I have 121 mint and used stamps of this value, which I initially sorted into the same five groups that I had identified in the posts dealing with the 5d, 7.5d, and 10d stamps. Interestingly, I did not find any stamps that possessed the characteristics of plate 2, which suggests that all printings were made from plate 1. Within the first group however, there was one that showed every so slightly less plate wear than the others, and which I believe represents the printings made between December 1890 and December 1892. They are much scarcer than the later printings, and I do not believe that I have examples of all that were printed in these early years before 1894. I sorted each of the first five groups further by the shades of the head plate and duty plates (words of value) into printings. I will now illustrate them and describe their characteristics. Once again, I do not have a sufficient number of dated used examples to be certain about the order of the printings, so when I refer to a printing as the "fourth printing", I mean the fourth printing that I identified - not necessarily the fourth printing made. In all, I believe I have identified 31 printings of this value.
Group 1 - Printings 1-3
Like the first printings of the 5d, 7.5d, and 10d, these three printings show only minimal plate wear, with slight merging of the first three lines at the very top of the hair on two of the three. The very first printing does not show the merging of these lines, and it is my belief that this printing comes from the period between December 1890 and the end of 1893.
Group 2 - Printings 4-11
In this group of printings, they are similar to the first, but there is a slight loss of sharpness, with the most noticeable being the first shading lines near the jewels of the crown.
Group 3 - Printings 12-18
The printings of the third group are characterized by the lack of detail in the hair in the back of the head, the merging of the top four or five hairlines at the top of the head, and the merging of most of the lower hairlines up to about half way up the jewels in the crown.
The head plate colour of this printing is also tricky as it does not quite match the lilac swatches, being both a touch greyer and duller. However, it is not anywhere near as dull as the grey-lilac and it lacks the brownish tinge that it would have to have in order to be a paler version of the dull purple. So I am going to call this dull lilac. The duty plate colour is closest to lake brown, but is just a touch deeper.
This printing is, by far the one that I have the largest number of examples of, with 12 mint and 11 used. Of the used examples, 5 examples are dated between 1902 and 1903, while four appear to be cancelled with a 9-bar oval obliterator. Again, this suggests that the dated examples are late usages, because the plate just does not show anywhere near enough wear to be from 1902 or 1903.
The scan below shows a close-up of three of the examples from above:
The head plate colour of this printing is closest to reddish lilac on the Gibbons colour key, while the duty plate colour is closest to orange-brown.
The head plate colour of this printing is closest to dull purple, while the duty plate colour is closest to chestnut.
None of the above three used examples show a clear date, but two are cancelled with 9-bar oval obliterators, which suggests that these were printed before 1899.
The head plate colour of this printing is closest to what I called dull lilac on the thirteenth printing. The duty plate colour is closest to lake brown, but just a touch paler.
Group 4 - Printings 19-26
These printings are characterized by the fact that while nearly all the detail in the hair up to the top of the crown is gone, there is still a narrow band of detail visible between the top of the crown and the top of the head. Also, the horizontal shading lines in the lower horizontal band of the crown are still visible, but just beginning to merge into one another.
Twenty First Printing
Twenty Third Printing
The head plate colour on this printing remains closest to dull mauve, while the duty plate colour is closest to chestnut.
Twenty Fourth Printing
Twenty Fifth Printing
Twenty Sixth Printing
Group 5 - Printings 27-31
This printing is distinct in that there is a coarseness of appearance that none of the preceding printings have. The detail in the hair at the top of the head is almost completely gone, and most of the shading lines in the lower horizontal band of the crown are completely merged together.
Twenty Seventh Printing
The head plate colour of this printing is closest to reddish lilac. The duty plate shade is about mid-way between deep chestnut and lake brown.
Twenty Eighth Printing
Twenty Ninth Printing
The head plate colour of this printing is closest to reddish lilac. The duty plate colour is closest to lake brown.
Thirty First Printing
This was the most troubling stamp of all the denominations that I have examined in this series so far. There seem to be so many late dates on the used examples that either my theory about the wear of the plates is incorrect, and use of plate characteristics to place the printings is incorrect, because the plate did not actually wear evenly, as I have assumed, or there were so many shipments of these stamps, that were received so frequently, that early printings frequently got left at the bottom of the pile and were not used until much later. Given that the number of unsold remainders in 1903 was more than half of the original sending, I think it is safe to conclude that the later hypothesis is correct: that many early printings simply did not get sold over the post office counters until much later after they were first received. What I have managed to establish though is that there was a state of the plate in which there is no merging of the lines in the shading of the hair. I didn't come across this on any of the 5d, 7.5d or 10d values, which suggests that it pre-dates these stamps, and that any stamp showing these characteristics has to have been printed before 1894.
Next week's post will look at the 2.5d ultramarine that was issued in April 1891.