings are also accompanied by a small "T" guide marking just below it, and on later printings, there is also a cross marking that runs through the "T"marking. The plate numbers appear in the bottom margin below the fifth and sixth stamps in the case of bi-coloured stamps, or just the fifth stamp in the case of the monocoloured stamps (i.e. the 1.5d green).Occasionally, the cutting guidelines for the sheets will appear in one or more corners, though they were not supposed to, and sometimes you can see requisition numbers below these guidelines. These are very scarce, as they were almost always guillotined off in the printing process. Finally, the sheet number always appears in black in the top right hand corner of the sheet above the sixth stamp. 
Complete sheets of any issue from Nigeria are very, very scarce, particularly in fresh and unfolded condition. Even very common stamps that normally catalogue pennies are surprisingly scarce in sheet form. The marginal markings are invaluable to the specialist as they are often the only way to establish just how many plates were used to print the various issues.

Paper and Gum Characteristics

The first issues of Niger Coast Protectorate printed by Waterlow are on unwatermarked paper, that almost always had a horizontal mesh. Occasionally though, one can find vertical wove paper also. The gum on these issues was a cream colour and a moderate satin sheen. These stamps were very heavily abused by collectors, as many of the 1/2d and 1d stamps were packet fillers for decades.As a result, many now have no gum, or very badly disturbed gum. But when you do find them with fresh gum, it is moderately shiny, cream coloured and smooth.

The issues of 1894-1898 are printed on a thin paper of generally poor quality, that is usually vertical wove. This paper is very susceptible to thins and tears, and many stamps one finds is faulty in some way, especially the mint stamps, which again were packet fodder (the 1/2d and 1d) and so are often found with hinge thins. Again one can find some of these on horizontal wove as well as vertical. The gum on these issues is much like that found on the earlier issues.

The 1898-1906 issues are generally on a much thicker paper, with vertical mesh and watermarked with a crown over block CA. The watermarks were designed for stamps of a different size, so they are almost never found with the watermark centered and some stamps can be found that show only the double vertical lines of the watermark border, rather than the watermark itself. The gum on this paper is generally thicker and shinier and is much more susceptible to being activated by moisture than the earlier gum. Consequently, even though the paper is thicker than the earlier issues, it is often found thinned due to the stamps getting stuck onto album pages through careless mounting with hinges.

The later Nigeria issues are all on paper watermarked with crown and multiple script CA. Usually, the paper is horizontal wove, with mesh that is not obvious unless the paper is held up to a strong light. Some printings can be found on paper with mesh that runs in both horizontal and vertical directions. The paper on all engraved issues is unsurfaced, with a smooth finish. The 1960 Independence Issue is printed on a thick, white chalk-surfaced paper. The gum on the 1935 Silver Jubilee Issue is a smooth, cream colour with a satin sheen. The gum on most printings of the 1953-60 definitives is smooth and cream coloured with a finely crackly texture. The gum on later printings is generally very white, smooth with no visible cracks and much less shiny, being more of an eggshell finish.

Inks and Shades

The inks used by Waterlow are all singly fugitive, so running of inks and fading is not really an issue with the stamps printed by them. The inks used on the Niger Coast Protectorate stamps all exhibit quite a lot of variation, so that it is possible to collect a very wide range of different shades for pretty well every stamp.

Later Nigeria Issues exhibit much less variation in shade. Waterlow did an excellent job of matching its ink colours between printings, so there are very few really obvious shade varieties. However, there are plenty of very subtle ones that you can identify with care and patience. Generally speaking the earlier printings of the 1953-60 definitives are in deeper and brighter inks, while the later printings are in colder and duller shades of the same basic colour.


One aspect of Waterlow's work that is worthy of separate mention is the perforations. The Niger Coast Protectorate stamps are unique in the sense that they exist with compound perforations that start and end on the same side, i.e. one side can be perforated 12-13 for the first half of the side and then 13-14 on the other half. Or one side can be entirely 13-14, with the other side being 12-13. Waterlow very clearly had four different perforating machines that it used indiscriminately to perforate the sheets of 30. These four machines had pins that gave measurements of 12-13, 13-14, 14-15 and 15-16. Most stamps are found with 13-14 and 14-15, with the other two measurements being much, much scarcer.

Even the 1953-60 issues exhibit some variations as well. Although the basic measurement given in the Gibbons catalogue is 12.5, you can find actual meaurements that vary from 12.4 to 12.6 on an accurate Instanta gauge,  and these are found consistently in other stamps printed by Waterlow for the other Commonwealth countries. So these variations may be an aid in identifying and dating the various printings. But further studies are required.

This concludes my post about Waterlow and Sons. My next post will look at the work of Bradbury Wilkinson. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Printing Firms That Produced Nigeria's Stamps

Understanding the work of the firms that printed Nigeria' postage stamps is absolutely critical if you want to be able to study and understand the country's stamps. Each of these firms used their own papers, their own inks and their own gums, as well as their own printing processes. These things evolved over time as well and understanding precisely how this happened and how the characteristics of paper, ink and gum changed over time is one of the cornerstones of British Commonwealth Philately in general.

While there were a couple of firms in Israel and Portugal who printed a few of the issues of Biafra and some commemorative sets issued between 1963 and 1965, these comprise only a very small number of Nigeria's stamps. So we can ignore them for the purposes of this discussion, since familiarity with their work is only essential to understanding the specific issues that they produced, rather than Nigerian philately as a whole. By and large, nearly all stamps issued for Nigeria and its component colonies, since 1874 have been printed by six firms, four of which were based in the UK:

1. Thomas De La Rue and Co., and its Belgian subsidiary Delrieu.
2. Waterlow and Sons Ltd.
3. Bradbury Wilkinson
4. Harrison and Sons
5. Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSP&M)
6. Jon Enschede and sons of the Netherlands.

I will discuss the general characteristics of each printer' work with respect to:

  • Printing process
  • Paper employed
  • Inks used and use of shades to identify printings
  • Other characteristics used to identify printings
  • Gum used
and any other considerations that come into play when specializing in issues printed by these firms. 

Thomas De La Rue and Company

This venerable London firm has been responsible for printing most currency and the vast majority of all postage stamps of the British Commonwealth up to the 1930's. Their primary printing process, which they had perfected was surface printing, otherwise known as typography. Typography is a process where flat printing plates are used to print the designs, as opposed to recessed plates. The ink is applied to the plate after oil has been applied to the design portion of the plate. The excess ink is then wiped off and stays on the part of the plate where the design is. The plates are then applied to the sheets and the design is transferred to the paper. After the 1930's they started printing stamps using engraving, usually in two colours. There is one instance in 1972 where De La Rue produced the issue using Lthography, and several values of the 1965-1972 definitive issue were printed by the firm's Belgian subsidiary using photogravure. 

Printing Process

De La Rue's typography process typically employed two different plates, which were fitted together to form the complete design. Most British Commonwealth issues often had the same basic design, with only the country name, currency name and value being different. In order to avoid duplicating the work required in preparing separate plates for the issues of each and every country in the Empire, De La Rue would produce a head plate for the generic design that would consist of the frame and monarch's portrait, and then a separate duty plate, which would consist of the country name, currency and denomination. Occasionally both the head plate and duty plates would be printed together in one single pass through the printing press. In these instances you can always tell because the ink colour will be uniform throughout the stamp. However, there are many, many instances where printing was accomplished through two separate press runs. Sometimes these are very obvious where the colour of the country name and value tablets are a completely different colour from the frame. However there are also some instances where the colours are very close, but different when examined closely. Sometimes these are listed in Gibbons, but many times they are not. 

Plate Characteristics and Layout

De La Rue usually laid out their plates to print sheets of 120 stamps separated by horizontal gutters into two panes of 60 stamps for colonial stamps. For Great Britain issues, they were usually sheets of 240 stamps, separated into four panes of 60 by horizontal and vertical gutters. These gutters and the edges of the sheets usually contained coloured lines, called rulers. The purpose of these rulers was to enable the press operators to judge the wear of the plates and also to keep track of the number of times the plates were re-worked, as marks would be made to the rulers every time the plates were modified. Often these marks are the only way to positively identify certain printings of the stamps. In the margins above the corner stamps would also appear the plate number, in white, inside a solid circle printed in the colour of the stamp. Until the late 1890's, a second number would appear in a fancy truncated rectangle, and this would appear in the lower margins. This number is NOT the plate number, but some kind of print order number. For their engraved stamps, they generally had the same sheet layout, but instead of rulers and plate numbers in all corners, there would be a simple inscription "Thomas De La Rue and Company, London" in the centre of the bottom sheet margin, along with a plate number in sans-serif letters and numbers. Often these plates would be numbered 1, 1A, 2, 2A, 2B etc. 

The Delrieu issues usually bore no plate number, but would have the printing date printed in the lower right corner of the sheet thus: "3.8.1965", or something like that. As with most previous issues the sheet number would be handstamped or printed separately into the top right corner of the sheet. 

Paper and Gum Characteristics

In terms of paper, De La Rue used a high quality wove, that had a smooth, shiny appearance on the printed side. This generally facilitated adhesion of the printing inks and resulted in a high quality finish. The very first issues of Lagos were printed using a paper that had a crown over "CC" watermark. This paper was in general use until about 1880, when the watermark was changed to a crown over CA. The gum on this paper is very distinct. It is a thin, matte colourless gum. So generally if you see a crown CC stamp, with thick, yellow or thick shiny gum, it has been re-gummed. Original gum on the crown CC issues of most Commonwealth countries is scarce, and Lagos is no exception to this. The crown CA paper was in use until 1904, when it was replaced by paper that had the multiple crown CA watermark. It is this crown CA paper that we first see the rulers appear with regularity and the gum on this paper is usually, thick, yellowish and shiny on the later printings, and yellow and crackly on some of the printings made prior to 1886. Due to problems with tropical climates disturbing the gum and reducing the tack of the gum, there is a period during the late 1880's where De La Rue double gummed their stamps, resulting in gum that is extraordinarily thick compared to normal. Such stamps almost look re-gummed, but are actually not, and could be misidentified by someone not familiar with this practice. 

The multiple crown CA paper came into use in late 1904 and had the same gum characteristics as the earlier paper. This paper continued in use until 1921-1922, when the crown over multiple script CA watermark replaced the multiple block crown CA watermark. There were two important developments to by De La Rue during this period:

  • The introduction of chalk-surfacing to the paper used for most intermediate and high-value denominations. Generally speaking, these were any stamps above those required to pay postcard, printed matter and local letter rates. The introduction of this paper generally started in 1905 and there was more than one type of chalk-surfacing, although Gibbons generally only lists one type. I have seen thin papers with a thin chalk coating, as well as very thick papers with a thick, opaque white chalky coating similar to the Dickinson coated paper found on the 6d Edward VII issue of Great Britain printed by Somerset House in 1913. 
  • The introduction of coloured papers and papers that had a different colour on the surface and a different colour on the back. There were four basic colours used: green, yellow, red and blue. These will be discussed in detail in another post, but the surface and back colours of these stamps varied greatly and is a very useful aid in identifying printings. These papers continued in use well into the multiple script period. 
The crown over multiple script CA period was the longest period lasting from 1921/22 until about 1964, when the format of the watermark went back to a crown over block CA in single lined, sans-serif block letters. This later watermark was never used on Nigerian stamps though as Independence had been attained by this time and a different watermark was in use. The finish and gum characteristics of this paper on the typographed stamps are similar to the earlier period, but for some of the later issues, the gum is sometimes streaky and toned. 

For the engraved stamps printed by De La Rue, the paper also has a smooth surface finish, but is much, much thicker than that used to print the typographed stamps. The gum on the stamps printed between 1936 and about 1940 tends to be either very thick, yellowish and shiny, or somewhat dull and toned, when affected by the tropical climate of Nigeria. Stamps that were actually sent to Nigeria will have the tell-tale signs of tropicalization, whereas those that were sold to collectors in London will have the fresher, whiter gum. From about 1940 to 1946, the gum becomes almost colourless and matte, but under magnification can be seen to have a diagonal criss-cross pattern of very fine cracks. After 1946, it becomes shinier and less crackly and by 1950 it is very shiny and smooth. The issues printed by De La Rue in 1961-1962 after they took over from Waterlow tend to have a much less shiny, white gum. 

The Delrieu issues of 1958-59 and 1965-1972 employed completely different papers and gums. The 1958-59 issues employed the paper with multiple script CA watermark, but the gum was an olive colour. It appeared smooth and shiny, but under magnification, could be seen to have an extremely fine pattern of diagonal cracks. The stamps from 1965-72 were printed on a thin, chalk-surfaced paper that would show a lot of woodpulp fibres if viewed under long-wave ultraviolet (UV) light. Furthermore, the brightness of the paper would vary under the UV light. The gum employed was, a thick, shiny, yellow dextrose gum, quite unlike anything that came before or after. 

Inks and Shades

De La Rue used both singly fugitive and doubly fugitive inks to print their stamps. Singly fugitive inks are those that run in mineral spirits. Doubly fugitive inks are those that run in water as well as mineral spirits. Up until about the mid 1880's most all of De La Rue's stamps were printed using singly fugitive ink., so soaking them in water is completely safe. However, starting in the mid-1880's all mid-range and high values were printed using either doubly fugitive ink on ordinary, unsurfaced paper, or doubly fugitive ink on chalk-surfaced paper. Specifically, the purple and green inks are particularly fugitive and affected by soaking in water in the following way:

  • The true purple colour is a deep and dull purple, which is not bright in any way. When first soaked, the ink will become bright purple and then will fade into very pale purple with prolonged exposure. When used on chalky paper, the fading can be so pronounced that it almost appears as if the ink is missing. 
  • The true green colour is a deep and dull green. When first exposed to moisture it becomes a bright blue green, fades with prolonged exposure to yellow-green and then finally to a bright greenish yellow. 
Very badly faded used stamps from the Commonwealth are generally regarded as being worth very little, so it becomes very important in Commonwealth philately to recognize whether a colour variation is a genuine one on a stamp that has retained its original true colour versus one that is merely faded and washed out by exposure to moisture. 

By the time De La Rue began moving away from surface printing, the use of doubly fugitive ink fell more of less by the wayside. Consequently, fine used stamps become much easier to find. 

That concludes my general overview of  De La Rue's work. The next four posts will examine the work of the other five firms. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Overview of Nigerian Philately

Nigerian philately can be divided into three broad areas, each of which can be further subdivided into smaller areas. Philatellically speaking, the issues of Nigeria can be relatively complex to a budding specialist, although they can also be made as simple as you wish.

At the broadest level, the country can be broken down as follows:

  • Pre-Federation Nigeria - all the issues from 1874 to 1914. 
  • Federated Nigeria to independence - all issues from 1914 to 1960.
  • Federated Nigeria after independence -all issues from 1960 to date.
Pre-Federation Nigeria Before 1914

During the pre-federation period, Nigeria actually consisted of five separate crown colonies and protectorates, each of which issued its own stamps, or had its own handstamps:

  • Lagos, which first issued stamps in 1874 and was amalgamated into Southern Nigeria in 1906.
  • Niger Coast Protectorate, which first issued stamps in 1892 and was amalgamated into Southern Nigeria in 1906.
  • Niger Company Territories, which eventually became parts of Northern and Southern Nigeria used stamps of Great Britain with its own cancellations from the 1890's until 1901.
  • Northern Nigeria, which issued stamps from 1901-1913.
  • Southern Nigeria, which issued stamps from 1901-1913.
With the exception of the issues of Niger Coast Protectorate after 1893, every single issue from these five areas was printed in London by De La Rue and Company. This is important because De La Rue used distinct papers, gums and inks during the life of these issues, and understanding them is the key to correctly identifying and classifying the various printings. It must be borne in mind that the Stanley Gibbons catalogue listings for these areas, as extensive and detailed as they are are still highly simplified in relation to the actual level of detail that can be pursued with respect to different printings. In addition, many of the basic stamps and printing varieties are astonishingly rare and very much underpriced. For example, there are many basic stamps that had issue quantities less than 1,000 stamps. 

The postal history of this period is also extremely interesting and challenging, with mixed frankings being possible with Lagos, Niger Coast Protectorate and Southern Nigeria in the period between 1906 and 1913. 

Nigeria From 1914 to Independence (1960)

During this period, all the stamps were still printed in London, but we begin to see the stamps being printed by the full range of printing firms that were involved in Commonwealth stamp production:

  • De La Rue printed all the keyplate stamps of King George V's reign as well as the 1936 Pictorials, the  2/6d and 5/- King George VI definitives, and finally the 1946 Peace Issue. 
  • Bradbury Wilkinson printed the 1937 Coronation, the King George VI definitives to the 1/3d, the 5/- 1948 Silver Wedding, the 3d and 6d 1949 UPU Issue, the 1953 Coronation Issue, and finally the first postage due issue. 
  • Waterlow printed the 1935 Silver Jubilee Issue, the 1d and 1/- 1949 UPU Issue, the 1953-60 Definitive Issue, and all the commemorative issues from 1953 to 1958. 
  • Harrison and Sons printed the 1d 1948 Silver Wedding stamp.
The papers, inks and gums employed by these four printing firms are all distinct, and share similar characteristics to issues of other Commonwealth countries that were printed by the same firms at the same time. In addition, the attributes of papers, inks and gums evolved over time, so that with care you can learn the difference between a pre WW2 gum, a wartime gum, the gum used immediately after the war and the gum used in the early 1950's for example. This can open up a whole world of specialization that you may not be aware of by looking at the Gibbons listings. 

The postal history is also fascinating with hundreds if not thousands of post offices being open and having their own distinct cancellations. Edward Proud has extensively documented these in his handbooks on the postal history of the various Commonwealth countries, and he has a volume for Nigeria that boasts close to 1,000 pages. 

Nigeria After Independence

Nigeria after independence is extremely interesting for several reasons. Firstly, we have the switch from stamps being produced in London to everything being printed in Nigeria by the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NSP&M) that took place in 1968. Then in 1973 the currency was changed from Sterling currency to Naira and Kobo. This means that postal history can be collected that includes mixed, dual currency frankings for a time during the changeover period. Finally, the hyperinflation that hit the country in the late 1980's and early 1990's resulted in a breakdown of quality control at the NSP&M as well as very interesting postal history frankings. The breakdown of quality control has resulted in a multitude of imperforate and part-perforate varieties being produced as well as mis-perfs. 

The majority of issues to 1967 were printed by Harrison and Sons on a paper with a simple FN multiple watermark. Extensive studies have yet to be conducted to locate and find varieties of this watermark such as inverts, sideways etc., as well as missing or broken letters. This watermark was in use until the NSP&M took over production of all Nigerian stamps in 1968. There were a few issues during this time that were printed in Israel, such as the 1963 Republic Issue and the 1964 Kennedy Issue, but all the others were printed by Harrison & Sons, except for some of the 1965 Definitives, which where printed by Delrieu, a Belgian subsidiary of De La Rue. 

The Wildlife definitive issue of 1965-1972 is the first definitive issue to have been printed by three different firms: Delrieu, Harrison & Sons and the NSP&M. In addition to numerous paper, colour and gum varieties, this issue also boasts perforation and imprint size differences. 

The remainder of the sterling period to 1972 is relatively straightforward in terms of the issued stamps. I find the main interest here lies in the die proofs, unfinished designs and unadopted designs (essays) that can be found from this period. 

However, the most interesting issue of the modern period comes at the beginning of the new currency period. I call it the 1973-86 Industry definitives. This issue is one of the most complex that I have ever come across as a philatelist. In addition, to design, paper, colour, and gum differences, a watermark was introduced in 1975 that had "Nigeria" in wavy lines. This watermark can be found inverted and upright, but I suspect it could probably be found reversed and sideways if one looks hard enough. These watermarked issues were used well into the 1980's and emergency printings of them were made during shortages of low value stamps during the 1990's - long after they had been replaced by other issues. As if that is not enough, the order in which the colours were printed often varies, so that this affects the appearance of the stamps and creates additional collectible varieties. 

The 1984-86 definitives and other subsequent definitive issues are extremely challenging to collect in mint condition, with the catalogues being completely out-to-lunch in terms of their pricing. For example the 1984-86 definitives to the 2N are valued at less than $5 for a mint set. I think in 5 years of constant buying I have managed to buy only a handful of sets. This seems to be the case for all definitive issues after 1984. Commemoratives are reasonably obtainable up to the late 1980's and early 1990's, but the issues after that are all quite elusive, especially in corner and inscription blocks. One interesting aspect to the very modern issues that appears in the 1990's are perforation varieties, with 14 and 13 being perforations seen on several issues, with both being seen in some cases. To the best of my knowledge, there have not been any comprehensive studies done to establish the true scarcity of these issues, so some of them may in fact be quite scarce to rare. 

Postal history from the inflation period is very much a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are some amazing frankings possible, especially during the period before the higher denomination stamps became available, with some envelopes having as many as 50 stamps!. However, the quality of cancellations tends to be very poor indeed. When date slugs wore out, they were often not replaced, with the result that many postmarks during this period had no dates, making them of very limited use to the postal historian. 

This concludes my general overview of Nigerian philately. My next post will look at the printing firms that were responsible for printing Nigeria's stamps. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reviving This Blog...

I originally created this blog more than five years ago as a project to document as much information as I could about Nigerian stamps and postal history because this was my chosen field of collecting. However, after several false starts the blog kind of died. Part of the reason was that my marriage of 12 years fell apart, but the main reason was that in rebuilding my life, I decided to make an complete change of direction and left my profession of public accounting to become a full time stamp dealer - something I have dreamed of doing my whole life.

So for most of the past two years I have been focused on building my business. My primary are of Specialty has been Canada, so nearly all my time has been spent writing articles for my other blog dealing with Canadian philately. Consequently, I was not working much with my Nigerian stamps, which made writing articles difficult.

However, last week I had to count inventory for our fiscal year end and that brought me back in contact with my Nigerian material an inspired me with ideas to revive this blog with regular posts once and for all. Part of my problem before was having a clear idea of the order in which I wanted to tackle the various issues.

I think a good start going forward will be to discuss the main areas of Nigerian philately and discuss the unique challenges they offer collectors and then to go into a discussion of the different printing companies that were responsible for producing the various stamp issues of Nigeria, as each one employed its own printing techniques, used its own papers, its own inks and gums and these all have an impact on how the collection and study of these stamps can and should be approached.

So with this, my next post next week will be an overview of the various stamp issues produced by this fascinating country.