The Unwatermarked Queen Victoria First Waterlow Issue of Niger Coast Protectorate Part One
The first of these issues is unwatermarked and is unique in the sense that it is essentially an overprinted set in which the overprint has been incorporated into the design. The stamps were originally inscribed "Oil Rivers", which was the name previously given to the protectorate. However, by the time the stamp designs were ready for production, the name of the protectorate had changed to "The Niger Coast Protectorate". So, rather than produce completely new designs, the existing designs were altered to obliterate the words "Oil Rivers" and to add the words "Niger Coast". The alterations were done so well, that the stamps look as if they were originally designed this way.
This is a reasonably complicated issue, and so today's post will serve as an overview of the areas which I will cover in more detail over the next several weeks.
There were three printings made between June 1893 and March 1894, which themselves were relatively small, resulting in total issue quantities of between 16,000 and 46,000 of each value. These are fairly low printing quantities - especially when the number of varieties in existence for each stamp is considered. What it generally means is that most all of the specific varieties of this issue are scarce. Also, because of the relatively low quantity of sheets produced, multiples of any kind, mint or used are very scarce indeed.
The Basic Designs, Printings Made, Dates and Quantities Printed
There are a number of shade variations on each value in the set, with the 5d having the most variation. Some of these are listed in Gibbons, but others are not, which is curious given that most of the shade variations are quite pronounced.
The scans below show some of the shade variations that can be found on the stamps of this set. I will deal with the shades in detail in another post, but I wanted to give you some idea of the range of variation that can be found:
Perforations - Simple and Compound Perforations
It has been reported by Ince that 6 separate machines were used to perforate the stamps of this issue. These machines had different guages, some of which were regular, and some of which were not. The perforation measurements vary from 12.5 all the way to 15. Gibbons simplifies them into three basic measurements:
- 14.5 to 15
- 13.5 to 14
- 12 to 13
Horizontal And Vertical Wove Papers
Ince notes that a number of different papers were used to print the stamps of this issue. Most papers are fairly thin, and fragile, which makes these stamps notoriously susceptible to tears, creases and thins. There are however thick papers and a thick toned paper that can be found on all values, which according to Ince is very scarce.
In addition to the thickness of the paper, differences in the weave direction can also be found. The paper can be found horizontally wove and vertically wove. Stamps on the horizontal wove paper tend to appear shorter and wider than the stamps on vertical wove paper, which appear taller and narrower. The scan above shows both types on the 1/2d, with the horizontal wove paper being on the left, and the vertical wove paper being on the right.
The vast majority of the sheets bore no numbers or markings of any kind. However, there are a small number of sheets that appear to have been numbered in the corner in blue pencil, presumably at the printers. It appears from studies that have been done that the sheets from the first printings were not numbered, whereas the sheets from the second and third printings were numbered. It also appears that more than one person did the numbering as two distinct styles of handwriting have been seen, each in a slightly different colour of blue pencil. Finally, it appears that the sheet numbers were not progressive through both printings 2 and 3, but started again from 1 in the fourth printing.
There are a number of re-entries to be found on the stamps of this issue. For those of you who are not familiar with what a re-entry is, it is a doubling or extension of part of the design that results from a re-entry of the transfer roll into the printing plate in order to strengthen the printing impression.
The scan below shows one example of a re-entry on the 5d involving the horizontal shading lines near the left inner frameline. If you look closely at the middle of the picture you can see that the horizontal shading lines extend slightly into and beyond the inner left frameline. This is a reasonably strong re-entry.
The cancellations that are typically found on this issue are similar to those found on the earlier issues, except that the squared circles are more predominant in this issue, and the circular date stamps are larger than those used on the 1892-1894 issues. Like the previous issue, these cancellations can be found struck in violet and red.
The scan below shows a few of these cancellations on the 1/2d vermilion:
I have very few covers bearing the stamps of this issue, but one such cover that I do have, which bears the entire set, and is likely philatelic is shown below: