The Coloured Papers Of The Colonial Period Stamps

The Coloured Papers Of The Colonial Period Stamps

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Today's post will discuss the various coloured papers that are found on some of the stamps of Nigeria, both in the period after 1914 and in the pre-1914 period. Starting in 1904 with the Edward VII issues of Lagos, certain  stamps having a face value above 2d were printed on a coloured paper. There were four basic colours found, with the denominations most commonly associated with them indicated:

  • Blue - used either for the 2.5d or later for 2/6 stamps.
  • Yellow - used either for 3d, & 4d stamps, and later for 5/- stamps.
  • Green - used either for the 1/- or 10/- stamps.
  • Red - used either for the 1d Lagos stamps or the one pound stamps.
For the pre-1914 issues, the stamp catalogues only list one paper for each stamp. While the paper is generally coloured through and appears the same colour on both the front and back of the stamp, careful study of multiple examples of the stamps will reveal that there are differences in the colours of the paper, which can be generalized as follows:
  • The blue papers can be found either with a greenish tinge to the blue, or with a greyish tinge to the blue. I have seen this on the Lagos 2.5d's and to a lesser extent on the Northern Nigeria 2/6d's, and the Southern Nigeria 2/6d's. 
  • The yellow papers can be found with a greenish tinge and an orangy tinge. Again I have found this on the Northern Nigeria 3d's & 4d's and the Southern Nigeria 3d's and 4d's. 
  • The green papers can be found with either a yellowish tinge to the green, or a bluish tinge. I have seen this on all the Northern Nigeria 1/- stamps as well as the Southern Nigeria stamps that are found on this paper. 
  • The red papers can be found in a brighter red shade as well as a brick red shade. I haven't examined enough Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria one pound stamps to say for certain what the full range of paper shades is on this values. However, I can confirm that the 1d Lagos stamps of the Edward VII issues can be found in the full range of red shades. 
Where the papers become very interesting is in the George V Keyplate issues. The variations found apply to all the crown colonies that issued stamps in the standard keyplate design. During this period, the papers used could either be coloured through, or could have a surface coating that was coloured and incorporated into the chalk coating, so that the colour of the stamp paper as seen from the front, is different from the back. This aspect of Commonwealth philately causes much confusion among collectors who are trying to identify single stamps, with the result that many are identified incorrectly. I will describe the colour combinations found on the Nigeria issues and provide tips to help you identify them correctly from just a single stamp. For this period, only the yellow papers and green papers are addressed in the Gibbons catalogue. I will say though that the blue papers and red papers do display a considerable amount of variation in colour, especially on the later issues watermarked crown and script CA, which were issued in the 1920's. 
Yellow Papers
The main colour variations listed in Gibbons for the 3d, 4d and 5/- keyplate stamps are as follows:
  • yellow front and white back.
  • lemon front and back.
  • deep yellow front and yellow back.
  • pale yellow front and orange-buff back.
  • pale yellow front ad buff back.
  • pale yellow front and back.
The first printings were generally those with the white backs. They are easy to identify, but the yellow surface colouring can vary from lemon, which has a distinct greenish tinge, to yellow, to deep yellow. The second two, being the lemon and deep yellow papers date from about 1915. Lemon always has a distinct greenish tinge, which is unmistakable once you see it and commit it to memory. It is a very bright, rich and vibrant yellow, which has no orange whatsoever. The deep yellow in contrast, contains no green at all and quite often contains a hint of orange. The back is paler than the front, and can sometimes contain a slight greenish tinge to the yellow, but not nearly as much as those on lemon paper. I find the best way to identify this paper is by the front colour and also by the thickness, as this paper is much thicker than the normal lemon paper. This thicker paper is scarce and the best printings of the 3d and 4d are on this paper, as are some of the better printings of the 5/-. 
The orange buff and buff backs appeared in 1920. For reasons I am not sure of, Gibbons does not list the buff backed paper in used condition. I suspect it may have to do with the fact that the colours on this stamps run and the paper loses much of its colour when soaked. These two varieties of paper are confusing I find because the surface colour on all the stamps I have examined (and I have examined many) is more of a creamy yellow to creamy pale yellow, which contains neither orange or green. So both the orange-buff and buff descriptions are a bit misleading for the front. Buff is a creamy brownish yellow. It contains neither orange, nor green normally, whereas orange-buff will contain some orange to the brownish yellow. These descriptors are fairly accurate when it comes to the backs of these stamps. The best printings of the 5/- are on these papers, while the 3d's and 4d's on this paper are much better than the common white backs or lemon backs. 
The pale yellow paper is fairly distinct and makes its appearance in 1921. It is a creamy yellow that contains a fair amount of white, no orange, and no green. It most closely resembles the colour of butter.
Gibbons makes no distinction of the papers found on the 4d and 5/- issues with the script CA watermark. However, there is quite a bit of variation to be found with pale yellows and lemons to be found on both values. 
Green Papers
The green papers are in my experience trickier than the yellow papers. The main variations listed in Gibbons for the 1/- and 10/- stamps are:
  • blue green front, white back
  • yellow green, white back.
  • blue green front and back.
  • yellow green front and back.
  • blue green front and pale olive back.
  • emerald front and pale olive back.
  • emerald front and emerald back.
It is the pale olive back colour that is the problematic aspect to this paper. The reason is that it can be very pale - so pale as to be mistaken for white. The 10/- on blue green paper with pale olive back is one of the rarest stamps of Nigeria. I find the best way to identify the pale olive back in this case is to look at the gum, which is generally flat a and somewhat matte, and then the red colour of the value tablet, which is very bright and does not contain any blue or orange to the red. It almost looks like a fluorescent red - it is so very distinct, that once you see it, you won't forget it. The main difficulty you will find with the backs is telling the pale olive apart from the yellow green. Generally, the yellow green will be much deeper than the pale olive and it only occurs on paper that is also yellow-green on the front, whereas the pale olive backs are always found on paper that is either blue-green or emerald on the surface, but never yellow-green. 
The emerald colour is a deep, bright green that is neither bluish or yellowish. It is one of the most common colours, and nearly all of the 1/- and 10/- stamps from the later script CA watermark are on emerald paper. The blue green is fairly easy to identify and is the most common paper colour. This generally leaves you with yellow-green, which is nothing like either the emerald or the blue-green, though it is not really a true yellow-green. I find it to be more of a creamy green. I have found some examples of the 1/- script CA on yellow-green paper.

Again, the white backs and blue greens are the first papers, appearing in 1914. The yellow-green paper appears in 1915, while the blue green with pale olive back makes its appearance in 1917. The emerald papers with pale olive back appears in 1920 and the straight up emerald paper appears in 1921.
Once again Gibbons is completely silent on the paper colours used on the script CA watermark stamps. Again, I have seen a considerable amount of variation in the colour, with most stamps having emerald paper that varies in intensity and yellow-green paper. One curious aspect that I have noticed to the paper on these issues, is that it often contains tiny inclusions and fibres, almost resembling granite paper. 
This concludes my discussion of the coloured papers found on the colonial issues of Nigeria. I have now covered the general characteristics of each printer's work as well as the general characteristics of the stamp papers used by De La Rue. I am now ready to start discussing the specific issues in detail. My next series of posts will discuss the first issue of Lagos, which was issued in 1874 and was line perforated 12.5. It was replaced by an identical issue in 1876 that was line perforated 14 instead of 12.5. There were up to six printings of each value and each value deserves its own post, so my next 6 posts will deal with this issue: one general overall post and then a detailed post for each value. 
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