Chalk-Surfaced Papers on Edwardian Period Nigerian Stamps

Chalk-Surfaced Papers on Edwardian Period Nigerian Stamps

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Today's post will deal with the topic of chalk-surfaced papers on Nigerian stamps of the colonial period. The standard postage stamp catalogues, such as Scott, make no distinction at all as to the use of chalk-surfaced papers over the normal, unsurfaced, plate-glazed wove paper. However, the Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogue does list both chalk surfaced and ordinary unsurfaced papers where both were used. What many collectors may be unaware of though is the fact that more than one type of chalk-surfaced paper was used in some cases. The stamps in question were printed by De La Rue in London, and during the King Edward VII Period, the stamps of Great Britain also show these variations. The difference though is that the specialized Stanley Gibbons catalogue does distinguish between the normal chalk surfaced paper, and a very thick, opaque paper, which it calls Dickinson Coated Paper, which was used on an experimental basis in 1913.

It stands to reason therefore, that similar differences probably do exist on many colonial issues as well, depending on when they were printed. Today's post will look at some of those differences that I see, based on my examination of several hundred Edward VII period stamps from Lagos, Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria.


The stamps in question, that we will be looking at today are:

1. The Edward VII Issue of Lagos, Watermarked Multiple Crown CA.
2. The Edward VII Issue of Northern Nigeria, Watermarked Multiple Crown CA
3. The Edward VII Issue of Southern Nigeria, Watermarked Multiple Crown CA

The Lagos issues first appear on chalk-surfaced paper in September 1905, with most values appearing on this paper by September 1906.The 2.5d value only appears on chalk-surfaced paper. The issue from Northern Nigeria first appears in August 1905, but the chalk surfaced versions do not appear until 1906 and 1907. The later issue, for which the colours were changed, first appeared on January 30, 1910, and was in use until the King George V issue replaced it In September 1912.  All the values above the 2.5d were printed on chalk-surfaced paper, and all appeared between November 1910 and September 1911. Finally, the issues of Southern Nigeria first appeared on chalk-surfaced paper in 1905, with some values not appearing until 1908. The 3d and 10/- values of the 1904-1909 issue are only known on chalk-surfaced paper, while all values above 2.5d of the 1907-1911 issue are only known on chalk-surfaced paper. Unlike the later Northern Nigeria issue, the later Edward VII issue of Southern Nigeria appeared on a staggered basis between 1907 and 1911.

Detecting Stamps on Chalk-Surfaced Paper

If you read the traditional stamp literature, the recommended method for distinguishing chalk-surfaced papers from the ordinary papers is the use of what is known as the silver test. The silver test involves gently rubbing the blunt end of a silver wire on the paper, usually in the selvage or outer margins of the stamp. The idea is that the silver will react with the chalk in the paper coating and leave a visible grey mark. There are a few practical problems with this test though:

  • Silver wire is not something that is easily obtained.
  • The repeated use on stamps can damage them.
  • Not all chalk-surfaced papers respond to this test.
The last of these points is very important as I have seen stamps that were clearly on chalky paper, being identified as ordinary. Remember that what you are testing for is surfaced versus non-surfaced paper, not whether the paper responds to the silver test. 
I find that with a good magnifying glass and your eyes, you can identify pretty well all instances of chalk-surfaced paper. Here is what I look for:
  • The presence of pores in the paper surface.
  • The presence of surface rubbing or the appearance thereof.
  • The visibility of the watermark.
  • A dull sheen to the surface, with alternate shiny and dull spots. 
  • The cleanliness and uniformity of the printing lines.
Generally speaking the unsurfaced, plate glazed wove paper will have the following characteristics:
  • No visible pores on the paper surface when viewed under high magnification. The surface is somewhat rough compared to chalk-surfaced paper, with small dents in places, but no pores as such. 
  • There is no surface rubbing, though the inks of some stamps can have the same diffuse appearance that often appears on the stamps printed on chalk-surfaced paper. 
  • The watermark is almost always visible from the back of the stamp without the aid of either a watermark tray or watermark detector. In addition, the paper mesh will often, but not always be visible also.
  • Although all De La Rue stamps have relatively clean printing lines, the ink absorption on the stamps printed on unsurfaced paper is often uneven, resulting in lines that are not of uniform intensity, whereas on chalk-surfaced paper, the lines are usually sharp, clean and of uniform intensity. 
In contrast, most, but not all stamps on chalk surfaced paper will show many fine pores on the surface under high magnification. This results from the release of trapped air as the chalk coating dried. Any stamp that shows these pores is definitely printed on chalk-surfaced paper. So this is always one of my first tests, and for it I use a simple 10x power loupe. My other test is to look at the general texture of the paper. Unsurfaced paper is both smooth and rough at the same time, while the surface of chalk-surfaced paper is much smoother.
Surface rubbing can occasionally identify stamps on chalk-surfaced paper, as any stamp that shows a smeary appearance is printed on chalky paper. However some stamps appear rubbed, even when they are not. Some of the chalk coatings, particularly those on the first issue of Northern Nigeria were highly absorbent of the printing ink, causing it to diffuse through the chalk, and giving the appearance of rubbing, even when under magnification, there is no evidence of any surface abrasion. However, as stated earlier, there are some stamps on unsurfaced paper from the second Northern Nigeria issue, most notably the 1/2d and 2.5d, which have the same diffuse appearance as some of the chalky paper stamps. Fortunately, these stamps are only known on ordinary, unsurfaced paper, so there is little chance of misidentifying them. 
The watermark is still visible on some of the thinner, chalk surfaced papers, though it is much less obvious than on the unsurfaced papers. However, the lack of a visible watermark without the aid of a detector is a good indication that you are dealing with one of the thicker chalk-surfaced papers. 
Most stamps on chalky paper will have a very dull, matte appearance to the surface, whereas stamps on unsurfaced paper will have a light sheen when viewed at an angle to the light. Occasionally, it may be difficult to distinguish the stamps on chalk-surfaced paper that shows no visible pores from one that has no surfacing. However, with experience, you will learn to spot the difference fairly accurately. 
Types of Chalk-Surfaced Paper
Type 1 - Used on Lagos 1/2d, Northern Nigeria 6d, Southern Nigeria 1/2d, 1d, 4d, 6d, 1/-, 2/6d, 4d (second colour), and 6d (second colour)
This paper is only very slightly thicker than the unsurfaced paper, the additional thickness being limited to the chalk coating itself. The watermark is clearly visible without the aid of a watermark detector or tray, although the mesh is not usually visible. This paper has a smooth, matte appearance, and generally does not show any visible pores on the surface under magnification. It also does not generally show surface rubbing. The printings made on this paper have, smooth and clean lines. The main way to identify it is by the very matte surface, paler colours and clean, smooth printing lines. 
Type 2 - Used on Lagos 1d and 2.5d coloured papers, Northern Nigeria 1/2d, 1d, 3d, 5d (second colour), 6d (second colour), 1/- (second colour), 2/6d (second colour), 5/- (second colour), 10/-(second colour), Southern Nigeria 4d, 6d, 5/-, 3d (second colour), 4d (second colour), 6d (second colour), 1/- (second colour), 2/6d (second colour), 5/- (second colour), 10/- (second colour) and one pound (second colour)
This paper is notably thicker than the type 1 paper. The watermark is not usually visible immediately, but can be seen if the stamps are held up to the light. This paper usually shows a light sheen on the surface, as the coating is mildly susceptible to surface rubbing. Under magnification, very tiny pores are visible. You may have to look hard to see them lurking in the unprinted portions of the design, but if you look hard enough you will always see them. On the higher values, printed on coloured paper, the pores are always highly visible under magnification.
Type 3 - Used on Lagos 2d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 2/6d, 5/- and 10/-; Northern Nigeria 2d, 6d, and 3d
This paper is similar to type 1 in in all respects, except that it shows the same light sheen as type 2, and is moderately susceptible to surface rubbing. 
Type 4 - Used on Lagos 2.5d, Northern Nigeria 1/2d, 2d, 5d, 1/-, 2/6d, 3d, Southern Nigeria 1d, 4d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 10/-, one pound, 3d (second colour), 4d (second colour), and 6d (second colour), 
This paper is similar to type 2, except that it shows no visible pores on the surface under magnification. 
Type 5 - Used on Northern Nigeria 1/2d, 1d, and 6d
This paper is very thick and opaque, with no visibility of the watermark at all when viewed face down, and being only barely visible when the stamp is held up to a strong backlight. It has a high surface sheen and absorbs the ink unevenly, which makes the stamps appear to be badly rubbed, even thought they are not. There are large pores which are readily visible under magnification. 
Type 6 - Used on Northern Nigeria 1d, 2d, 6d (second colour), and 1/- (second colour)
This paper is exactly similar to type 1, except that very fine pores are visible under magnification and  the surface is often mildly to moderately affected by rubbing. The mesh is often visible on this paper.
Type 7 - Used on Northern Nigeria 5d (second colour), 6d (second colour), and Southern Nigeria 5/-, and 6d (second colour)
This paper is very thick with only moderate visibility of the watermark, even when held up to the light. However, what makes this paper distinct is that the mesh is quite visible, which it is not usually for a paper of this thickness. The surface is only susceptible to mild rubbing and the surface is generally very smooth with a matte sheen. The surface shows large porea under magnification. 
Type 8 - Used on Southern Nigeria 6d (second colour)
Similar to type 7, except with no visible pores on the surface. 
There are many philatelists who would argue that this is overkill, and this is all really the same paper. There may be some argument made that the presence or absence of visible pores on the paper surface is not relevant, but I would contend that the differences in paper thickness, opacity and the way in which the ink is absorbed constitute real differences, especially since some stamps seem to exist only with certain types and not others. Finally, there seems to have been a natural evolution with the different types, with the issues of Lagos, which appeared first being mostly all type 1 or type 2, while the later issues are almost all found with the later types. 
This concludes my discussion of the chalk-surfaced papers of the Edward VII Era. My next series of posts will deal with the various coloured papers that were employed to print the higher value stamps. 

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