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the jewel in the neck and other hidden gems

PLATE SEVEN was the first 2d blue to have the check letters in all four corners, it also had the Die 2 head.

The plate was completed on May 18th 1858, registered on June 11th and put to press on 19th July that year.

Copies on cover dated before Nov 1858 are very hard to find as stocks of the 2d “stars” series were to be “used up” first.

The plate also had the plate number visible down both sides in the lateral network. This was, according to an official notice sent to Postmasters, to prevent frauds which might have been perpetrated “by joining together clear portions cut from labels (stamps) which had previously passed through the post”.


According to Wright and Creeke, 40,000 sheets were printed and the plate was in use for little over a year - no worn impressions are known.

Now it gets interesting. The laying down of the plate, as per plates 4, 5 and 6, was in vertical rows confirmed by some coloured roller flaws in the lower white line. The plate was firmly and evenly impressed but with slight misalignments, with each stamp very slightly higher than its left-hand neighbour and a little right to the stamp above. However, there were excessive burrs and their removal resulted in burr rubs which necessitated extensive re-cutting of the side lines. So far so good.

Gibbons' specialised catalogue lists seven re-entries but these are in fact all fresh entries as they were incurred whilst laying down the plate.

These fresh entries are associated with the letterings AH, CB, EC, FB, IG, JB and NB and were laid down so badly that they crossed into the space of stamps around them. These impressions had to be erased and fresh entries put in. However, the erasure of the original impression was far from complete resulting in fantastic double entries.


The word POSTAGE can be seen in between the margin on stamps BB-CB and DC-EC, and the word TWO PENCE shows in the margin in between FB-GB, JB-KB and NB-OB. The problem is that, as these stamps were perforated you cannot always see those

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 words clearly in the margin however, the hidden gems are revealed when the stamp is off centre to the perforation (either high or low).


 Shown here is NB where the words are not clear at the bottom of the stamp (far left) compared to the off-centre pair NB-NC where the word TWO PENCE is clearly visible in the lower margin. 


The real jewel though is what happened to I-G.  The first impression was misplaced so badly (around 7.5mm upwards) that the word POSTAGE can be seen in the Queen’s bust on stamp H-G. The visible portions being part of the “O” all of the “S” and the upper part of “T”.

 In the specialised catalogue this is mentioned but unpriced and is the 2d equivalent to the 1d Union Jack re-entry on Plate 75 in that it is the most sought after 2d in this series by far.


 Illustrated (right) are a strip of 3 of the upper part of I-G where the corner letters are showing large parts of the impression.

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This now brings us onto the “Jewel” stamp H-G  (below) where, due to the cancel, you can just see the words OST of Postage in the Queen’s neck but when you have an impression clear of a postmark  then more of the word is revealed (below).


It is astonishing that this was not picked up at the time of printing however, it does give collectors of the 2d a great example of a fresh entry.

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Plate 8 had a far better accuracy at laying down the impressions however, this plate was extensively repaired due to evenly but not firmly rocked into the plate causing extreme wear very quickly.


This plate provides a fantastic study for states 1 and 2 of many of the letterings but that is for another day.

Many repairs were required for Plate 9 too and plates 10 and 11, according to Wright and Creeke, were badly laid down and therefore defaced on 23rd June 1868 without having been registered.  

Plate 12 was well laid down except it had two major fresh entries on units AA and AB. However Plates 13 to 15 saw improved techniques in plate construction resulting in very few shifted transfers, double entries, recut or extended framelines or even double check letters and the alignment was very good.


Ironically they even had a second roller ready for plates 16, 17 and 18 but were never constructed owing to Perkins Bacon having their contract terminated by the government in 1880.



Wright and Creeke  – Adhesive Stamps of the British Isles 1899

H Osborne – British Line Engraved Stamps – 2d blue Studies of Plates 1 to 15 1946.

Stanley Gibbons – Specialised Queen Victoria Catalogue Volume 1 16th Edition 2011.

More to see and read . . .
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