Today's post deals with what in my opinion is one of the most remarkable stamps from the 1887-1903 Crown CA Lagos issue: the 2.5d ultramarine. The introduction of a single UPU rate for mail to all foreign destinations other than the UK, of 2.5d per half ounce, created a need for this value, and it was first dispatched to the Colony on April 15, 1891. It is the only stamp from the series, for which there were no remainders whatsoever. In all, 428,040 stamps were printed, so there will have been a very large number of printings - likely well over 40. Given that stamps were supplied on a quarterly basis, and there would have been three quarters left in 1891, there could be up to 43 printings. I have identified more than this number in my sort of 183 mint and used examples, so it is likely that some of the varieties I have found are merely sub-types of some of the printings.
The stamp follows the usual progression of plate wear, though on this value it seems that it never gets to stage 5, as I have not come across any really coarse examples. However, it does appear that there were some printings made in 1901 from plate 2, as many of my dated used examples from after 1901 possess a clarity that is uncharacteristic of printings made at this time, which does suggest that they are from a new plate.
The main thing that is interesting about this stamp is the very vast array of subtle shades, and the fact that quite often the head and duty plate shade dates are quite different. The basic colour is identified as being ultramarine, but in reality there is a very wide range of shades. Gibbons does list a scarce blue shade, in the type A duty plate (to be discussed in a minute), but it is really quite a greenish blue. In addition to this shade, there are several other very scarce shade combinations. The second interesting thing is the differences in the duty plate letters. Gibbons lists two types:
- On the more common type A lettering, the letters are thin, the fraction bar is thinner and has a straight top, or ends in a straight point.
- On the scarcer type B, the letters are slightly larger and bolder. The fraction bar has a slightly curved top, almost resembling a serif.
- On type A, the width of the inscription is exactly 15 mm. All the letters except for the "P", the 2 and the fraction are exactly, or almost exactly 1.5 mm tall, and 1.5 mm wide, except for the fraction, which is 2 mm wide. The "P" is generally 1.75 mm tall. The fraction bar is 2 mm long.
- On type B, the width of the inscription is just a smidge wider than 15 mm. All the letters except for the "P" and "E", the 2 and the fraction are exactly, or almost exactly 1.75 mm tall. The "P" is very close to 2 mm tall and the "E" is still 1.5 mm tall. The fraction is also 2 mm wide, and the "Y" is also very close to 2 mm wide. All the other letters and the 2 are 1.5 mm wide, as in type A. So essentially, the letters are generally 0.25 mm taller on type B, as compared to type A. The fraction bar is generally 2.25 mm long.
Here we have a block of 18 from the middle of the sheet. Most of the design detail is clear and the degree of wear seems to be similar on all stamps. Some of the stamps in this block are type B, such as the second stamp from the left on the bottom row, while others, such as the third stamp from the left in the top row, are type A.