THE ACCEPTED

PLATE 77 STAMPS

Illustrated opposite are the ten accepted stamps showing a Plate number 77. This includes the three newly discovered stamps on the Victor Hugo cover.

  • Stamp AB - Acquired by King George V in 1919, and resides  in The Royal Collection.

  • Stamp AC - The ‘Nissen’ copy, found in 1919 by Chas Nissen. Its whereabouts are unknown.

  • Stamp BA - The ‘Tapling’ example, bequeathed to the British Museum and resides in The British Library.

  • Stamp LL - The ‘Phillips’ copy, found in 1906 and resides in the UK.

  • Stamp MI - Discovered in 1944 and resurfaced recently, and sold in 2016 for an amount stated to be £495,000.

  • Stamp PH - The ‘Fletcher’ example, found in 1924 and now resides in The British Library.

  • Stamp PI - The ‘Isleham’ example, found in 1920 and sold in 2013 for an amount stated to be £550,000.

  • Stamps RL, SK and SL - The three stamps on the Victor Hugo cover.

ORIGIN OF STAMPS SHOWING A PLATE NUMBER '77'

There can only be two possible origins for stamps showing a plate number 77

 

 

Origin 1From the Plate 77 trial sheet.

The Plate 77 trial sheet, together with that from Plate 75 were rejected by Ormond Hill in a letter sent to Perkins Bacon dated 7th February 1863, over one year before this issue went to press.

Ormond Hill must have handled and rejected the Plate 77 trial sheet. This sheet (and any others) from this plate should have been destroyed. If, however, this trial sheet was not destroyed, then it would be one possible origin from which the accepted Plate 77 stamps ‘may’ have come from.

Plate 77 was never registered or put to press and no sheets from it exist in the British Postal Museum. Plate 77 was partially defaced on the 4th February 1864 before this issue was put to press.

If the imperf trial sheet, which should have been destroyed, was ‘officially’ released in error then it would have had to have been stored ‘somewhere’ for over a year and then ‘perforated and gummed’ and ‘officially’ released to the public on or after April 1864! Highly unusual.

Rows A and most of B on all the imprimatur sheets from this issue were removed to satisfy collectors at that time, and if the imprimatur sheet was indeed the origin of the existing plate 77 stamps then, more than likely, the existing Plate 77 stamps would have been imperf examples from these top two rows of this sheet as per those illustrated above from other plates from this issue.  

However close examination of the figure ‘7’s and the Border latticework on the accepted Plate 77 stamps, as shown below, clearly shows that they differ substantially from each other and are not the impressions expected from a pristine trial sheet produced from one Roller impression.

 

Origin 2: From re-engraved impressions as with the three stamps on the Victor Hugo cover.

The fact that the three Plate 77 stamps originate from re-engraved plate 73 impressions points seriously at the possibility that all the other accepted Plate 77 stamps showing a Plate number 77 could have been similarly produced by re-engraving the number ‘77’ on other plates from this issue.

The serious inconsistencies in the shape and position of the plate numbers and the lattice work as demonstrated in this paper endorse this fact and must arouse suspicion as to how these stamps have come to exist.  The image below clearly demonstrates this fact.

Imprimatur impressions from which these stamps ‘allegedly’ originate must be identical in every respect and these are clearly not as per the illustrations below.

It is highly possible that the accepted stamps showing a Plate number 77 did not originate from Plate 77 but were re-engraved from other existing plates as with the stamps from the Victor Hugo cover.

A strong possibility exists that these stamps were made for collectors, and a philatelic objective may well be the reason for their existence.

 

It is worthwhile noting that the three known mint examples AB, AC and BA were owned by known and eminent philatelists of the time, while the used examples were all randomly discovered by the general public.

IMPRIMATUR OR A RE-ENGRAVED PLATE NUMBER ‘77’?

Unexplained feature anomalies

 

The plate numbers on these stamps must not vary to any extent in their shape and position on the intersection if they are imprimatur stamps produced from one roller impression.

 

However, the accepted stamps showing a plate number 77 are not as such. The stamps all show serious variations that cannot be explained in any other way than being re-engraved on the plate. 

 

The three major anomalies below illustrate this fact. Other anomalies exist.

ANOMALY ONE:

THE MISSING 'TWO DASHES'

The right-hand panel from the blind impression from the Plate 77 roller (British Library). Note the mandatory dashes in each diamond next to each figure ‘7’.

 

This dash which appears in each diamond on the right-hand panel is a feature of the master die. The plate number was engraved against it on the roller impression.

This dash is missing on every accepted plate 77 stamp. Why?

If the engraver engraved the number '77', would he also engrave the dash?

ANOMALY TWO:

BORDER LATTICES THAT DIFFER

Border Lattice-work comparisons of the right-hand panel on a Penny Black impression  with ‘Plate 77’ stamps AB, BA, PH and MI respectively.

 

Note how the latticework is broken, incomplete, inconsistent and seriously misshapen around the ‘7’s.

Clearly the latticework areas around the '7's has been disturbed to varying extents.

ANOMALY THREE:

 SHAPE AND POSITION OF THE '7'S

The right-hand 77s from the right-hand panel

The left-hand 77s from the left-hand panel

Above is a focus of the right and the left-hand figure ‘7’ from the right and left-hand panels from stamps AB, BA, and PH.

 

Note the bizarre irregular shape of the of the ‘7’s and their varying positions on the intersections.

Clearly such differing figure '7's could not originate from one roller impression!

EARLY STAMP COLLECTORS AND

PLATE 77 STAMPS

 

Serious stamp collecting was a practiced hobby by the following eminent British collectors as early as 1859. 

  • William Hughes-Hughes, a founder member of the Royal Philatelic Society was reported to have become a collector around 1859 and ceased in 1874. He had a number of great world rarities including an ‘unused’ Plate 77 stamp. He stated in his interview with Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal in January 1896 that his whole collection had cost him £69 as most of his stamps were acquired “through influential connections”. Was Ormond Hill that influential connection, see below?

 

  • William Edmund Image began collecting in 1859 and built a strong collection which he sold to Thomas Tapling.

 

  • William Westoby began collecting stamps in 1861 or 1862.

  • Thomas Tapling, a foremost collector of his time, started collecting in 1865. He also had an ‘unused’ plate 77 stamp.

A paper titled ‘Great Britain: Plate numbers 71–225 on Cover’, which I published in The Great Britain Journal, 48/4 (2010) pp.84–86 very clearly demonstrates that the plate numbers on the 1864 issue were collected as early as April 1865. It is very possible that earlier evidence exists.

The possibility that these stamps were made for collectors is one that cannot be dismissed, it certainly could have happened, and a philatelic objective may well be the reason for their existence.

It is worthwhile noting that the three known mint examples AB, AC and BA were owned by known and eminent philatelists of the time, while the used examples were all randomly discovered by the general public.

ORMOND HILL'S REQUESTS FOR PHILATELIC FAVOURS FROM PERKINS BACON

 

Ormond Hill, as early as 1861, 21 years after the first postage stamp was printed, made the following ‘irregular’ requests from Perkins Bacon as outlined in Percy De Worms work “Beginning of the End” which surely form clear evidence that firstly, serious stamp collecting was being practiced at that time and secondly that irregular transactions could have taken place.

a- Request made by Ormond Hill on the 18/4/1861

“Two or three of my friends who are collectors of Postage Stamps have asked me to procure for them specimens of new or uncommon stamps whenever I have it in my power.

To which J B Bacon replied on the 24/4/1861:

“in reply I beg to state that I shall have much pleasure in complying with your request.”

This request asks for ‘uncommon’ stamps which clearly implies that collectors at that time understood their importance and value. Clearly, Perkins Bacon were ready to oblige!

William Hughes-Hughes, mentioned above, had an unused ‘Plate 77’ stamp in his collection, a most ‘uncommon’ stamp. Was he one of Ormond Hill’s ‘friends’?

b- Request made by Ormond Hill on the 24/4/1861

“I do not wish to give you the

trouble of printing specially for me on any acct.”

This request is of great interest in that, did it imply that if Ormond Hill desired it, Perkins Bacon would have printed stamps especially for him?

c- Request made by Ormond Hill on the 1/11/1861

“I desired specimens for an Official collection and entirely for an official purpose.”

The three requests above support a 'possible' further request for the production of a plate 77 stamp; and once again, it is worthwhile remembering that the three known 'perforated' mint examples AB, AC and BA were owned by known and eminent philatelists of the time, while the used examples were all randomly discovered by the general public.

PLATE 73 CONNECTION

 

There is no doubt that the three stamps on the Hugo cover showing a plate number 77 originate from re-engraved plate 73 impressions.  The three stamps are from positions RL, SK and SL on the sheet and have corner letters that match exactly those of their counterpart stamps from plate 73. In fact, ‘plate 77’ stamp SK on the cover shows the ‘S’ box flaw which is unique to stamp SK from plate 73.

Dr. W.R.D. Wiggins in his book ‘British Line Engraved Stamps Repaired Impressions’ illustrates stamps RL, SK and SL as stamps appearing in two states repaired by re-entry’ and the three stamps on the Victor Hugo cover may very well be an intermediate state between these two states.

The illustrated plate 73 stamp below left is from a cover dated 7th October 1864, so this stamp could

only be 5-6 months old, as this plate was put to press on the 1st of March 1864.

Note the startling worn features after only a few months which indicates wear of the printing plate.

Could this impression have lasted a further four years without being repaired bearing in mind that by the date of this cover plate 73 would have printed only c.50-70,000 sheets and still had over 460,000 sheets to print?

Very doubtful indeed.

To the right is another plate 73 stamp BA showing a clear, sharp impression. If this stamp was printed before the worn stamp on the cover, then the speed at which the impressions wore is very evident indeed, and if the stamp was printed afterwards, then this is an indicator that this impression was corrected by re-entry, very probably quite early in the life of this plate. Judging by the apparently thinner ‘check letters’ then the latter possibility is the more likely.

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