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General Philatelic/Newcomer Cnr : Plate Numbers

13 Jul 2018
Can anyone tell me where I can get a chart showing how to identify letters on British stamps with correct plate number. Thanks.
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14 Jul 2018
re: Plate Numbers

Not all British stamps have plate numbers.

Are you referring to Victorian stamps?

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16 Jul 2018
re: Plate Numbers

Yes and thank you for replying.

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16 Jul 2018
re: Plate Numbers

I presume you are referring to the early line engraved stamps of Queen Victoria -- the 1d black and the subsequent penny reds before they started incorporating plate numbers into the design (prior to Scott #33).

I do not think you are going to find a "chart" of these, because identification is quite complex. There are several books on plating the penny black and reds, but this is the basic book you need:

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"BuckaCover.com - 8,000+ new covers coming January 2"

17 Jul 2018
re: Plate Numbers

Thanks so much Roy.

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Silence in the face of adversity is the father of complicity and collusion, the first cousins of conspiracy..
18 Jul 2018
re: Plate Numbers

Is there a particular reason
you want to deal with that area
of stamping ?

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".... You may think you understood what you thought I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you think you heard is not what I thought I meant. .... "
04 Sep 2019
re: Plate Numbers

I have 4 x 4 block plates with the same plate number on each block of 4 stamps: the upper right, lower right, lower left, and upper left.

How does one describe this in a collection?

Is this a common type/method/mode of collecting block plates?

What is this called in the stamp collection world?

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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
05 Sep 2019
re: Plate Numbers

matched plate blocks

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"Save the USPS, buy stamps; save the hobby, use commemoratives"

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Silence in the face of adversity is the father of complicity and collusion, the first cousins of conspiracy..
22 Sep 2019
re: Plate Numbers

Once, plate blocks and matched plate blocks
were the philatelic rage, and sought out by
many collectors for a good reason.
In the early years of postage stamps printers
and postal agencies simply did their core job,
producing stamps to be used on envelopes that
carried a message from one person or business
to another.
While they may have kept track of when a new
stamp was issued, a printing plate was repaired
or replaced as needed. Printers were slow to
release what data they did have and possibly
could not see why it was some busy buddy collector's
However, collector's soon noticed small variants
of the stamps that were being used, some paper
differences, colors that varied somewhat and the
use of different perforation numbers and sizes.
Being curious people by nature, they asked the
issuing agencies for an explanation.
For the above stated reasons the explanations
were sort of a shrug of the official shoulder,
a blank stare, or answers that did not make sense.
The result was that some collectors tried to
match stamps by where they were located on the
plate that had been used to print the stamps,
using strips and blocks that when small marks or
re-entries when compared with one another showed
the stamp's relative locations until they learned
exactly where a given suspect stamp had been
located when it was created.
For instance, suppose I have several blocks and
strips of an apparently single stamp, a stamp
that may have been all from one printing run,
however, there may have been two plates used on
different printing runs, which would mean to the
collector that they were different stamps issued.
I notice a small defect in the leftmost stamp
of a strip of four that is exactly the same as
the upper left stamp of a block of four. I lay
the two identical stamps over one another and
get a sort of sauce pan shape. ( Like the Big
Dipper in the sky that helps some people find,
Polaris, the North Star.).
Further study and I discover that the middle
stamp of a vertical strip of five matches the
second from the left of that first strip
and so I add that strip to the first strip
which is still connected to the block of four.
This is much like trying to fill enough letters
of a crossword puzzle when one given clue does
not ring any mental chimes.
Gradually, over time with the careful matching of
hundreds or thousands of stamps two almost square(-ish)
groups are laid out, one of which contains a block or
strip that still has a plate number or identifying
icon indicating that that group is the lower
left corner of a single plate.
More study and another bag of this used stamp arrives
and are sorted until either the two groups are united
by identifying stamps common to both or they get so large
with no common links, proving that there must ave been a
second plate.
That could be sealed if a second strip or block with a
plate number in the right hand selvage is found to
belong to the second block.
This kind of intensive study require time, patience
and lots of available stamps to study. That collector
will likely be considered an expert on that particular
Other collectors sought and often would pay large sums
for a strip or block that fills in some spaces, especially
the corner blocks with a plate number still firmly attached.
Or a block that disproves a competing collector's contention
about the number of plates for that stamp.
These individuals are known as specialists or experts and
such blocks could have a significant premium.
Now some collectors noticed that plate blocks, especially
a matched set of four blocks from the four panes of a full
sheet carried that premium at auctions, or in dealet's offers.
So many collectors accumulated plate blocks which
fuelled the fever and added to that premium. Not all stampers,
including quite a few who I've met were really knowledgeable
as to why there was such a premium, but since the catalogs in
their unerring accuracy listed plate blocks at the premium thy
paid what was asked.
The fever reached its heights in the late nineteen-thirties and
But there was a hitch in the block collector's get-a-long.
Some clever person invented electrical equipment that made
precise centering much easier, plus the printers found a
way to use new reproduction techniques so that stamps from
different parts of a plate became virtually identical.
The real nail in plate block collecting's coffin came as more
and more information was provided by agencies in a timely
manner to stampers, so there became little incentive to
struggle for years with some obscure printing differences
and ruined eyesight. Questions were now usually answered
promptly and for the most part accurately.
Oh, yes, one more thing, government printing agencies or
contractors ran their presses night and day, producing
issues in amounts scarcely imagined ninety or a hundred
years ago.
Today plate blocks, while often attractive additions to
a stamp page are readily available and frequently used
for dealer's postage needs or sold in bulk at a discount
from face value.
Catalog "prices" are a bad joke with a few exceptions,
usually centered around stamp issues with high enough
face value that few blocks are saved, for example stamps
that USPS issues for Express Mail cartons, currently
costing around $25.00 each. So perhaps investing $400.00
in a matched set of $25 stamps might just be unusual
enough to generate a decent return in the future, that is,
if a purchaser can be found.
Last point, despite the decline in the popularity of collecting
modern plate blocks, a person should person collect, what
to them. appeals to themselves.

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".... You may think you understood what you thought I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you think you heard is not what I thought I meant. .... "
22 Sep 2019
re: Plate Numbers

Definition of an expert - A person who knows more and more about less and less until eventually he knows everything about nothing. - Nicholas Butler
I really enjoy collecting stamps and specialize in four countries. I can't imagine wanting to specialize in one stamp. But we are all different and "thank God for that"!

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