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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Chalk-Surfaced Papers on Edwardian Period Nigerian Stamps

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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 last of these points is very important as I have seen stamps that were clearly on chalky paper, being identified as ordinary. Remember that what you are testing for is surfaced versus non-surfaced paper, not whether the paper responds to the silver test. 

I find that with a good magnifying glass and your eyes, you can identify pretty well all instances of chalk-surfaced paper. Here is what I look for:

  • 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.
Generally speaking the unsurfaced, plate glazed wove paper will have the following characteristics:

  • 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. 
In contrast, most, but not all stamps on chalk surfaced paper will show many fine pores on the surface under high magnification. This results from the release of trapped air as the chalk coating dried. Any stamp that shows these pores is definitely printed on chalk-surfaced paper. So this is always one of my first tests, and for it I use a simple 10x power loupe. My other test is to look at the general texture of the paper. Unsurfaced paper is both smooth and rough at the same time, while the surface of chalk-surfaced paper is much smoother.

Surface rubbing can occasionally identify stamps on chalk-surfaced paper, as any stamp that shows a smeary appearance is printed on chalky paper. However some stamps appear rubbed, even when they are not. Some of the chalk coatings, particularly those on the first issue of Northern Nigeria were highly absorbent of the printing ink, causing it to diffuse through the chalk, and giving the appearance of rubbing, even when under magnification, there is no evidence of any surface abrasion. However, as stated earlier, there are some stamps on unsurfaced paper from the second Northern Nigeria issue, most notably the 1/2d and 2.5d, which have the same diffuse appearance as some of the chalky paper stamps. Fortunately, these stamps are only known on ordinary, unsurfaced paper, so there is little chance of misidentifying them. 

The watermark is still visible on some of the thinner, chalk surfaced papers, though it is much less obvious than on the unsurfaced papers. However, the lack of a visible watermark without the aid of a detector is a good indication that you are dealing with one of the thicker chalk-surfaced papers. 

Most stamps on chalky paper will have a very dull, matte appearance to the surface, whereas stamps on unsurfaced paper will have a light sheen when viewed at an angle to the light. Occasionally, it may be difficult to distinguish the stamps on chalk-surfaced paper that shows no visible pores from one that has no surfacing. However, with experience, you will learn to spot the difference fairly accurately. 

Types of Chalk-Surfaced Paper

Type 1 - Used on Lagos 1/2d, Northern Nigeria 6d, Southern Nigeria 1/2d, 1d, 4d, 6d, 1/-, 2/6d, 4d (second colour), and 6d (second colour)

This paper is only very slightly thicker than the unsurfaced paper, the additional thickness being limited to the chalk coating itself. The watermark is clearly visible without the aid of a watermark detector or tray, although the mesh is not usually visible. This paper has a smooth, matte appearance, and generally does not show any visible pores on the surface under magnification. It also does not generally show surface rubbing. The printings made on this paper have, smooth and clean lines. The main way to identify it is by the very matte surface, paler colours and clean, smooth printing lines. 

Type 2 - Used on Lagos 1d and 2.5d coloured papers, Northern Nigeria 1/2d, 1d, 3d, 5d (second colour), 6d (second colour), 1/- (second colour), 2/6d (second colour), 5/- (second colour), 10/-(second colour), Southern Nigeria 4d, 6d, 5/-, 3d (second colour), 4d (second colour), 6d (second colour), 1/- (second colour), 2/6d (second colour), 5/- (second colour), 10/- (second colour) and one pound (second colour)

This paper is notably thicker than the type 1 paper. The watermark is not usually visible immediately, but can be seen if the stamps are held up to the light. This paper usually shows a light sheen on the surface, as the coating is mildly susceptible to surface rubbing. Under magnification, very tiny pores are visible. You may have to look hard to see them lurking in the unprinted portions of the design, but if you look hard enough you will always see them. On the higher values, printed on coloured paper, the pores are always highly visible under magnification.

Type 3 - Used on Lagos 2d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/6d, 5/- and 10/-; Northern Nigeria 2d, 6d, and 3d

This paper is similar to type 1 in in all respects, except that it shows the same light sheen as type 2, and is moderately susceptible to surface rubbing. 

Type 4 - Used on Lagos 2.5d, Northern Nigeria 1/2d, 2d, 5d, 1/-, 2/6d, 3d, Southern Nigeria 1d, 4d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 10/-, one pound, 3d (second colour), 4d (second colour), and 6d (second colour), 

This paper is similar to type 2, except that it shows no visible pores on the surface under magnification. 

Type 5 - Used on Northern Nigeria 1/2d, 1d, and 6d

This paper is very thick and opaque, with no visibility of the watermark at all when viewed face down, and being only barely visible when the stamp is held up to a strong backlight. It has a high surface sheen and absorbs the ink unevenly, which makes the stamps appear to be badly rubbed, even thought they are not. There are large pores which are readily visible under magnification. 

Type 6 - Used on Northern Nigeria 1d, 2d, 6d (second colour), and 1/- (second colour)

This paper is exactly similar to type 1, except that very fine pores are visible under magnification and  the surface is often mildly to moderately affected by rubbing. The mesh is often visible on this paper.

Type 7 - Used on Northern Nigeria 5d (second colour), 6d (second colour), and Southern Nigeria 5/-, and 6d (second colour)

This paper is very thick with only moderate visibility of the watermark, even when held up to the light. However, what makes this paper distinct is that the mesh is quite visible, which it is not usually for a paper of this thickness. The surface is only susceptible to mild rubbing and the surface is generally very smooth with a matte sheen. The surface shows large porea under magnification. 

Type 8 - Used on Southern Nigeria 6d (second colour)

Similar to type 7, except with no visible pores on the surface. 

There are many philatelists who would argue that this is overkill, and this is all really the same paper. There may be some argument made that the presence or absence of visible pores on the paper surface is not relevant, but I would contend that the differences in paper thickness, opacity and the way in which the ink is absorbed constitute real differences, especially since some stamps seem to exist only with certain types and not others. Finally, there seems to have been a natural evolution with the different types, with the issues of Lagos, which appeared first being mostly all type 1 or type 2, while the later issues are almost all found with the later types. 

This concludes my discussion of the chalk-surfaced papers of the Edward VII Era. My next series of posts will deal with the various coloured papers that were employed to print the higher value stamps. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Work of Enschede & Sons and Israeli Printing Firms in The Production of Nigerian Stamps

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Today's post is the last in a series of posts in which I discuss the general characteristics of the printing work done by the various printing firms in the production of Nigeria's postage stamps. Although substantially all of the postage stamp production was carried out by six printing firms, there were a few other, lesser known firms that had a hand in producing some of Nigeria's stamps. I do not possess full sheets of the stamps printed by these firms, so I am not in a position to provide the same kinds of information as in the previous posts. However, I can offer some general observations about the characteristics of the papers and gums used, as well as the printing methods.

The firms and organizations involved are:

1. The Government Printer of Israel.
2. Lewin-Epstein of Bat Yam, Israel.
3. Enschede and Sons of Holland.
4. Cartor of France.
5. Kalamazoo Security Print.
6. Superflux International Ltd., of Lagos.
7. The Lisbon Mint, of Portugal.

The Government Printer Of Israel

The Government Printer of Israel was involved in the production of four commemorative stamp issues between 1963 and 1965:

  • The Republic Day Issue, which was released on September 1, 1963.
  • The 1/3d Kennedy Memorial Issue, released August 27, 1964.
  • The 3d First Anniversary of the Republic Issue, released October 1, 1964. 
  • The Quiet Sun Year Issue, released April 1, 1965. 
This printer used the photogravure process in single colour and multicolour. The printing was generally carried out on thin, smooth and white paper that had no watermark, and generally gave no fluorescent reaction under ultraviolet light (UV). The gum used was generally, a clear, smooth dextrine gum that shows extremely fine diagonal cracks. The printing is very flat, and looks more like lithography than photogravure, which may be the main reason why they did not go on to print more stamps for Nigeria. The Kennedy memorial stamps did contain a inscription in the top sheet margins describing the issue, as did the Republic Day Issue. I have not seen full sheets of the 3d First Anniversary of the Republic Issue, but I imagine that they must have been similar to the others. The Quiet Sun Year Issue was printed in little sheetlets of 12 with a very decorative border. As far as I know, they were not printed in larger sheets. I have not seen full sheets of the other stamps, but from the blocks that I have seen, it would appear that they were printed in sheets of 60 (6 x10 for horizontal format stamps and 10x6 for vertical format). The margins were generally blank, except for the top margin, which contained a title inscription matching the issue name and the sheet number stamped in the upper right corner. All stamps printed were perforated either 14 x 13 in the case of the vertical format stamps, or 13 x 14 in the case of the 1/3d Kennedy Memorial Issue. 

Lewin-Epstein of Bat Yam Israel

This firm in Israel was involved with only part of one commemorative issue: the Kennedy Memorial Issue of August 27, 1964. They produced the two high values, the 2/6d and 5/-, as well as the souvenir sheet. Their printing process was also photogravure, and in my opinion, was of better quality than the Israeli government printer. However, despite this, they were never contracted to print any Nigerian issues again. The reason for this is not clear, but I suspect it must have had to do with the cost. 

The stamps were perforated 14, and the souvenir sheet was imperforate. The paper was thin and white, but covered in a thin white chalk coating that is quite prone to rubbing and light flaking. The coating had a low sheen, not being completely matte. Under UV light, the paper generally gives a non-fluorescent reaction. The gum is clear, dextrine, with a very visible pattern of diagonal cracks. 

The large blocks of the 2/6d and 5/- that I have seen had blank selvage, except for the title inscriptions in the top selvage. 

Enschede and Sons of Holland

This fine firm, which has printed many of the Machin head stamps of Great Britain, was involved in Nigerian postage stamp production from 1967 until the end of 1971. In all, they were responsible for the production of five stamp issues:

  • The fourth Anniversary of the Republic Issue, which was released on October 1, 1967.
  • The re-drawn 2d and 4d definitives released in September 1970 and March 1971. 
  • The Stamp of Destiny Issue marking the end of the civil war, released May 28, 1970.
  • The tenth Anniversary of Independence Issue, released September 30, 1970.
  • The Racial Equality Year Issue, released March 21, 1971. 
Enschede used high quality photogravure for all its stamps, except for the Tenth Anniversary of Independence Issue, which was lithographed. The printing is of a very high quality and I suspect that it was very expensive, which is why the tenure of this firm was short. The paper used to print the stamps is a medium, white, unwatermarked paper, which has a medium chalky coating. Under UV light the paper generally gives a very bright bluish white fluorescent reaction. The gum on all issues except the first one was a clear, colourless polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) gum that has a very low sheen. The gum on the first issue above, like the other issues before it, is a colourless dextrine gum with very fine diagonal cracks. 

Three perforation gauges were used for the stamps. 11.5 x 11, or 11 x 11.5 was used for the stamps of the stamps of the first and third issues above. 11 x 11.5 was the measurement for the horizontal format stamps, while the vertical format stamps were perforated 11.5 x 11. The definitives were perforated 14.5 x 13, and finally, the last two issues were perforated 13.5 x 13, or 13 x 13.5, depending on whether they were horizontal format stamps (13 x 13.5), or vertical format stamps (13.5 x 13). 

From the blocks that I have seen of these issues, it appears that the selvage is completely blank, except for the name of the printer inscribed in the bottom margin. 

Cartor of France

This French printing firm was involved in printing only three definitive stamps in December 2004. They were re-issues of an issue of wildlife definitives that had first appeared in 2001. They were printed by high quality lithography that is so good that it looks completely like photogravure. The stamps are printed on high quality, white wove paper with no watermark. The gum is an extremely shiny colourless dextrine gum. I have never seen multiples of these stamps, so unfortunately I cannot speculate on what the appearance of the sheets are, nor the nature and appearance of the inscriptions that appear in the sheet margins. The three stamps involved were the 20N, 50N and 100N definitives and all were perforated 13 x 13.5. 

Kalamazoo Security Print Ltd. 

This local Lagos printing firm was involved in printing a portion of the definitives issued between 2010 and 2012. They are printed in high quality lithography and are the first stamps of Nigeria to incorporate a hologram in the corner of the design. The hologram used is circular in shape, and in addition to this, Kalamazoo utilized fluorescent inks for both the country name and the face value. Horizontal format stamps were perforated 12.5 x 12, while the vertical ones were perforated 12 x 12.5. The paper used to print these was a thicker wove, without watermark, and with white, matte PVA gum. I have not seen complete sheets of these, so I cannot comment specifically on their layout, or what inscriptions, if any are present in the margins. 

Superflux International Ltd., Lagos

This is another local Nigerian printing firm that was involved in printing some of the 2010-2012 definitive issues. Like Kalamazoo, they also printed using high quality lithography and incorporated square holograms into the design. In addition, they overprinted their stamps with a fluorescent design consisting of the words "Nipost" and a dove flying in a repetitive pattern. This overprint can only be seen under UV light. Like the Kalamazoo printings, the paper used to print these was a thicker wove, without watermark, and with white, matte PVA gum. Again, I have not seen complete sheets of these, so I cannot comment specifically on their layout, or what inscriptions, if any are present in the margins. 

Lisbon Mint

The Lisbon Mint of Portugal was responsible for printing most of the commemoratives of the newly declared state of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War. They printed most all of the commemoratives issued in 1968, being the first Independence Issue that appeared on February 5, 1968, and the First Anniversary of Indepence Issue, that was released on May 30, 1968. The mint used a somewhat crude lithography to produce these stamps on a poorer quality, white wove paper, with no watermark, and having a chalk-surfacing that is very prone to flaking and rubbing. The paper is not generally reactive under UV light, and all stamps produced in this manner have a shiny yellowish dextrine gum and are perforated 12.5. 

The quality of the overall printing was poor, which may have been the reason why an Italian firm took over the printing of all issues of Biafra after 1968.

This concludes my discussion of the work done by different printing firms in relation to Nigerian stamps. I hope you enjoyed reading these articles as much as I enjoyed writing them. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Work of the Nigeria Security Printing and Minting Company (NSP&M) in Producing Nigeria's Stamps

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The Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company, abbreviated NSP&M, has with few exceptions since 1968 been the sole printer of Nigeria's postage stamps. The few exceptions since then have been as follows:
  • The 1970 printings of the 2d and 4d wildlife definitives, which were printed by Enschede. 
  • The Stamp of Destiny issue of 1970, which was printed by Enschede.
  • The Tenth Anniversary of Independence issue of 1970, which was printed by Enschede.
  • The Racial Equality Year Issue of 1971, which was printed by Enschede.
  • The All-Africa Trade Fair issue of 1972, which was printed by De La Rue.
  • The Nigeria Drives Right Issue of 1972, which was printed by De La Rue. 
  • The All Nigeria Arts Festival Issue of 1972, which was printed by De La Rue.
  • The 2004 re-prints of the wildlife definitives were printed by Cartor of France. 
  • The 2010 definitives which were lithographed by Kalamazoo Security Print Ltd., or Litho Superflux International Ltd. Lagos. 
  • All of the 1968 commemorative issues of Biafra, which were printed by the Lisbon Mint in Portugal. 
  • All of the 1969 commemorative issues of Biafra, which were printed in Italy. 
Although many of the issues since 1968 are somewhat crude in their appearance, the modern period provides many, many opportunities for specialists, both in terms of printing varieties, and postal history. 

The Printing Process

From 1968 until 1973, the primary printing process used was photogravure. The presses used for this process produced very high quality printing, on a par with the stamps of Great Britain. For some reason, which is not entirely clear, the use of this process ceased in 1973 and was replaced by lithography. Initially the quality was almost as good as the photogravure, but as time went on, especially into the 1980's, the print quality had gotten cruder and cruder. While this makes the stamps somewhat less appealing from a purely visual standpoint, it has resulted in stamps that are more interesting to collect, due to the large number of varieties that can be found on them.

There were some issues between 1968 and 1973 that were produced by the higher quality lithography as well:
  • The 20th Anniversary of the World Health Organization (1968)
  • The wedding of General Gowon (1969)
  • The 5th Anniversary of the African Development Bank (1969)
Plate Characteristics and Layout

All issues, except for the larger definitives of the 1969-72 are printed in sheets of 60. The horizontal format stamps are printed in sheets of 10 x 6, while the vertical format stamps are printed in sheets of 10 x 6. Most stamps have an imprint at the foot consisting of the designer's name on the left, and the initials NSP&M Co. Ltd. on the right. The size of the imprints varies on the 1969-72 definitives, with some of the smaller sizes being very scarce.

Sheets generally show the following marginal markings:
  • The inscription "The Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Co. Ltd." appears in the lower right margin underneath the bottom four stamps in the case of the vertical format stamps, and the bottom three stamps in the case of the horizontal format stamps. On some horizontal format stamps, this inscription appears in the top right margin. 
  • In the bottom left margin contains the cylinder numbers - one for each colour used in printing. Generally, these are numbered 1A, 1B etc. On some sheets of horizontal format stamps, these numbers appear in the lower right side margin.
  • In each corner of the sheet there is a cross, consisting of each colour printed on top of one another. The purpose of this was to enable the printer to assess whether or not the colours were in correct registration for the purposes of quality control.
  • On the lower left side of the sheet, there is a series of small coloured dots resembling a set of traffic lights - one for each colour used in printing, On some sheets of the horizontal format stamps, these dots appear in the lower right margin underneath the second stamp from the bottom.
  • A numeric value counter appears in the upper selvage above each stamp in the top row, totaling the face value in that column. 
  • A small coloured cross appears above and below the stamp of the 5th column in the upper and lower selvage, and  boxed cross appears opposite the upper and lower stamps of the 6th column. These markings are found on the sheets of vertical format stamps. For the horizontal format stamps these markings are found opposite the 5th and 6th rows. 
  • The inscription "Total sheet value" and the total face value in kobo or Naira, appears in the upper right selvage above the top three stamps for the vertical format stamps, and above the top 2 stamps for the horizontal format stamps. 
  • On some sheets, I have seen invisible rectangular markings that fluoresce bright yellow green under UV light. I have seen these on the 1984 ICAO issue. 

Paper and Gum Characteristics

There is considerable variation in the paper and gum employed to produce the stamps of this period:

  • For the period from 1968 to 1972, and for the 1973 postage dues, the paper is a white, unsurfaced paper, that has been plate-glazed into a smooth finish. The paper generally shows very clear horizontal mesh, and the gum is smooth, shiny, with a satin sheen, and colourless. Under long-wave ultra violet light (UV), it is generally highly fluorescent, giving a bright bluish white glow. 
  • For a very brief period from January 2 to April 2, 1973, when the stamps are produced by photogravure, a thin, smooth chalk-surfaced paper was used. The gum is colourless and very shiny, with a glossy sheen. On used stamps, the back side is very smooth, and there is no visible mesh in the paper. This paper is also highly fluorescent, giving a bright bluish white reaction under UV, but also showing individual paper fibres.
  • For the lithographed issues from April 1973 to the end of 1974, same thin, chalk-surfaced paper was used.
  • For the first two commemorative issues of 1975, being the Inauguration of Telex Issue, and the International Women's Year Issue. a new thicker chalk surfaced paper was employed. The paper has no watermark, and under UV it appears dead, giving a deep purple reaction. The gum on this paper is a matte colourless PVA. 
  • Starting with the 1975 definitives and until 1992, a paper very similar to the thicker paper above is introduced. This paper is watermarked with the word "Nigeria" in continuous, repeating, wavy lines. Due to poor quality controls, it is commonly found either upright, or inverted on the horizontal format stamps; or sideways or sideways-inverted on the vertical format stamps. I have not seen reversed watermarks, sideways watermarks on horizontal format stamps, or upright watermarks on vertical format stamps. However, they may exist, and are probably quite rare if they do. Under UV light, the reactions given by this paper are quite varied. It can appear dead, giving a deep purple reaction. It can also give a fluorescent bluish white reaction of varying brightness.  The reaction on the face and the back are often different as well, due to the way the chalk-coating reacts to the UV light versus the paper itself.  The fluorescent reaction gets quite a bit duller around 1984, and the stamps often appear dead on the face, and low fluorescent on the back with hibrite fibres.  This paper type is pretty well universal until 1992. The only issues that are printed on this paper that I know of after this are the Olymphilex Issue of 1992 and some values of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The gum on this paper is the same as above: a dull, matte colourless PVA. 
  • Starting with the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, a thinner, unwatermarked, unsurfaced paper is introduced. The gum on this issue and two of the commemorative issues of 1992, being the 1992 World Health Day issue and the 1992 Institute of Tropical Agriculture Issue, is a brownish cream dextrine gum that has a satin sheen. Under UV light, this paper gives a bright bluish-white fluorescent reaction. 
  • Starting with the souvenir sheet for the 1992 Institute of Tropical Agriculture Issue, and the Maryam Babangida National Centre for Women's Development issue of 1992 and continuing until the present, the paper is a more medium thickness, unwatermarked, chalk surfaced paper. The gum on this paper is almost always a very shiny, colourless dextrine gum. Occasionally, one will find a matte PVA gum as well, and also a shinier PVA that has an semi-gloss sheen. Under UV light the reaction is generally a dull fluorescent to low fluorescent, being a greyish to dull bluish white for the issues up to 1995. Starting in 1995, with the 50th Anniversary of the UN issue, hibrite flecks that are very sparse and bright bluish white can be seen embedded in the paper under UV light. Starting in 1998 the paper often shows flocks that flouresce bright bluish white and bright orange red. The only issues that does not have these fluorescent flecks from this period is the Return to Democracy issue of 2000. 
Fluorescent Inks

On a very small number of issues, such as the 2/6d definitive of 1969, certain printings of the the 10k definitive of 1975, certain printings of the the 1N definitive of 1984-1986, and  few others, there are some inks that give a bright fluorescent reaction under UV light. 


Generally, for most issues, the perforation used was 14. Most sheets had imperforate selvage at top and bottom, with the side margins being imperforate, save for one extension hole. However, the sheets were usually printed either side by side, or top to bottom, in groups of 2 sheets. Conequently, some sheets are found with the selvage perforated through on one side. 

Starting in 1998 we begin to see the appearance of perf. 13, and for many issues after this date, they can be found with both perf. 13 and 14. It is not yet known whether or not any compound perforations exist, but it would be a very exciting discovery if they do. 

Order of Printing

Another characteristic that seems to affect the 1973-86 definitives, and to a lesser extent the 1984-93 definitives is the order in which the colours are printed. It would appear that for some stamps, printing required more than one pass through the press in order for all the colours to be printed. This opens up the possibility of obtaining the following varieties or errors:
  • Errors of colour in which one or more colours are missing from the final design because the operator missed one of the required passes through the press. 
  • Differences in appearance of the stamps caused by a different ordering of the colours, so that some colours appear to be printed on top in certain sheets, and on the bottom in others. 
This concludes my general overview of the work of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Ltd. in the production of Nigeria's postage stamps. The next post will look at the work of Enschede, as well as the few other firms that produced some of Nigeria's postage stamps. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Work of Harrison & Sons in the Production of Nigerian Stamps

           Image result for nigerian postage stamps       Image result for nigerian postage stamps

Harrison and Sons is a printing firm that first appears on the scene of British Commonwealth philately in 1928, when they were asked to print the stamps of Gold Coast. Their involvement in Nigerian philately does not start until just after Independence, when they produced the new definitive issue that was released in 1961, and remained in use until 1965. From this point, until the NSP&M took over the production of most Nigerian stamps, Harrison would produce nearly all of the commemorative postage stamps issued between 1961 and 1968, with only a few sets being printed by other firms in Israel and one by De La Rue.

Printing Process

They were masters of a new printing process called photogravure, in which printing is made from photographic plates. The British post office had been looking for ways to reduce the cost of printing postage stamps, and photogravure turned out to be an even faster and cheaper alternative to Typography. By the mid 1930's nearly all British stamps were being printed by Harrison. Despite this, they only produced a few Commonwealth sets in the period to 1961. After this, they became the premier printer of British Commonwealth stamps, producing nearly all the stamps printed by the Commonwealth up to the 1980's when Format and Walsall began producing many issues by lithography.

Their work has always been of a very high quality, with the screening dots of the printing being visible only under magnification. This produces designs that are very finely executed and detailed, with even subtle features like shadows being captured and reproduced accurately. Their design have a depth, sharpness and at the same time softness of colour that makes them very attractive for those collectors who like modern stamps.

Plate Characteristics and Layout

Generally speaking, the stamps were printed in sheets of 60 stamps, being either 10 rows of 6 for the large horizontal format stamps, or 5 rows of 12 and 6 rows of 10 for the tall narrow stamps. The 1963 scouting issue was issued in triangular format and so the sheets were arranged in tete-beche format to form square pairs, which were arranged in five rows of 6 square pairs.  On the smaller definitives, the sheets are 120 stamps arranged in 12 rows of 10 stamps.

The sheets generally had an inscription, "Harrison and Sons Limited London" in the bottom margin, along with the cylinder numbers, which were located either in the side margin, or in the bottom margin. In addition, small solid squares, surrounded by a larger square for each colour used in printing were placed on the right margin, to the right of the last stamp . These do not appear until the later issues starting in 1965 and appear on some, but not all of the issues to 1968. On some sheets of the 1965 definitives these square markings appear in the top margin opposite the second stamp from the right. There are also some sheets of the 1965-69 definitive issue that can be found with the colours in a boxed series of dots resembling a set of traffic lights. The purpose of these markings was to enable the press operators to gauge the point at which the printing press would require more ink.

On the early issues, the cylinder numbers would appear in the bottom margin under the second last stamp. The inscription would appear underneath the middle stamps. There would be one cylinder number for each colour that was used in printing. Furthermore, there were upwards of two or three cylinders used for each number, so that one could find 1A, 1B and 1C, or 2A, 2B and 2C, or combinations thereof. The sheet number would be stamped in the top right corner of the sheet, and could be either in a sans-serif font, or in a classic serifed font. In the top margin, a small square printed in separate impressions of each colour appears above the middle stamp. A single punch hole would usually appear in the centre of the square. One or more elongated horizontal crosses would also appear, printed in several impressions, one for each colour. This allowed the press operators to see if the printing was out of registration. Generally, the sheets were guillotined apart where these markings appear, so they are not usually visible in the margins. However, occasionally one can see them.

There are several perforation types with all issues printed by Harrison as well that differ in terms of how far into the margins the perforations extend. On some issues, the perforations may extend all the way through one or more margins, while on others they stop where they meet the horizontal or vertical perforations, or they extend just one hole beyond the intersecting perforations. It would appear that the pattern of perforations may denote a situation where several panes were printed at once and guillotined apart. For example, one sheet of the 1961 1.5d definitives has selvage that is perforated through on the top and left margins, while the bottom margin is imperforate, and the right margin has a single extension hole. This pattern suggests strongly, that this sheet of 120 is the lower right pane in a larger sheet of 480 stamps. Usually, the sheets of 60 commemoratives will have one of the side margins imperforate, and one margin perforated through, while the top and bottom margins will either be imperforate, or have a single extension hole. This suggests that these stamps were printed in sheets of 120, divided into two panes of 60 stamps each. The perforations would be reversed for the tall, narrow stamps, where 120 stamps would be printed in two panes of 60, one above the other.

The 1963 Peaceful Use of Outer Space issue was printed in sheetlets of 12 stamps with a large decorative border. The cylinder numbers that have been seen are 1A and 1B. In addition, they were printed in two formats: one with the side margins imperforate, which is the more common of the two by far, and another in which the decorative border is perforated through on all sides.

 An very interesting project would be to attempt to identify all possible cylinder number combinations and sheet number fonts. It will be a very challenging project because not very many sheets have survived.

Paper and Gum Characteristics

The paper used by Harrison to print all issues is a medium chalk surfaced white paper, usually horizontal wove that has the watermark "FN" in single-lined, sans-serif letters that repeats throughout the sheet, so that on any given stamp there will be multiple impressions of the "FN". The letters stand for "Federation of Nigeria", and this watermark was in widespread use until the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company took over the bulk of stamp production in 1968. Generally, this watermark is only found upright, through recent discoveries have been made of inverted watermarks, like the 1961 one-pound definitive. I have never seen or heard of this watermark being found sideways, but to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a large scale study done of these issues, so with careful examination more discoveries will likely be made.

The gum used is a dextrine gum, often referred to as gum arabic, that has a very fine crackly pattern, is colourless, and often there are minute dull spots where the gum did not completely adhere to the paper. There is a bit of a sheen that can be compared to the sheen of satin, but it is not a particularly shiny gum.

Inks and Shades

The colours used by Harrison are very modern inks that were generally mixed with a great deal of precision. In addition, most of the issues that Harrison produced were short-lived commemorative issues with very limited print runs. Consequently we do not see a tremendous variation in shades with most of the stamps they printed. However, if we look at the 1961 definitive issue, which was printed by Harrison's over a four year period, we can spot a general trend in the ink colours. Generally, the inks of the first printings made in 1961 are brighter and more vibrant, and get progressively duller as the issue progresses. The differences are most notable with the following colours:

Emerald-green: The early emerald is both deep and bright. The colour becomes duller and milkier as time goes on.

Blue: The early blue is a bright steel blue, which becomes progressively greyer and duller as time goes on.

Dark green:There is a definite hint of blue to the early dark green. The green becomes greyer and duller as time goes on.

Orange: The early orange is bright and the later orange is duller.

Yellow: The early yellow is very bright and lacks any hint of orange. Later yellows are muddier and contain a definite hint of orange.

That concludes my discussion of the work of Harrison and Sons as it relates to the production of Nigerian stamps. My next post will look at the work of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company.