The Commemorative Issues of 1969 - Part One
Today marks the first post I will be writing that will be shorter in length than my posts have usually been up until now. The growing complexity of the attributes of the modern issues, has led to the posts becoming longer and longer, taking an inordinate amount of time to complete. So, I am breaking them down into smaller sections, which hopefully will make them easier to read and follow as well.
This week I start delving into the 1969 commemoratives. 1969 is the last year in which most of the commemoratives issued were printed using some type of engraving. Often, it was in combination with photogravure or lithography, but starting in 1970, lithography and photogravure become the dominant printing techniques. 1969 is also the year that a new comb perforation is introduced by BABN to replace the coarse perf. 10, with only the curling stamp having the old perf. However, the guillotining of panes by them does continue, so that many stamps from their sheets do continue to have 1 or 2 straight edges. This is the last year in which this is the case.
There are no rate increases in this year, with the first class rate continuing to be the 6c that it was raised to the year prior.
A total of 15 stamps were issued in this year. This post will explore the first six of these, with the balance to follow next week.
The Stamps, Designs, Issue Dates, Quantities, Printers and Designers
6c bright blue and deep red
Printed by BABN using engraving and photogravure
Issued: January 15, 1969
Quantity issued: 25,200,000
Designed by: David Eales
Engraved by: Yves Baril
6c yellow olive and dark brown
Printed by CBN using lithography and engraving
Issued: February 20, 1969
Quantity issued: 25,100,000
Designed by: Imre von Mosdossy
Engraved by: Yves Baril
Printed by CBN using photogravure
Issued: March 14, 1969
Quantity issued: 6,300,000
6c dark green
International Labour Organization (ILO)
Printed by BABN using engraving
Issued: May 21, 1969
Quantity issued: 30,700,000
Designed by: Julien Hebert
Engraved by: George Arthur Gundersen
15c red brown, yellow green and light ultramarine
50th Anniversary of Alcock and Brown flight
Printed by BABN using engraving and photogravure
Issued: June 13, 1969
Quantity issued: 15,170,000
Designed by: Robert William Bradford
Engraved by: Charles Gordon Yorke
6c dark blue and light red brown
Sir William Osler
Printed by BABN using photogravure and engraving
Issued: May 21, 1969
Quantity issued: 36,060,000
Designed by: George Sarras Fanais
Engraved by: Charles Gordon Yorke
This group of stamps exhibits fewer variations than before. However, there are still some very collectible paper varieties to collect, as well as some constant plate varieties and four perforation varieties on each of the Vincent Massey and Suzor Cote stamps. The remainder of this post will deal with this in detail.
Paper Characteristics Other Than Fluorescence
As was the case in the previous year, there is also considerable variation in the paper utilized to print these stamps:
- A smooth, vertical wove paper that is a light cream colour, and which shows no obvious mesh pattern. When held up to a strong back light, some light horizontal mesh is visible. The paper feels smooth to the touch, but under magnification, it is clear that it is uncoated and there are lots of very fine pores in the printing surface. This paper is found on the curling stamp and the Alcock and Brown stamp.
- A smooth, thicker horizontal wove paper, that is cream coloured. There is no obvious mesh pattern visible on the front or back. Against strong back light, a faint vertical and horizontal mesh pattern is visible. On the printed surface the paper is smooth and under magnification you can just see a very light surface coating and no loose fibres on the paper surface. This paper type is found on the Vincent Massey stamp.
- A smooth, vertical wove paper that is whiter, being a very light cream when viewed against a stark white background. There is no clear mesh pattern even when viewed against strong back lighting. Under magnification, the paper surface is smooth, and there is an obvious surface coating in order to prevent loose paper fibres on the surface. This paper is found on the Suzor Cote stamp.
- A smooth, white paper, that has a slightly rougher feel to the printing surface. This paper is a vertical wove paper that is quite pliable. Under magnification, there is a very light surface coating visible, but the surface appears matte and rough, with very, very fine pores visible in the paper surface.
- A paper that is similar in all respects to #1 above, but is horizontal, rather than vertical wove, and it shows no mesh pattern, even when viewed against strong back light from the back of the stamp, but when viewed from the front, vertical mesh is usually visible. This paper is found on the William Osler issue.
- A similar paper to #5 above, which has a whiter appearance, being a lighter cream colour. This is also found on the William Osler stamp, and is the so called hibrite paper.
Unitrade only lists the curling stamp, the ILO issue, the Alcock and Brown Issue and the Olsler issue as having more than one variety of paper. The Vincent Massey, Suzor Cote, and ILO issues are all normally found on what Unitrade calls hibrite paper. However, as we shall see, it is generally a combination of true hibrite, with some high fluorescent paper. The standard paper for the curling issue is fluorescent, while for the Alcock and Brown, and Osler issues, it is dull. Unitrade does note that the Osler Issue can be found on hibrite paper, which I agree is truly hibrite, and the Alcock and Brown issue, which exists on paper that Unitrade lists as fluorescent.
However, as with most issues of this period, there are slight variations in the listed paper varieties that are not specifically listed in Unitrade, which I will now discuss. In keeping with the style of the last post, I will take each issue at a time and describe what I have found so far in my studies.
The dull paper and fluorescent paper are basically the exact same base level of fluorescence in that they are both dull greyish papers under UV. But the fluorescent paper contains a low density concentration of dull fluorescent fibres, sparse concentrations of low and medium fluorescent fibres and a very sparse concentration of high fluorescent fibres. Together, these fibres raise the overall perceived fluorescence level. Unitrade maintains that it is fluorescent, but I feel that low fluorescent is more accurate. The picture below shows an example of the fluorescent paper:
Note the overall grey appearance of the paper.
I have found at least three varieties of the dull paper. Most all of these contain either no fluorescent fibres at all, or just 1 or 2 low fluorescent fibres in the entire stamp. For two of these varieties, the colour is the same grey as that shown above. However, I have found a variety of dull paper that is an ivory cream colour under UV light, as opposed to the normal grey colour, as shown in the following picture:
The two stamps at the left are both printed on the grey dull paper, and the top stamp contains a single low fluorescent fibre, which is visible just above the back of the left curler. The stamp at the top right is printed on the ivory cream paper, and as you can see, it appears quite different from the left stamps.
The Vincent Massey Stamp
This stamp is found on both true hibrite paper and high fluorescent paper as shown below:
The block is true hibrite paper, while the single stamp on top is the high fluorescent paper. Both paper types generally contain a few hibrite fibres, which get concealed by the hibrite fluorescence on the hibrite paper, and are just visible on the high fluorescent paper.
The Suzor Cote Stamp
This is another stamp that at first appears to be issued only on hibrite paper, but on closer examination, actually exists on highbrite, high fluorescent and medium fluorescent papers. The picture below shows all three types:
The centre stamp, which lies on top of the others is printed on hibrite paper, while the top stamp is on high fluorescent paper and the bottom stamp is on medium fluorescent paper.
The International Labour Organization Stamp
According to Unitrade, the normal paper for this stamp is hibrite, which I would tend to agree with. However, there is also a variation of the paper, which is a little less bright, being more of a high fluorescent paper:
The plate block is definitely hibrite, while the stamp on the top is high fluorescent.
I have only found one variety of the dull paper, on which this stamp is sometimes found, and that is a dull fluorescent greyish paper, as shown below:
The Alcock and Brown Stamp
This stamp is listed as being on dull fluorescent paper, and for the longest time there was no listed paper varieties for this stamp. Then, about a decade ago Unitrade listed a fluorescent paper variety. However, the paper is not anywhere near as bright as most fluorescent stamps. In contrast, it is really just a low fluorescent paper that contains no fluorescent fibres. It is easy to miss if you didn't have comparison examples on the dull paper on hand.
The dull fluorescent paper generally does not have any fluorescent fibre content. But there are two different varieties of the dull fluorescent paper, which vary according to the colour under UV light: greyish and greyish white. The low fluorescent paper can best be described as merely "white".
The following scans show these differences clearly:
Here we have two stamps on the left printed on a dull fluorescent greyish paper, while the two stamps on the right are on a greyish white paper.
The dull fluorescent greyish paper is on the left, while the low fluorescent white paper is shown by the stamp on the right. However, as I said, it would be easy to classify the stamp on the right as dull if you did not have the left stamp to compare it to.
The William Osler Stamp
This stamp is listed by Unitrade as being on both hibrite and dull paper, with the dull paper being the standard. As we shall see below, I have found that there are at least two varieties of the dull paper and three varieties of the so called hibrite paper, one of which is really more of a high fluorescent.
The dull paper exists in a greyish colour and an ivory grey colour. The difference is shown in the scan below:
The block on the left is the ivory grey, which actually appears more brownish yellow in reality than in the scan. The block on the right is the greyish colour.
Two of the so called hibrite papers are shown below:
The block at left, and the stamp on the top of the right block are printed on high fluorescent paper. The block on the right is a mottled hibrite paper. There is also a non-mottled hibrite paper, that is the same brightness level, but not mottled in appearance.
There is very little variation in colour on these stamps. In fact, the only issues that I have found any variation on at all are the Suzor Cote issue. The variation lies in the blend of the colours in the vignette, with some stamps appearing more orangy, greenish or others having more yellow in the colour blend. Also the colour of the brown inscriptions varies from a deep yellow brown to a clear grey brown.
The following pictures show some of these variations on the Suzor Cote stamps:
As you can see from the above scan, there is quite a bit of variation in the colours of the vignette. The block on the upper left has quite a marked greenish tone to the sky and the fields. The top right block has a yellowish tone on the fields and the sky. The lower block contains a lot of orange, which is caused by the orange that is normally behind the couple getting into the sky, making it a peach colour.
The scan below shows the difference in the colour of the inscriptions:
The stamp on the left has a deep yellow brown inscription, while the right stamp has a grey-brown inscription. The difference is quite noticeable.
The stamps issued in this year were all printed with dextrine gum, which exhibits different properties depending on the issue. Generally the gum used on the BABN issues printed by photogravure and engraving is the same, while those printed by CBN are different, and exist in 2 varieties - one for each of the Vincent Massey and Suzor Cote issues.
The gum types found on these issues can be described as follows:
- A smooth cream coloured gum with a satin sheen, that contains vertical striations that resemble brushstrokes. On vertical stamps, these striations are horizontal. This gum is found on the curling issue, the ILO issue, the Alcock and Brown issue and the Osler issue.
- A smooth, yellowish cream gum with a satin sheen. This gum is found on the Vincent Massey stamp.
- A streaky version of the same gum as #2 above. The steaks run from top to bottom of the stamp and are spaced about 1 mm apart horizontally.
- A streaky yellowish cream gum with a high gloss sheen and what appear to be fine brushstrokes. This gum is found on the Suzor Cote issue.
- A similar, streaky yellowish cream gum which has a semi-gloss sheen. This type is also found on the Suzor Cote Issue.
As stated in the introduction, this was the year in which BABN introduced the new 12.5 x 12 comb perforation to replace the 10 perforation that had been used throughout 1968. My guess is that it was found to be too coarse for the public and resulted in too many torn stamps. The only stamp that used the 10 perforation is the first stamp issued, the curling stamp. The new 12.5 x 12 perf. was used on the last three stamps, the ILO, Alcock and Brown and Osler Issues. The CBN continued to use the 11.85 and 11.95 gauge perforations on its stamps, so that both the Massey and Suzor Cote stamps can be found in all four perforation varieties: 11.85, 11.95, 11.85 x 11.95 and 11.95 x 11.85.
All of the issues from 1969 were printed from only one plate, and the Suzor Cote stamps do not have a plate number at all, since they are not engraved. So, in this year much of the significance that was previously attached to plate blocks has now been lost. However, they are still very attractive and desirable from a collector's perspective.
The scan above shows an example of a plate block of the 1969 curling stamp issue. As you can see, the block has 1 straight edge at the top. This is because all the panes of the BABN stamps were trimmed at the top and bottom, and also at the sides if they were not designated for philatelic stock.
The only issue for which Unitrade lists any varieties is the Suzor Cote Issue. On this issue there are three listed varieties, all of which involve the cyan ink that is part of the design. The stamp was printed in sheets of 200 arranged into four panes of 50. The three listed varieties are:
- Line from knee variety - a blue line from the left knee of the man. This occurs on position 41 of the lower right pane.
- Bird in the sky variety - a small irregular blue mark appears in the sky at the man's eye level and directly above his hands. This occurs on position 36 of the lower right pane.
- Low moon variety - a blue dot appears in the sky at the man's eye level toward the left end of the stakes he is carrying. This variety occurs on position 5 of the upper left pane.
Unfortunately, I do not have any examples of the above three constant varieties, but I will be sure to add pictures as more examples become available. However, I note that there are other, similar varieties in other positions on the stamp. For example, I have found a second "low moon" variety on position 1 of one of the panes, though I am not sure which one:
This one is located much further to the left of the design, almost at the extreme left. But it is a very clear darker blue dot in the sky. This one came from an upper left field stock block, so it is position 1, but I can't tell which of the 4 panes it comes from.
Another interesting variety that I have found looks at first like a damaged stamp, with surface damage to the ink:
This looks like a stamp that has become stuck to something and lost it's surface ink. But on closer examination, it becomes apparent that it is not damaged. For one thing the stamp has full, undisturbed gum, so it hasn't been washed. The inscriptions are not damaged. So, if it did become stuck, only the vignette was affected. Then, when I look at the stamp under magnification, the paper surface is smooth and the surface coating is undamaged. That would not be the case if the ink had been damaged. So, it would appear that this was damage that happened to the multi-positive during printing.
There are however some other minor varieties that are not listed in Unitrade that I feel are worth mentioning. The first of these occurs on the curling stamp where there can be a mis-registration of the red, relative to the blue. This is most easily seen where the word "Canada" meets the value tablet. Ordinarily these two things should merge seamlessly together to form one long panel. However, when the colours are out of alignment, the value tablet and "Canada" panel do not quite line up, as seen in the following scans:
This picture shows the normal registration of the colours.
Notice the slight shift to the left of the blue colour on this example. Of course the shifts can be more pronounced than this, and can go in the other direction as well.
First Day Covers
These issues can be collected in the usual range of first day covers, with a large range of cachets. As usual Artcraft and Rose Craft are the most common of these. There must be at least a dozen different cachet makers still in operation in this year, so there are a large number of covers that can be collected. As for previous years, these covers can be franked with singles, pairs, regular blocks and plate blocks.
Postal History And Cancellations
Of the six stamps examined here, four are 6c stamps, which would have been used primarily for local first class letters, and would not be especially scarce on cover. The international airmail rate to Europe, including the UK was 15c per ounce, so that the Alcock and Brown stamp will be found mostly in single usages on covers going to Europe. While this is listed in Unitrade as a better usage, it is still not especially scarce. Likewise, the registration rate in 1969 was 50c for the lowest amount of insurance. So, the Suzor Cote stamp would have been used primarily for registered covers, and so usage on cover would usually be with either a 5c or 6c stamp, depending on whether the cover was mailed within the city or outside the city limits.
More interesting usages that would be less common and more desirable, would include airmail covers franked with the 6c stamps rather than the 15c or 50c stamps, and registered airmail covers of higher value franked with a combination of all the stamps.
This concludes my discussion of the first six commemorative issues of 1969. Next week I will look at the remaining nine stamps.