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Stamps (Philately)/US 2 cent postage due


Scan 18
Scan 18  
scan 19
scan 19  
QUESTION: Hi, Thanks for your time and I hope you can shed some light on this topic. I have attached an image of several stamps Scott J62 per 11. I had several thousand and I came across one stamp top right with square perforations at the top. I have never seen this so I went through the stamps again and found others with square cut perfs at different spots around the stamps. Some had one or two perfs and others had several in a row.  Perforation gauge measured 11. I am pretty good at identifying stamps since I collect a lot of Washington/ Franklins. But after 30 years of collecting this is a first!



ANSWER: Hi Mike,
 Thanks for your question and photos.  A big help in understanding what you are seeing.
 I have a very large Postage Due reference collection, and about 200 - 300 J62.  I have looked at the J61, J62 and J63 as comparison to what you have here.  I had not noticed it so much, but this appears quite common among this series, and I have some theory to offer here as to what is really the case.
 Looking at the one you have under the gauge as well as a dozen or so of my own J62 (and I found similar features in J61 and J63), one thing I note is it is inconsistent on any single side.  To that I mean, if you look at your example in the Scan 19, the perf at far right looks more normal than square, and perfs on the right and left appear normal.  Also looking at the bottom, the perf remnant that is still in the perforation, tells us a lot.  That perf remnant is round.  If you notice the corners of the perfs, they appear rounded too, though the bottom and sides appear more "flat".  I am quite certain if we could see these as pairs or multiples this would not be as pronounced.
 What I'm driving at here, is what we are seeing is some inconsistency in the perf wheel, which is not uncommon.  Pens are sometimes bent, causing perf alignment to be completely off, but realize perforation happens on moving sheets of paper, and large perf wheels, turning (which elongate the hole) have a "Male" and "Female" side.  When a pen gets bent, the whole winds up out of alignment.  But if a series of pins or corresponding holes become damaged, then you may have a series of pins that result in the same pattern.  It may be that part of the wheel was slightly out of alignment, wearing the pins down over time, and creating a "flat" side to them.  This seems more likely in the Scan 19 as well, as the top and bottom show the pattern, but the left and right do not.  I'm seeing this in a number of J61, J62 and J63's that I have, but certainly not all.
  That all points to a problem that was either "repaired" along the way, or happened later in the life of the machine, and maybe on only 1 or 2 perf machines, but not all of them.  It may also only affect a part of the wheel (as seems to be the case by looking at the top of Scan 19, where the right and left perfs do not seem to have the same square pattern to them).  That bottom hanging perf tells a great story though.  It is rounded near the outside, but flatter at the bottom.  So I think that's what you're noticing.

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QUESTION: Hi Scott, thanks for the reply. Make sense but if the pin was worn down or reworked, I would assume a smaller hole or cut out. Or if the hole the pin falls into gets worn, a longer or deeper cut. I don't see this happening. I sent a better image of the two stamps with the most interesting perfs. The one on the left is the one from scan 19. The square edge perfs seems to run the length of the top of the stamp. I would accept your answer for the angled and odd shaped perfs do to wear and misalignment. These square perfs are the same width and depth, its just the corners are right angled instead of rounded. Do I have an idea or opinion of what this is...other than what you described, possibly testing of different pin shapes. But there would be records of this if it did take place. On a related note, can you tell me pins were on a roller and for the gauge to change they would have to replace a roller. Correct? What I am getting at is where a stamp has a transition perf from 12 to 10 on one side of a stamp. How did this happen mid stamp?



ANSWER: Hi Mike,
 Actually this image is far worse.  It's blurry, out of focus, and too far away.  I really can't make out any more detail than that.
 I'm not sure it's going to help though.  How are you determining the same side of stamp has staring perf 12 and changing to perf 10?  If they don't line up to either across the stamp, having one that lines up for a short distance doesn't really count either, as many perfs could be "made" to appear to align for 4 or 5 per tips.
 As I mentioned, looking through several of my own, I see a similar pattern in them.  Something had to interfere with the perforation wheel to obscure the perf.  Otherwise, all 4 sides on the stamp would evenly show the same result.  Wear and tear on machines produces unpredictable results.  How it happened, is anyone guess, but I don't see anything special or experimental here, just evidence of a worn out perf machine.  Again, look at the perf remnant that remains.  The perfs to the right show the "Square" pattern you are seeing (as removed perfs) but the one remaining is round, and a little misshapen.
 The only other alternative I can think of is someone using cheap 2c postage due stock to practice reperfing.  That's the only thing I can see that would result in 2 perf gauge readings on the same stamp side.  If they were 12 and 12 on top and bottom and 10 and 10 on left and right (or vice versa), then it could be something caused by 2 perf machines being used, one on the horizontal and a different gauge at the vertical.  But only bent or mangled pins can change the perf "on the fly" and usually not for more than 1 or 2 pins.  It's not out of the realm of possibility that more could be damaged (hit by something flat, striking multiple pins but not more than 4 or 5, not affecting the whole wheel, but part of it.)
 If you haven't seen one before, go to this web page: and they have some good photos of perf wheel machines.

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I am confusing you due to my limited knowledge. First I sent a better image. Now from what you are saying if one side has odd perfs then since the same pin rollers are used to perf vertically then I should see the same issue perfed horizontally. Correct? But couldn't that bad or defective roller line up with another stamp when the sheet is reoriented to perf vertically?  Also I assume other types of stamps from this same year used this perforation machine so why aren't there these square perfs on other stamps of that era (not just postage dues)? Or do these perforation pin rollers wear down so quickly that they get changed very often?

On the other related topic not on this stamp, I heard of the washington/ franklins where the stamp has perforation of 10 only at the top or bottom on some of the issues. Scott498g for example and they talk of this as a transitional stamp where the gauging changes from 10 to 11 moving from left to right. How can this happen with a pin roller? Wouldn't they run a sheet roll through then change the pin roller? Would they actually stop in mid sheet and correct?

Thanks for your patience!!!!


Hi Mike,
  So, we need to understand the manufacturing process for stamps.  Realize that 100's of millions, and in many cases reaching over the one billion mark, making these stamps requires enormous amount of labor.  And we are talking in a time when automation really didn't exist much.  It's incredibly unlikely that the same machine used to perf a stamp horizontally is the same one then used to perf it vertically, and this is how the Washington-Franklins in some cases accidentally wound up perfed differently on 2 sides.  (And why some stamps have 2 different perfs one for top/bottom and one for left/right).
  You have to consider the volume here.  Realize, the same companies (Initially the Banknote makers, and then the Bureau) were printing and perfing ALL the issues for that year.  So it's not so much even a case of "this stamp", but ALL stamps, whether they were postage due or postage fee.  Take those numbers, and start to understand just how much volume was going through these machines (which didn't use electricity until earliest around 1880).  This is a massive job.  If we consider a sheet has 200 stamps on it, and we have 100,000,000 stamps, that is 500,000 pages to perf!  If we took that to a 28 day month working every day, 17,857 sheets of stamps per day would need to be perfed. If we worked an 8 hour day, you would have to perf 2,232 sheets an hour... even by today's manufacturing standards, that's a lot.  And those numbers don't come close to the volumes created.  Consider that by 1893, the 2c Columbus issue alone (just that one stamp) had over 1.4 billion made (7 million sheets of 2c Columbus alone).  These didn't just roll off one press onto one perf machine, and then into a box.  The sheet goes through one perf machine, is turned 90 degrees, goes through the next perf machine.  This represents an enormous amount of weight as well.
  Consider this: a ream of A3 paper weighs about 4.8 kilos (10 1/2 pounds).  This is a reasonable comparison (actually lighter) than typical 200 sheet stamp of the day.  Now imagine you need 7,000,000 sheets.  You would need 14,000 reams of paper to print 7 million stamps!  That is 147,000 pounds (66,800 kilos) of paper!  73.5 TONS of 2c Columbus issues out there.
  The volume, wear and tear, manual labor, changes involved, (imagine the chaos even of a massive production system like this).  There is a reason that philately recognizes "Errors, Freaks and Oddities"  Because the volume is SO large, the probability for something "off tolerance" of the specification is very high.  This is why, even in modern days, we still see stamps with a color missing.  They slip through the quality control.  And that's the one's they miss!
  A small oddity like this, (which is what this falls into) is not that unusual, nor that valuable.  When you have 5 (and let's say you've got 300 of this issue in total?) means it probably affects about 1.5% - 2% of the issues.  I found several among mine as well, so it appears to me to be a common enough anomaly.
 I know you don't want to hear it, but this really isn't anything special in these stamps.  It's not something experimental, it's just an anomaly that impacted a lot of stamps from the looks of it.
Hope this helps,

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Scott Payton


My expertise is in US, but I have a lot of exposure to worldwide, and with wide reference material, I will do what I can to answer questions about global stamps. In US I have extensive experience in all aspects (does include Administrative overprints for Cuba, China, Puerto Rico etc.). Also, Hawaii general issue and Revenue (pre-statehood). Of course still building knowledge but have been collecting since 1980. Air Mail is a favorite area, but not a limitation. Two specialty areas are Large Banknote issues, and Washington/Franklin identification. Strong experience in Carrier & Locals, Private Die (Also known as M&M for "Match & Medicine" but also includes some playing card and perfume stamp issues.) Recently have been building more back-of-book experience, especially around Official, Newspaper, Revenue and tax editions. Some covers, and cancellations, but not my strong suit. Another area I'm recently diving into. What I can't do: Anything non-US, as it's just not an area I focus on.


30+ years of learning the hard way. A lot of passion for collecting and dealing (as I do both). I don't consider it a hobby... I consider it a serious pursuit that I'm able to do in the hours I'm not occupied by annoying things like sleep. I work closely with some of the global leaders in the expertizing and identification field. Have co-authored several papers (with Mr. William Weiss Jr.) related to identification, as well as tool set to help with quickly identifying the more challenging areas of Washington Franklin. Strong experience in paper types and coil validation.

Member of APS #222356.

1870 - 1879 Large Banknote Issues - Easy Identification (co-authored with William Weiss Jr). Washington-Franklin - Easy Identification (co-authored with William Weiss Jr.) Detecting Fakes, Alterations and Counterfeits (APS Summer Session Expertizing Session materials with William Weiss Jr.)

Thousands and thousands of hours of pouring over hundreds of collections. 30+ years as a collector-to-dealer, avid student of philatelic study. Pre-1900 variation is fascinating, and it seems even after all these years, that I make some discovery every time I look at a new example. APS Summer Session - Fundamentals of Expertizing 2014

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