As I stated in my last post, Ince did not provide a detailed list of printings in his works. Because of that, coupled with the lack of dated postmarks in this period, it is not possible to definitively assign specific printings to specific dates. We do know that at this time that the colony was on the quarterly supply system with the crown agents. This means that there were shipments of stamps to the colony each and every month as they were needed. Now, this does not mean that there was a shipment of every value each quarter - only as supplies were exhausted. Historically, the 2d was only included with every second shipment until 1876, but after 1876, it was included with every shipment. The local letter rate was raised from 1d to 2d on March 22, 1879, so that throughout the period of this issue, this should have been a fairly heavily used stamp. However, the total quantity printed was about the same as the 1d, while there were more 4d stamps printed. Looking at the total quantity of stamps supplied since 1874 may shed some light as to how many printings there might have been:
1. The 1874-76 series produced 14,160 stamps over a 1 year period, in four shipments during that time.
2. The 1876-1879 series produced 49,140 stamps over a four year period, in six shipments, averaging 1 shipment per year, and 2 shipments in 1879, which is consistent with the increased demand resulting from the rate increase.
3. This series produced 32,640 stamps over an almost four year period. The number of shipments is not known, but is likely somewhere between 6 and 8 shipments.
So I am going to sort my stock of 5 mint examples and 37 used examples with a view to seeing how many different printings I can identify.
After careful sorting and comparison, I have identified ten groups of stamps that have different colour shades as to the head plates and duty plates.
Both the CDS cancel and the barred grid obilterator were contemporary during this period, although one can probably safely assign printings that are cancelled with predominantly CDS's to the last printings, while those cancelled only with the barred oval obliterators are likely to have come from the beginning of the period. That is of limited help with this particular value, as only two of my 37 used examples are canceled with CDS cancels. The remainder all appear to be cancelled with the 8-bar oval killer that was the prevalent cancellation of choice during this time.
As was the case with the 1d, paper and perforation are not much help here. All of the stamps are comb perforated 14. The paper is softer and of inferior quality to that found on the crown CC issues. The visibility of the watermark does vary outside fluid, from very faint, to highly visible. Usually on the back side, under a loupe, the paper will have a somewhat rough appearance. This seems to hold across all the printings, as we shall see.
The gum does vary a little bit. The earlier gum is thick and appears quite crackly under a loupe, as well as to the unaided eye. Later, as the period progresses, the gum becomes smoother and less crackly. Unfortunately, due to the rarity of mint examples, I only have five in my whole stock, and do not seem to have the full range of gum types, nor do I have mint examples of most printings I identified.
So, without further ado, lets take a look at the various printings that I identified.
In this first group of stamps, the head plate and the duty plate are slightly different colours. The head plate is close to a pure shade of blue. It is neither bright, nor dull, and is not greenish or greyish. The duty plate (words of value) on the other hand is a deep and slightly greenish blue. Here is my only mint example:
Now lets look at the backs:
Here the paper appears, soft, and smooth, with no obvious mesh, but with high visibility of the watermarks. The earlier printings tended to be on paper that did not show the watermark clearly, while the later printings also tend to show mesh. The appearance of this paper tends to suggest that these stamps are from a printing made sometime in 1883 or 1884.
This group of stamps is very similar to the last one. The frame plate colour is the same blue, as the last group. The duty plate colour is also a deep greenish blue, except this time the blue is much, much closer in shade to the frame plate colour. If you look at these stamps without a loupe, the frame plate and duty plate colours appear to match, whereas the frame and duty plate colours are clearly different on the above group to the unaided eye.
Here is my only mint example:
Let's take a look at the gum on this one:
Now, lets look at some used examples:
On this group, the frame plate shade is similar to the first two groups above, but is ever so slightly deeper. The real difference though is in the duty plate colour, which instead of being lighter and greener than the frame plate colour, is a deeper, fuller blue.
I have two mint examples of this stamp:
Let's take a look at the gum on these two stamps:
I also have just two used examples:
This is a really distinct printing. The blue of the frame plate is a deeper and brighter blue, while the duty plate colour is also deep blue, but with just the slightest hint of green.
Here is my last mint example:
Let's see if the gum on this one is different from the others that we have looked at so far:
Again this gum is somewhat crackly in appearance, and looks similar to the gum from group three above. This tends to suggest that it may be an earlier printing, though in the scan the gum looks smoother, suggesting it is a later printing.
Now lets look at some used examples:
Let's see if we can see any clues on the back of these stamps that might help us determine where to place them:
Here we see both papers showing no mesh, and paper showing faint vertical mesh, which is consistent with a later, but probably not last printing. The cancels suggested this too. So I would guess that this printing was made sometime in late 1884.
I only have one stamp from this group, and it is in poor condition, which may mean that the colour has simply faded somewhat. But here the frame and duty plate colours are more or less the same, and are a slightly duller version of the blue found in groups one through three.
Here is my only used example:
In this group the frame and duty plate shades are very similar to group four, except that the duty plate colour is not quite as deep, and is closer to a true Prussian blue, which is a greenish blue. The scan below shows my three used examples:
Here are the backs of these three stamps:
Here two of the three stamps show clear vertical mesh. This suggests that this is a later printing.
This is very similar to group six, except that the duty plate colour is duller than the Prussian blue above, almost being a grey-blue. Again, I have no mint, but three used examples:
In each of the next three groups, I only have one single used stamp. On this stamp, the frame plate is a similar blue to the first three groups, and the fifth group. However, the duty plate colour is a very distinct, pale dull blue, quite unlike anything seen on the other printings.
Here is my only example:
Here the colour is the deeper, brighter blue of group four, but the duty plate is the pale dull blue of group eight above.
Here is my only example:
- Group three
- Group five
- Group nine
- Group ten
- Group one
- Group two
- Group four (the latest of these three)
- Group six
- Group seven
- Group eight