The Commemorative Issues of 1947-1952
These commemorative issues are important because they mark the beginning of one very long-established practice in Canadian stamp production. This is the practice of issuing a commemorative series over a four or five year period, with a few different stamps from the series being released each year. The two Prime Ministers stamps, depicting Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King, were the first stamps in such a series, which saw the release of two stamps each year, until the last set was released in 1955, for a total of eight stamps. In the years since, there have been many, many commemorative issues that have been issued in this manner.
This period also has one very curious and unique aspect: the use of a commemorative stamp as a definitive. The 1951 Capex issue had as its top value, a 15c stamp depicting the first stamp of Canada, the threepenny beaver. Although it was basically issued as a commemorative, it was retained past the normal period in which it would have been withdrawn and used to replace the 14c Peace Issue. This stamp saw heavy use to pay the foreign airmail rate to Europe, so there was a real need for a 15c definitive stamp, and rather than issue one, the post office sold quantities of this stamp until 1954, when it was replaced by the 15c Gannet stamp.
The scope afforded by these issues is more limited than the definitive stamps to be sure, but with patience and attention to detail, it is still possible to find some varieties: shades, a few paper varieties and even some re-entries have been found. It is an ideal range of 13 stamps for those of you wishing to focus on postal history, without too many distractions, as there are plenty of nice on cover usages that you can focus on, as well as a plethora of first day covers, some of which have interesting and scarce cachets.
The Commemorative Issues in Question
There were a total of 13 stamps issued in total across 9 different issues as follows:
1. 1947 Birth centenary of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.
2. 1947 80th Anniversary of Confederation and the advent of Canadian citizenship.
3. 1948 Marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten.
4. 1948 100th anniversary of responsible government in Canada.
5. 1949 Entry of Newfoundland into Confederation.
6. 1949 Bicentenary of the founding of Halifax.
7. 1951 Prime Ministers Robert Borden and William Lyon Mackenzie King.
8. 1951 100th anniversary of Canadian postage stamps and CAPEX, Canada's first international philatelic exhibition.
9. 1951 Visit of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh to Canada.
There are some very beautiful stamps here, which are very, very inexpensive. My favourite ones by far are the Alexander Graham Bell stamp and the Newfoundland entry into Confederation stamps. Both are superb examples of engraver's art.
The Stamp Designs, Issue Dates and Quantities
Points of Interest
Although somewhat limited in scope, these issues can be collected in much the same fashion as the earlier definitives, with the following being avenues you can pursue:
- Shade varieties.
- Paper and gum varieties.
- Plate blocks
- Proof material
- First day covers.
- Postal History
The remainder of this post, will discuss each of the above aspects.
Despite a very remarkable uniformity of colour on most of these issues, due largely to their very short periods of use, you will notice after a while some variations in shade. Some of these, like the first two issues that I show below are very subtle and easily overlooked, but some, particularly those involving the purple/lilac/violet inks are quite striking. Indeed it is surprising to me that Unitrade does not at least list the more striking of the shade varieties on these issues.
I believe that with patience, you can probably find between 2 and 3 different shades for most stamps, with the possible exception of the 4c black Capex issue, which I believe only exists in the one black shade. Below are some close up scans that show the types of varieties I am talking about:
Paper and Gum Varieties
There were four basic papers in use during the life of these issues and two basic gum types. They seem to follow a progression, and two types have only been seen on the 1947 Alexander Graham Bell Issue:
- The first type is a smooth, cream vertical wove paper that shows only the very lightest surface ribbing when examined with a loupe. Without a loupe, the paper appears smooth and almost has a finished, plate glazed look about it. This is most apparent when you look at the selvage margins on plate blocks of these stamps. The gum that is usually found with this paper type is yellowish cream with a satin sheen.
- The second type is a soft horizontal wove paper, with no ribbing. The gum is usually a light cream with a satin sheen. I have only seen this on the 1947 Alexander Graham Bell stamp.
- The third type is similar to the second, except that light vertical ribbing can be seen on the gum. Again, I have only seen this type with the 1947 Alexander Graham Bell stamp.
- The fourth type is a ribbed vertical wove where the ribbing can be visible on the face, the back, or both sides of the stamp. With this paper I have seen two types of gum. One is a yellowish cream with a satin sheen and the other is a lighter cream that is very shiny, with a glossy sheen.
Here we have three examples of the 15c Capex, showing two distinct gum types. The middle stamp is the earlier yellowish cream gum with the satin or semi-gloss sheen. The stamps on either side have a gum that is much less yellow and more towards white, while at the same time, being much shinier, with a glossy sheen.
So the above two variations suggest that it is quite probable that every one of the 13 stamps can be found with at least two combinations of paper and gum.
Most of these issues were printed with 2 plates, making for a total of 104 basic plate blocks required to make up a full set as follows:
- 4c Alexander Graham Bell - 2 plates, 8 blocks
- 4c citizenship - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 4c Princess Elizabeth - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 4c responsible government - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 4c Newfoundland - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 4c Halifax - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 3c Borden - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 4c Mackenzie King - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 4c black Capex - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 5c lilac Capex - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 7c dark blue Capex - 2 plates, 8 blocks.
- 15c vermilion, Capex - 1 plate, 4 blocks.
- 4c Royal Visit - 3 plates, 12 blocks
Here is a lower left block of the 15c Capex showing two dots as well. One is clearly visible underneath the inscription in the bottom right selvage, while the other one is located very close to the upper edge of the left selvage tab just opposite the order number. This again is different from a block that I saw of the 4c Mackenzie king that had no dots at all.
So it is difficult to say whether these two varieties exist on every lower right and lower left block of every stamp in these issues, but it is certainly a question that is worthy of additional research. However, it is easy to see how a basic collection of 104 plate blocks can grow into a collection of a few hundred plate blocks once these different position dot configurations, shade varieties and paper and gum varieties are taken into account.
The following order numbers are what I have seen on the blocks I have handled so far:
- 4c Mackenzie King, plate 1, no dot - #933
- 15c Capex, plate 1, 2 dots (shown above) - #826
The only re-entry that has been reported by Trimble on these issues occurs on the 4c citizenship stamp. On this stamp there is doubling of some of the shading lines in the lower right corner as well as the hidden date. You can view an example by clicking on the following link.
With the large number of printed stamps relative to the number of plates used for these issues, I am fairly confident that there are more re-entries out there that are just waiting to be found. Most will likely be quite subtle, like this one is. However, subtle or not, they are fun to seek out and collect.
- 1 Large hardened die proof on India paper in the issued colour.
- 1 Large unhardened die proof on India paper in the issued colour.
- 4 Large trial colour proof on india paper.
- 1 small trial colour proof on India paper.
I am not sure why the site does not list proof material for the other issues included here. It might be that no pieces are known in private hands. But, as the above essay shown above for the 4c Capex unadopted design shows, such material does indeed exist.
The listed items on the BNA Proofs website are all extremely expensive for this type of material, mostly all costing over $1,500 each. So despite the fact that there are relatively few listed items, you could still need to have deep pockets to be in a position to own them all. You can get a better look at the items listed on the website by clicking on the following two links:
First Day Covers
Where this material becomes more interesting is with the collecting of first day covers. As I had explained in my last post, Artcraft and Rosecraft were the largest cachet makers of the period, and the scan below shows one of their typical black and white cachets:
- You can attempt to find as many different cachets as possible.
- You can also add, for each cachet, a different town or city that the cover came from.
- You can look for covers that have plate blocks or pairs, rather than just single stamps.
- You can look for cachet errors. These can include misprints of the cachet or the wrong cachet used on the cover.
The last aspect, which I want to spend a bit more time on than usual is the postal history. These stamps were generally 3c and 4c stamps, which meant that they were intended to be used for single-franked local city and forwarded domestic letters in the first weight step. You can certainly collect these in a variety of different ways, focusing on cancels or looking for hotel or advertising covers. However, in my opinion, the real gold to look for on these issues is to find them used to pay higher rates that normally would have been paid with the definitives of the period. If you can find them used within the 6 month period in which most commemorative issues are considered to be current, that is so much the better, and represents a way that you can add challenge to your task. The best covers will be those where the rate is paid with several different commemorative issues that were all current at the same time, with any shortfall in the rate being made up using definitives. The following scan show a few examples of some better, scarcer covers that I have in my stock: