Printings of the 2d Slate Queen Victoria Keyplate Definitive Watermarked Crown CA 1884-1886

Printings of the 2d Slate Queen Victoria Keyplate Definitive Watermarked Crown CA 1884-1886

Today's post is where we begin to delve into some of the more difficult values of the second Crown CA Issue of Lagos - i.e. those having more than 10 printings. The first of these that I wish to deal with is the 2d slate or grey. Between July 1884 and December 1886, 41,760 stamps were dispatched to the colony in 11 different printings as follows:

  1. July 8, 1884 - 58 sheets of 60, or 3,480 stamps. 
  2. September 24, 1884 - 60 sheets, or 3,600 stamps.
  3. December 16, 1884 - 56 sheets, or 3,360 stamps
  4. April 21, 1885 - 61 sheets, or 3,660 stamps.
  5. July 13, 1885 - 61 sheets, or 3,660 stamps.
  6. September 29, 1885 - 63 sheets, or 3,780 stamps.
  7. December 29, 1885 - 61 sheets, or 3,660 stamps.
  8. March 29, 1886 - 60 sheets, or 3,600 stamps.
  9. June 30, 1886 - 60 sheets, or 3,600 stamps.
  10. October 12, 1886 - 76 sheets, or 4,560 stamps.
  11. December 13, 1886 - 80 sheets, or 4,800 stamps.
As you can see, the last two printings are slightly more common than the others, but by and large the printings are all roughly the same in terms of scarcity. All other things being equal, we can expect most of the existing mint examples on the market today to come from the last three printings. This was a fairly heavily used stamp due to the postage rates at the time, so used examples should be more common than mint for all the printings. 
It may not be possible to positively identify all 11 printings, but I am going to attempt in this post to give it a shot using all the information that I can glean from careful study of the cancellations, shades, paper and gum as well as what I have learned from my study of the 6d and 1/- values. From these two stamps, I know that:
  • All the printings made after April 1886, i.e. the last three printings should come with the colourless double gum that causes the mint stamps to curl vertically. This gum will be smooth and not crackly.
  • Printings made between July 1885 and March 1886 will tend to have the smooth, toned single layer of gum that does not cause the stamps to curl, but is not crackly. This would correspond to printings five through eight. 
  • Printings prior to July 1885, i.e, the first four printings, will be found with crackly gum, or will be found without any gum at all. 
  • Most copies with CDS cancels dated after 1888 will generally be from the last three printings, as will copies cancelled with the 9-bar oval killers. 
  • Although the 8-bar oval obliterator was in use until 1897, my expectation is that most copies cancelled with it will have come from the first 8 printings (i.e. before March 1886).
To identify the printings, I will be working with 19 mint and 57 used examples of this stamp. 
Results of the Sort
After careful comparison, I was able to divide the stamps into 12 groups, with the third being, in my opinion, a close variation of the second group. Thus, I do believe that I have identified all eleven printings. However, I do not have quite enough information to assign each printing to a definite date within the sequence of printings. The best I can do is assign a group of printings to a group of dates and give conjectural dates within each group. The other thing is that two of my groups contain used examples only, so it is quite possible that they belong to different printing groups than the ones that I have assigned them to. 
The colour of this stamp varies considerably. There are two basic colours: slate and slate-grey. The slates vary from a deep bluish slate to a deep greenish slate, while the slate-greys vary in terms of whether they have a primarily greenish, or a primarily bluish cast. 
Groups 1-5 - The First Four Printings - July 1884 to April 1885
This group I have identified primarily by the crackly gum on the mint examples and the 8-bar oval killer cancels on the used examples. I have one mint example, which has the stiff paper and smooth gum that I saw on the first printing of the 6d, so I have placed it in this group. I had previously thought that the 6d stamp was re-gummed, but I have now seen enough different stamps with this characteristic that I no longer believe the gum to be inauthentic. I think this is simply the gum used on the very first printings, which appears completely different from the other printings. One of the printings I only have two used examples of, so it may not actually belong to this group. But I have added it here because both examples are cancelled with the 8-bar killer and I have mint examples of all the printings in the intermediate group, when the 8-bar cancel was being phased out. 
The First Printing - July 8, 1884
Here is the only mint example in my stock of the stamp that I now believe to be the first printing:
The gum on this stamp is smooth and colourless, but it gives the paper and perforations a very stiff feel, which is what made me think that the first stamp I saw it with was regummed. However, I have seen it now on the 6d, in a shade that I am pretty convinced is the first printing of that stamp, as well as this stamp. I only have the one example, which is consistent with the expectation that mint examples of the first printing, being less than 10% of the total printing, would be very scarce. So I am pretty comfortable assigning this as the July 1884 printing. 
The colour of both the head plate and the duty plate are a bluish slate. 
The Second Printing - September 24, 1884
The two stamps that I have for this printing that I have are both used, but I have assigned them here on the basis of the fact that the head plate colour is almost identical to the first printing above. However, the duty plate colour is a pale slate grey that contrasts quite sharply with the head plate colour:
Notice how pale the words of value are in relation to the rest of the stamp.
The Third Printing - December 16, 1884
I have identified two very closely matched shade groupings, which I believe to be from this printing. Both are so close to one another that I doubt you will see any difference between them from the scans that I post. Both have very crackly gum on the mint stamps, and all of the used examples are cancelled with 8-bar killers. In both cases, the duty plate and head plate are the same and can basically be described as slate. The first group is a slightly more bluish slate than the second, which is slightly more greenish. However, both are much paler in overall appearance compared with the first two printings above.
Group One:
Here are the mint examples of the first group from this printing:

Notice how the head plate and duty plate colours are the same. You can even see that the gum is crackly by seeing the tiny gum wrinkles that are visible in the paper when the stamps are viewed from the front.

Now here are four used examples:

Group Two
From this group I have three mint examples and eight used ones. Here are the mint stamps:
Again, you can see the cracks in the gum from the front of the stamps on the left and right. The colour of these stamps looks more or less the same as the first group above. 
Now here are the used examples:
Fourth Printing - April 21, 1885
This printing has gum which is much smoother than the previous printing, but it is still crackly in comparison to the later and intermediate printings. Although the head plate and duty plate colours appear to be the same at first glance, you will see if you look closely that the head plate is a light bluish slate, while the duty plate colour is a deep grey that lacks the bluish cast:
The example on the left shows two constant plate flaws that I have seen on other 2d stamps of both the earlier and later printings: 
  • A frame break above the "T" of "Two", and
  • The upper bar of the first "E" of "Pence" and the upper left of the "N" of "Pence" are both truncated at an angle.
Groups 6-9: The Second Four Printings - July 1885 to March 1886
The main basis that I have used to assign printings to this group is the gum. Prior to April 1886, the gum was applied in a single layer, so that mint stamps usually lie flat when exposed to air. Starting in April 1886, De La Rue began the practice of applying gum in double layers due to complaints that they received from the colony that the stamps were not sufficiently gummed. This double layer of gum often causes the stamps to curl when exposed to the air, and this is how I have come to identify them, as the actual appearance of the gum itself does not differ that much from the single layer gum. Most of the cancellations on the used stamps assigned to these groups are either the 8-bar oval killer, or the dated Lagos CDS cancel, many of which are dated well after these printings were replaced by later ones. That is not all that surprising, given that stamps are usually sold on a last-in-first-out (LIFO) basis, and that earlier printings can get stuck at the bottom of the pile at the post office, being sold only after the newer ones run out. 
Generally speaking, all the printings in this group are variations of slate, as we shall see.I am not sure of the exact order of these printings. I can be fairly comfortable about the placement of the eighth printing, due to the fact that the gum loses its toned appearance and resembles the gum of the last printings, but is only a single layer. However, my assignment of the fifth through seventh printings is purely conjectural. 
Fifth Printing - July 13, 1885
This printing has a very slight crackliness to the gum, but you have to use a loupe to see it. Without a loupe, it looks like a smooth coffee-toned gum. The colour of both the head and the duty plate is a bluish slate, which is very slightly greenish compared to the bluish slate of the first printing. I have one single mint example and eight used examples (of which I show 7). Here is the mint example:
Notice how the colour of the head plate and duty plate are identical. 
Here are the used examples:
Sixth Printing - September 29, 1885
Again, the gum on this printing is coffee-toned, and appears smooth, with very fine cracks being visible under a loupe. The colour of both the head plate and duty plate are a pure slate that is neither greenish, nor bluish. I have three mint examples, and two used ones from this printing. Here are the mint examples:
If you compare these stamps to the fifth printing above, you should be able to see that these are definitely less bluish in comparison, and slightly lighter as well. 
Here are the two used examples:
Seventh Printing - December 29, 1885
This printing I assigned on the basis of one used example, which was dated January 19, 1886. However, it is possible that this is actually the September 1885 printing, and the above printing is actually this one. It really depends on how long it took the shipment to reach the post offices in Lagos. The largest proportion of used examples in my stock appear to come from this printing, and it is here that we first start to see widespread use of the Lagos dated CDS cancel again. The gum on these stamps is completely smooth, and although slightly toned, is much lighter than on the previous two printings. One of the used examples shows the same truncated "E" and "N" in "Pence that I introduced on the fourth printing above, which proves that the variety is constant. 
The colour of the stamps from this printing is slate once again, but this time it has a very greenish cast compared to the earlier printings. I have two mint examples and 16 used examples (of which I show 14 here). 
Here are the mint examples:
The greenish cast is very subtle and not that obvious from the scan. However, it is much more apparent when you compare the physical stamps to one another. The example of the left shows a second constant plate variety that goes all the way back to the very first 2d stamps from 1874: the damaged "T" in "Two". This flaw consists of a large void in the vertical stem of the "T" and it was never corrected, as I have found examples from the next 1887-1903 issue as well as nearly every other issue since the first one in 1874. 
Here are the used examples:
The middle stamp in the second row shows the truncated "E" and "N" of "Pence". The second stamp from the top is the dated example that served as the basis by which I assigned the stamps to this printing. 
Eighth Printing - March 29, 1886 
I only have one mint example of this printing. The gum is now the creamy colour that dominates the later part of the crown CA period and is completely smooth. It is only a single layer though, which is why I have assigned it to this printing. The head plate colour is more or less the same slate as the seventh printing. However, the duty plate colour is a paler greenish slate:
Notice how the words of value are noticably paler than the remainder of the stamp. 
Groups 10-12 The Last Three Printings - June to December 1886
These last three printings are difficult to assign, but I have identified the mint examples by the double layer of creamy gum, and the used examples by the fact that all of them appear to be cancelled either with a CDS, or a 9-bar oval killer, which replaced the earlier 8-bar cancel. In terms of colour, the ninth printing is a deep slate for both the head and duty plates. Starting with the tenth printing, the colour begins to change to slate-grey for the head plate, with the duty plate remaining the same deep slate. Finally, the last printing has both the head plate and the duty plate being slate-grey. 
Ninth Printing - June 30, 1886
For this printing, I have a single mint example and four used stamps. One of the used stamps shows the damaged "T" in "two" that I discussed under the seventh printing above. Here is my single mint example:
Here are the used examples:
The second stamp from the left has the damaged "T" of "Two".
Tenth Printing - October 12, 1886
I only have two used examples of this printing. I have assigned the two stamps to this printing due to the fact that the duty plate colour is the same deep slate as the ninth printing, while the eleventh and last printing is entirely slate grey. Here they are:
Hopefully you can see from the scan that the head plate colour is much greyer than the previous stamps, while the duty plate colour is still slate, which stands out against the paler head plate colour. 
Eleventh Printing - December 13, 1886
I assigned my one mint copy and eleven used examples to this last printing on the basis of the fact that this is the only printing that contained no slate at all, and for which both the head plate and duty plate were the same slate-grey colour. If you look closely at the colour, you will begin to see a slight greenish cast to the colour as well. Here is my sole mint example:
Unfortunately, it does have a horizontal crease, but it shows the pale colour quite nicely, and you can see that the head plate and duty plate are both the same colour. 
Here are my eleven used examples:
All of these appear to have been cancelled with the later 9-bar oval killers. 
This concludes my examination of this value. Next week, I will look at the 4d mauve, which had the same number of printings. After this is done, I should be sufficiently comfortable identifying these early printings, that I can begin to tackle the 1/2d and 1d stamps, which are challenging due to the fact that they were re-printed so many times after 1886. 
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