Sorting The Remaining Printings of the Lagos Queen Victoria Keyplates 1887-1903

Sorting The Remaining Printings of the Lagos Queen Victoria Keyplates 1887-1903

After many, many weeks spent looking at the Queen Victoria issues of Lagos in detail, we come to what is arguably the most challenging of all the Queen Victoria Issues of Lagos: the Crown CA issues of 1887-1903. With most stamps of the colony being supplied on an almost quarterly basis and a period of nearly sixteen years between 1887 and the appearance of the King Edward VII issues in 1903, this means that there could be well over 40 different printings of many of them. The issue then becomes: is it actually possible to sort these printings and identify each one, and if so, how do we go about it?

Fortunately there are many clues at our disposal and tools of logic that we can use to break the task down and make it more manageable.

You have already been introduced to the 1/2 green and 1d carmine stamps, which continued to be printed during this period, but it would be appropriate to introduce the remaining values that were issued to replace the monocoloured stamps of the previous issue. I will then discuss some of the attributes of the stamps that can help shed some light on when the various printings were made, and how these can be utilized to break the sorting of these stamps into a manageable task.

The Stamps, Issue Dates and Quantities

2d mauve and blue. 
First dispatch - March 31, 1887.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
448,800 stamps sent.
244,260 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 204,540 stamps.
2.5d ultramarine.
First dispatch - April 15, 1891.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
428,040 stamps issued.
3d mauve and chestnut.
First dispatch - December 19, 1890.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
143,820 stamps sent.
85,800 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 58,020 stamps.
4d lilac and black.
First dispatch - March 31, 1887.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
258,540 stamps sent.
107,880 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 150,660 stamps.
5d lilac and dark green. 
First dispatch - December 30, 1893.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
92,160 stamps sent.
57,540 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 34,620 stamps.
6d mauve and claret.
First dispatch: March 31, 1887.
Last dispatch: August 4, 1900.
86,340 stamps sent.
23,400 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 62,940 stamps.
7.5d mauve and carmine.
First dispatch - December 30, 1893.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
55,620 stamps sent.
32,760 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 22,860 stamps.
10d mauve and yellow orange.
First dispatch - December 30, 1893.
Last dispatch  - August 19, 1901.
43,380 stamps sent.
23,100 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 20,280 stamps. 
1/- yellow green and black.
First dispatch - March 31, 1887.
Last dispatch - August 4, 1900.
86,460 stamps sent.
26,220 reminders destroyed.
Net issue: 60,240 stamps.

2/6d deep green and carmine. 
First dispatch - March 31, 1887.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
28,260 stamps sent.
18,060 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 10,200 stamps.

5/- green and ultramarine.
First dispatch - March 31, 1887.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901.
28,320 stamps sent.
18,900 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 9,420 stamps.

10/- green and deep violet brown.
First dispatch - March 31, 1887.
Last dispatch - August 19, 1901
24,720 stamps sent.
13,620 remainders destroyed.
Net issue: 11,100 stamps. 
As you will have noticed from the above dates, not all of these stamps were issued at the same time. Therefore, it becomes possible to divide the near 16 year period from 1887-1903 into shorter time periods which can be studied more carefully. The stamps issued after 1887 are:
  • The 3d mauve and chestnut, issued December 19, 1890.
  • The 2.5d ultramarine, issued April 15, 1891.
  • The 5d, 7.5d and 10d, which were all issued on December 30, 1893. 
Thus, if we can identify characteristics bout these stamps that are related to when they were printed, we can use or knowledge of their characteristics to identify other stamps from the series that were issued around the same time. So we could potentially divide the period from 1887 to 1903 into the following sub-periods and study each one separately:
  1. March 31, 1887- December 19, 1890.
  2. December 20, 1890 - April 14, 1891. 
  3. April 16, 1891 - December 30, 1893.
  4. December 31, 1893 - late 1900.
  5. 1901-1903.

Plate Wear and States of Plate 1 and 2

Of all the characteristics that are of use in helping sort the printings, the degree to which the plates wore is probably the most useful, as a single plate, plate 1, was used to print all the stamps until late 1900, when it was retired. It was replaced by plate 2. Thus, as the printings progressed, the degree of fine details visible in the design, got to be less and less until by late 1900, the printing impressions were very coarse. Then, after plate 2 was introduced, the printing impressions become super crisp and detailed again, which is how we can identify printings from those plates.

By the end of 1886, plate 1 is just beginning to show the very first signs of wear. But to understand what different degrees of wear look like, one has to begin looking at what the unworn plate looked like. Thus stamps from plate 2 are our starting point.

Plate 2 - 1901-1903

Here is a close up of the vignette of a 1/2 green from plate 2. The whole appearance is crisp, with no merged or blurred lines. Specifically:

  1. The horizontal shading lines of the background are of even thickness and do not touch one another. 
  2. All the shading on the face, cheek, bust and neck are full and crisp. 
  3. There is completely clear detail in the hair at the back of the head and in the chignon.
  4. The hair at the top of the head is clearly defined, with no merging lines. 
  5. The horizontal shading lines in the crown are all clearly visible and do not merge into one another. 

Early State - 1887-1891

The above scan shows an example of what plate 1 looked like towards the beginning of 1887, when it was showing it's first signs of wear:
  1. The horizontal shading lines are still clear, but are clearly thicker in some parts than in others. 
  2. The fine lines of the hair in the back of the head are no longer clearly visible. Instead the area below the ribbon at the back of the head is almost one solid mass of colour. 
  3. Most of the detail in the chignon is still present, although there has been some merging of  few of the lines. 
  4. There is some merging of the hair lines at the very top of the head. 
  5. The finer horizontal shading lines inside the crown are not as clear as they were in the original state of plate 1. 

Intermediate State -1890-1894
The above two scans show what I call the intermediate state of the plate. This is the state that the plate was in when the 3d was issued in December 1890 and the 2.5d was issued in April 1891. The overall impression is even coarser than before and specifically:
  1. The horizontal shading lines in the background are beginning to show some actual wear, as well as a thickness that is definitely uneven now, which has the effect of making the lines appear closer together. 
  2. There is distinct merging of the shading lines in the upper half of the hair on top of the head and the lower half behind the jewels of the crown. The middle detail is still somewhat clear and visible. 
  3. There is now virtually no detail visible in the hair at the back of the head that resides below the diagonal ribbon.
  4. There is still some detail visible in the hair that makes up the chignon, but it is less clear than in the early state, particularly at the back and the lowest curl.
  5. The horizontal shading lines in the upper part of the crown are still separate and distinct, though they are thicker than in the early state, while there is some merging together of the shading lines in the bottom part of the crown. 

Late Intermediate - 1893-1898
This is the state of the plate when the 5d, 7.5d, and 10d stamps were issued. This is similar in apperance to the intermediate state, but now the wear has progressed to the crown itself, with the shading lines in the lower part of the crown being almost completely merged together in one solid mass of colour. The other area on which the wear appears is the hair at the back of the head above the diagonal ribbon. In the intermediate state, there is still some detail visible, but here, it is almost completely gone, with the patch of hair appearing as one solid mass of colour. 
Late State - 1898-1900
This state does not correspond to the issuance of any particular stamp. The wear at this stage has continued to affect the horizontal background shading lines, which appear even closer together than before. It is now starting to affect the hair above the Queen's ear, which although still relatively clear, is less distinct than before. The wear has also continued to affect the hair on top of the head, on which very little detail is visible now. 
Very Late State - 1900-1901
This is the last state that we see plate 1 in. The appearance of the printing is very coarse now, with visible breaks in shading lines throughout the design. The amount of detail visible in the design is similar to the late state, but it all has a much coarser appearance, and is very distinct. 
So it is by looking at what state of the plate a stamp corresponds to that will be of the greatest help in helping decide what period to assign the printing to. The shades of the head plate and duty plate will be useful in separating one printing from another, but they won't really help assign a printing to a specific date, or date range. 
The next most useful characteristic that will help assign printings are the cancellations. One thing that must be borne in mind though, is that the green and lilac inks were doubly fugitive, which means that they run when exposed to water. So unless used stamps were floated very carefully off the envelopes to which they were affixed, most will have head plate colours that have faded. The duty plate colours will not fade though, so when sorting we have to keep in mind that the head plate colour may not necessarily be uniform in the stamps of a group assigned to a particular printing. 
There were some cancellations in use during this period that did not make their appearance until after 1887, while others ceased to be used before 1903. In this regard they can help narrow the range of dates to which a particular printing can be assigned down. 
The following cancellations were in use during the period:
  1. 9-bar oval killer was in use until about July 1897. According to Ince, the last known date is July 12, 1897. So most stamps that can be positively identified as having this cancellation should be from before this date. 
  2. 8-bar oval killer with thick bars was in use until about April 14, 1899 according to Ince.
  3. Lagos W. Africa CDS in a circle measuring 21 mm in diameter and with a 4 mm space between the "L" of "Lagos" and "W" was in use from July 2, 1887 until about November 12, 1895 according to Ince. 
  4. Lagos W. Africa CDS in  circle measuring 21 mm in diameter and with a 3 mm space between the "L" of "Lagos" and "W" was in use from August 31, 1891 to July 2, 1896, according to Ince. 
  5. Lagos W. Africa CDS in a circle 24 mm wide. Various time code letters (none, A, B, C) were used in different periods, but this cancel was in use from June 28, 1887 until December 12, 1904, according to Ince. 
  6. Lagos W. Africa CDS in a circle that is 23 mm to 23.5 mm wide. This was in use from January 20, 1897 until October 20, 1904, according to Ince. 
  7. Other village CDS cancellations were generally in use from July 9, 1899 to October 1905, according to Ince. 
  8. Another variation of the 9-bar oval was used at Ibadan from September 25, 1899 according to Ince. You will likely need to see a full strike to positively identify it, s it is 0.5 mm wider than the more common type that was in general use above. The standard oval measures 26.5 mm by 19.5 mm, whereas this one measures 26.5 mm by 20 mm. 
  9. Finally, a 10-bar oval measuring 29 x 24 mm was in use at Ibadan from August 14, 1898 onwards according to Ince. 
Approach to Be Taken In Sorting This Issue
So now that we have discussed the different states of the plate and the cancellations, it is appropriate to outline a game plan for tacking the different printings of this issue:
  1. The first step will be to identify the plate 2 printings. According to Ince, only the 1/2d, 1d, 6d and 1/- should exist from this plate. However, given that the first printings of the 1/2d and 1d from this new plate were dispatched on August 19, 1901, the same date that many of the last printings of the other values were sent, I would not rule out the possibility that some of the other values were printed from plate 2 as well. I would say confidently that any stamp showing very clear detail with no signs whatsoever of plate wear is likely from plate 2, regardless of what the official sources say. 
  2. Take the 5d, 7.5d and 10d stamps and sort them by the degree of plate wear, and then by shade, or by shade first and then degree of plate wear. These stamps represent printings from December 1893 onwards. Use the cancellations on used examples, in conjunction with the degree of plate wear to order them into printings. 
  3. Take the 2.5d stamps and repeat the same process as above, but attempt to match the degree of plate wear of the different groups of this stamp to those of the 5d, 7.5d and 10d stamps above. Any examples showing less wear than the above stamps should be from between April 1891 and December 30, 1893. 
  4. Take the 3d stamps and repeat the same process as above. Any stamps showing less plate wear than the clearest 2.5d stamp will likely have been made in the five month window between December 1890 and April 1891. It is unlikely that you should see much difference in plate wear during such a short period, but if you do, this is where those stamps will fall. 
  5. With the ordering of the printings of each of the above stamps, it should now be possible to sort the remaining values being the 1/2d, 1d, 4d, 6d, 1/-, 2/6d, 5/- and 10/- in the same way. My expectation is that you will find very few mint examples of the early printings of these values and that most of your early printings will be used, and cancelled with an 8 or 9 barred oval. So in sorting these, I would start by separating the CDS used examples from the barred ovals and then sorting the different duty plate colours. Then, I would look at the different degrees of plate wear, and attempt to match the printings I identified up with known printings of the other values I have already sorted. 
So this outlines the approach I will be taking in the next several weeks as I go through the various printings. Next week's post will be about the plate 2 printings made between August 1901 and 1903 when the stamps were replaced by the King Edward VII issues. 
Previous article The Printings of the 4d Lilac and Black Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp of Lagos - Part One

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