The Lagos Queen Victoria - Crown CC Keyplates of 1876-1880

The Lagos Queen Victoria - Crown CC Keyplates of 1876-1880


In 1875, De La Rue replaced its perforating machines that had been in use since 1863, with new line machines gauging 14. So, this effectively gave rise to a new issue of stamps, which was identical, in almost every way to the previous issue, except for the perforation, which was now 14, rather than 12.5. What will surprise collectors though is that there were both line and comb versions of this perforation. Stanley Gibbons does not recognize this difference in its listings, though in my opinion, they should, as the comb perforated stamps were generally from the last printings made in November 1880, and were perforated using entirely new machines which were installed by De La Rue in 1878. These machines were distinctly different from the comb 14 machines in use by Somerset House in the sense that Somerset's machines only produced one column of vertical perforations in the gutters between the sheets of 60, which resulted in the wing-margin examples that we see of many early De La Rue issues. These machines used by De La Rue produced two vertical columns of perforations in the gutters between panes.  There were never any wing-margin examples of Lagos stamps, and this is the reason why.

In addition to the perforations there are eight other aspects that are unique to this issue that collectors need to be aware of:

1. This is the period in which the first postal stationery appears, being in the form of the 1.5 pence postcards.

2. The use of the Lagos CDS cancellation had ceased in February 1876, being replaced by the Lagos diamond barred grid, which was replaced by late 1879 with a simple barred oval killer containing 8 thick, horizontal bars, of varying width. Consequently, there are almost no used examples of these stamps cancelled with CDS cancellations. In fact, the 8-barred oval is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the last comb perforated printings from 1880. Nearly all of the used examples you will see of these stamps will be canceled in this manner, whereas very few of the line perforated stamps will have a barred oval cancellation, most being canceled instead by the Lagos diamond grid. Furthermore, because of the lack of dates on the cancellations, they are of limited use in identifying the individual printings of these stamps, except for the comb perforated last printings.

3. The paper and the gum undergo a notable change in this period, with most of the line perforated stamps being printed on a paper with a clear vertical grain, much like that found on the second last printings of the perf. 12.5 stamps from 1875. The gum is the same as that found on the 1874-75 issue. By 1880, the paper becomes smoother, and the gum becomes whiter.

4. All values of this issue, except for the 1/- are more common overall, than the previous issue, though nearly all, except for the 1d are usually found used. Mint examples of the 4d, 6d and 1/- are very scarce, with the 1/- being a very rare stamp.

5. This is the only issue in which the watermark can be found sideways. It falls in the same period as other keyplate issues that are found with similar sideways watermark from Sierra Leone, Gambia, St. Christopher, and Virgin Islands. This suggests quite strongly that rather than being an error, these sideways watermarks resulted from a particular guillotine operator cutting the sheets of paper differently from the other operators. The dimensions of the dandy roll and paper rheams were such that there were two different directions in which the watermarked paper could be cut, each of which would produce 12 sheets of 60 stamps. One way would result in the watermarks being sideways, while the other would result in the watermarks being upright. It is curious that so far, the only known value with sideways watermark is the 4d carmine.

6. Gibbons lists only one shade variety: the 3d chestnut, in addition to the regular 3d red brown. Collectors should be aware that this is simply the last printing of the 3d, made in November 1880. It is thus always comb perforated. In reality, there are many other shades on the other values as well, which I will describe below.  The 3d chestnut is a scarce stamp, being almost as rare as the 1/-. The catalogue price partially reflects this scarcity, by virtue of the fact that the chestnut shade is priced at 10 pounds more for mint. However, in my opinion, this is not nearly high enough given the overall scarcity of this stamp, when we consider that the 1/- is 8 times more expensive. In reality, all of the comb perforated printings are scarcer than the line perforated examples, representing, in most instances, less than one-quarter of the total issue.

7. As this is not really a new issue, per se, there are no specimen overprints recorded, no imperforates, and only one imperforate plate proof of the 1d value recorded, in the Queen's collection.

8. All values of this issue have been forged by Panelli, using line-engraving. They are generally poor forgeries. The watermark is usually impressed, and the letters of "Lagos" are malformed - especially the "G" and the "S".

The Printings, Dispatch Dates and Quantities

There were between three and six separate printings of each value in the series, except for the 1/-, of which there was only one known printing. The printings, release dates and quantities of each value are as follows:

1d Lilac - 4 Printings Totaling 66,660 Stamps

  • First printing: May 9, 1876 -  24,000 stamps.
  • Second printing: June 12, 1877 - 12,360 stamps.
  • Third printing: July 23, 1879 - 18,300 stamps.
  • Fourth printing: November 18, 1880 - 12,000 stamps. 
2d Blue - 6 Printings Totaling 49,140 Stamps
  • First printing: May 9, 1876 - 6,360 stamps.
  • Second printing: June 12, 1877 - 6,300 stamps.
  • Third printing: August 28, 1878 - 12,000 stamps.
  • Fourth printing: July 23, 1879 - 6,300 stamps.
  • Fifth printing: November 26, 1879 - 6,000 stamps.
  • Sixth printing: November 18, 1880 - 12,180 stamps. 
3d Red Brown/Chestnut - 4 Printings Totaling 30,120 Stamps
  • First printing: May 9, 1876 - 6,300 stamps.
  • Second printing: June 12, 1877 - 6,360 stamps.
  • Third printing: August 28, 1878 - 11,460 stamps.
  • Fourth printing: November 18, 1880 - 6,000 stamps.
4d Carmine - 6 Printings Totaling 57,540 Stamps

  • First printing: May 9, 1876 - 6,240 stamps.
  • Second printing: June 12, 1877 - 12,180 stamps.
  • Third printing: August 28, 1878 - 15,000 stamps.
  • Fourth printing: July 23, 1879 - 6,120 stamps.
  • Fifth printing: November 26, 1879 - 6,000 stamps.
  • Sixth printing: November 18, 1880 - 12,000 stamps. 
6d Green - 3 Printings Totaling 34,080 Stamps
  • First printing: May 9, 1876 - 6,360 stamps.
  • Second printing: June 12, 1877 - 12,720 stamps.
  • Third printing: August 28, 1878 - 15,000 stamps.
Although there were only three printings, with the last one being from 1878, I have seen several examples which appear to have been comb perforated. 
1/- Orange - 1 Printing Totaling 5,760 Stamps on November 26, 1879.
This single printing is only known line perforated. If even 10% of the original printing has survived the past 137 years, that means that there are only about 575 stamps - both mint an used, in existence today, which is extremely rare. 
Distinguishing The Printings
This will be the subject of another series of posts, one for each value, except the 1/-. However, some general comments can be made here:
1. Shades will be your greatest aid in identifying the different printings, though actually assigning them to the specific dispatch dates will be tricky. Of particular help is the fact that the duty plate colours often differ slightly from the head plate colour, so you can usually attribute these differences to  different printing. You will likely have to rely on the relative differences in print quantity to make educated guesses, which will then be supported by additional characteristics, such as paper, and gum. The state of the plate is still such that there is really not much wear at the end of this issue, so looking at individual stamps for signs of wear is not likely to be as helpful as on the issue of 1887-1903 for example. 
2. As mentioned before, stamps with barred oval cancellations are most likely to be from either the last printings, or the second to last printings, while those with the Lagos diamond grid come from the earlier printings. 
Despite the lack of listings in the Gibbons catalogue, there are many shades on this issue, with the letters of value (the duty plates) often appearing in  slightly different colour from the head plates. The general comments that can be made about shades are as follows:
1d Lilac
The early lilac is both pale and bluish, with the duty plate being in the same colour as the head plate. The intermediate printings had the colour being both deeper, and brighter, with the duty plate being in a deeper colour still. Later printings become either redder, milkier or both. 
2d Blue
There is a considerable amount of variation of the blue, with some shades being both deep and bright, with no hint of green, while others are quite dull, without being pale. Generally, the head and duty plate colours were well matched, though some stamps can be found with the duty plate colour being slightly more greenish, or paler and duller than the head plate colour. 
3d Red Brown/Chestnut
The main variation of the red-brown is in the intensity of the colour, but there are also some shades which are a bit milkier or orangier, though in all cases they are red by comparison to the chestnut shade, which is definitely orange by comparison. The duty plate and head plate colour is usually the same on the red brown stamps, though on the last printing in chestnut, the duty plate colour is often darker than the head plate colour, but not on all stamps. This suggests that more than one batch of ink my have been used by De La Rue to produce this last printing. 
4d Carmine
On some printings, the colour is a deep, bright carmine red, with the same colour on both the head & duty plate, while on others it is both pale, and either milky or bluish. Again, the head plate and duty plate colours are usually the same. On other line perforated printings, the shade is brighter and rosier. Finally, I have even seen a distinct brownish rose shade on the line perforated stamps. On the sideways watermarked stamps, which only seem to exist line perforated, there is quite a bit of variation as well, with some stamps appearing in a less bluish, brighter carmine-red, and others appearing in a more bluish carmine shade. 
There is just as much variation on the comb perforated stamps, which suggests to me quite strongly that more than one printing of this value was comb perforated. There is a distinct deep bright rose shade, with a pink duty plate, and a very bluish carmine shade, with the same colour duty plate. This is in addition to the usual carmine red and rose carmine shades. 
6d Green
The early line perforated stamps were a definite milky bluish green, while the later line perforated stamps were a clear, bright green that is neither very yellowish, nor bluish. The head plate and duty plate colour is fairly well matched in both cases. Then on the comb perforated stamps, the green is still intense, but is a little less bright, and a bit more bluish. 
1/- Orange
Generally most of the stamps I have seen are a deep muddy orange, though some stamps are deeper than others. However, I have one stamp that is a distinct, pale yellow orange, almost like a saffron yellow. It seems unlikely to me that this colour could be due to fading. On all the stamps I have seen, the head plate and duty plate colours are identical.
Paper and Gum
The early printings were on a vertical wove paper with very strong vertical mesh, and moderate visibility of the watermark. The gum was colourless and thin, with an eggshell sheen, as with the 1874-1875 issue. This persists all the way through to the last comb perforated printings. However, in these last printings, some stamps can be found on paper that exhibits a mesh that is much less strong. A thicker, more crackly gum appears on the many of the comb perforated stamps that is whiter than the earlier gum. There is also a thinner paper found on some of the late printings in which the watermark is very clearly visible to the naked eye, without the use of watermark fluid. 
Plate Flaws
Some of the plate flaws which first appear on the last issue, continue into this issue, providing further support to the notion that they are indeed constant:
1. The Short "N" in "Penny".
This is found on the 1d lilac. The right leg of the first "N" of "Penny" is clearly truncated at the top, appearing much shorter than it should. 
2. The Broken "Y" in "Penny"
This occurs on the 1d lilac. There is a white void that appears where the stem of the "Y" joins the upward strokes of the letter. 
3. Small Dot to the Right of "E"
This is a very common variety, appearing on many, many positions of the 2d, and appears as s tiny dot, or dash, just the right of the centre bar of the "E". 
Then there are some flaws that appear for the first time, so I cannot be sure of their status at this juncture:
4. Damaged Cliche
I have a copy of the 4d carmine, comb perforated, that  shows extensive damage to the duty plate, the bottom of the queen's bust, and the lower right frame. Under very high magification, the paper is completely smooth, showing no sign of abrasion. My conclusion is that this is evidence of either extreme damage to the plate, or more likely, lack of ink transfer, rather than  from abrasion after the fact. 
5. Nick in "S" and Damaged "N" in "Pence"

This occurs on the 6d green and consists of  small nick in the bottom tail of the "S" and  white void area in the middle of the "N" of "Pence".

Covers and Multiples

Due to the low print quantities, covers and multiples of any kind are extremely rare. I have yet to encounter any examples on cover, and any multiple of any value, either mint or used.

This concludes my introduction to this second issue of Lagos. My next series of posts will take a look at the individual values and attempt to provide some guidance into identifying the individual printings.

Previous article The Printings of the 4d Lilac and Black Queen Victoria Keyplate Stamp of Lagos - Part One

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