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Jack Nalbandian, Inc. is proud to offer visitors to our site a wonderful series of articles by renowned EFO expert John Hotchner. This EFO Guide was originally published and copyrighted by Mr. Hotchner in the pages of U.S. Stamps & Postal History Magazine beginning in the summer of 1992. The Guide is compiled in a number of separate installments, all of which will be uploaded to our site in the coming months. Visit here often as new installments appear!

 

THE EFO GUIDE
Installment No. 2

In the 30 years since I found my first EFO, specializing in EFO material alone has become respectable thanks to the hard work of a lot of collectors, researchers, dealers and exhibitors. One is no longer ridiculed for collecting only imperfect stamps!

Of course, it's always been OK to collect the occasional EFO to complement a collection of normal stamps; usually the more visual the item, the more desirable and sought after it is. The perfect example is the C3a, the 1918 24-cent inverted Jenny, which is not only stunning, but the center of several dramas over the course of its history.

The fact that there are 100 of them does not stop the nicest examples from attaining six figure realizations. At the same time there are vast numbers of EFOs that are far more scarce but may be available to the collector who recognizes them for only a few dollars. This series will help you to spot what is significant among stamp varieties, and to identify some of the greatest bargains you may ever find.

Let's continue with category 9 of Section I---Errors. My one disclaimer is to remind you, dear reader, that I am categorizing material according to the way I believe it should be. This does not in all cases match the Scott practice, the conventional wisdom of auction lot describers, or other sincere collectors/ dealers. I invite anyone who feels I've erred to tell me so---civilly. I'm willing to be convinced. At worst, we will agree to I disagree.

The world of color used to be simple. Stamps were one color. Then, stamps were bicolored. Next,' the capability was developed to print multiple colors from the same plate, and then the ultimate: multicolored stamps reproducing every hue, using a series of five basic inks overlayed upon each other n patterns of dots to introduce the needed colors.

To talk about missing colors was fine for the first century and a quarter of philately. It meant that lack of one color ink resulted in the lack of an easily definable design element of a specific color. When stamp printers began to overlap inks to produce colors other than the colors of the ink being used, the lack of a specific ink---a missing color didn't necessarily remove a design element any more. It simply changed the final color(s) of the specific design elements affected.

Thus, the term "missing color" as I am using it in this series is a shortened form of "missing color of ink". The reader is asked to keep in mind that this can still result in a missing design element, but often in the modem era, the result is a change in the planned color of design elements rather than their complete absence.

9. FULLY MISSING COLOR OR MISSING TAGGING. To qualify as an error, every last dot or trace of the color must be absent. Included in this category is tagging that has been added to the stamp as if it were another color of ink; though it is nearly colorless in most instances.

Missing colors can be obvious as in Figure 1 which shows the 1979 $1 Candleholder (of "CIA invert" fame) with its dark brown intaglio color entirely missing. Figure 2, on the other hand, shows the 1969 "Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine" Christmas stamp on which the lithographed light green is missing in the background bushes. The error isn't likely to be noticed unless you know what to look for.

Missing tagging is in the latter class; hardly visible at all except to the trained eye. To be certain of missing tagging, one must look at the stamp under ultraviolet (UV) light. The UV light is also an essential, as is a 30x (or greater) magnifier when verifying a missing color; preferably in the hands of someone associated with an expertising committee, experienced (through handling hundreds, if not thousands of claimed color errors) in detecting fakes and doctored stamps.

This is one of those areas in which the difference in value between an error and a normal stamp (and even between an error and a partially printed freak) is usually so great that a significant amount of good-looking fakery is in the marketplace. Age of the stamp is not a protector, nor is the fact that you found it among a lot of cheap stamps in a75-year old album. Serious fakery has been around for over 125 years, and it was done on cheap stamps to experiment or practice for applying the "art" to more expensive varieties. It has also happened by accident through application of chemicals; in washing stamps from paper, for instance, or by leaving a stamp too long on a sun washed windowsill, or in a well lit dealers display case.

There are several causes of missing colors and tagging. The most basic is the failure to put a sheet of paper through the printing press, or inserting it only partially. I'm not aware of any U.S. errors created in the latter manner, but there are several, among them the spectacular 18-cent 1976 Bicentennial souvenir sheet missing all design elements except the values and tagging which is shown in Figure 3, that resulted from the former.

One of the most often seen causes for a missing color is the failure of the press to provide ink to the plate that will print the stamp. Cars run out of gas. Presses run out of ink. As the ink well empties, the plate will be partially inked and then uninked. The most common example of this error is the missing light yellow on the 6-cent van Eyck 1968 Christmas stamp. Such errors can be found in the midst of a group of freaks, or in a sheet where partially printed freaks give way to errors.

A related cause of missing color is the start-up of a press. It is possible that the first paper into the press will travel some distance before all the elements are working properly. Either the ink is not flowing to the mechanism that inks the plate, or there is insufficient pressure to press the paper and plate together. An example of the latter is the Walt Disney commemorative shown in Figure 4.

Printers are alert for this sort of problem at the beginning and end of press runs, so what could be a flood of such material is most often simply destroyed as printers' waste.

Next is the phenomenon called "double sheeting". If two sheets are inserted into a sheet-fed press, the one below will get no ink. There may be no way to tell that there has been an error made if the doubled sheet comes out as virgin white as when it went in. But if one or more colors are missing entirely while others are present, or the sheet received an intaglio impression without a speck of ink, this diagnosis is possible.

An example of both clues being present, pointing to double sheeting, is shown in Figure 5, the "Boston Tea Party" block. It is missing the intaglio black in the design and the lettering around the outside of the design. But the raised letters characteristic of intaglio printing are present to the touch, and under magnification.

A press can fail to apply a color because it is designed to lift the plate so it won't make contact with the paper under certain circumstances. For instance, the Andreotti press was designed so that if it had to be stopped in mid print; the printing cylinders were disengaged from the paper to prevent the paper from sticking to the plate when the press was restarted. When the press was restarted, some portion of the stamps in process would be defective. An example, the 6-cent 1970 "Christmas Nativity" missing its black is shown in Figure 6.

Another related cause of missing color is the press set to lift the plate from the paper when it senses a paper splice approaching. This is done to prevent the increased thickness of the paper from damaging the delicate equipment.

There is another splice-related example of missing color. A splice can be used to join webs (rolls of paper) so as to provide for a continuous printing operation, or to repair a damaged web. The latter are usually "piece-to-piece" with no overlap, but splices of web to web, and paper mill splices joining paper ends to make the web length specified by the printer, have often been made by overlapping the paper and sticking it together with tape or glue.

When the web proceeds through the press, of course only the top of the sandwich will receive ink. The paper below may come out of the process looking like a perfectly perforated stamp. It has only a light impression of the intaglio design.

Many including the catalogue makers would say that this is not an error once it is an intended result of the normal production process. What should have happened, and most often did, was that this portion of the web was excised and destroyed as printers' waste. Relatively few of these splices have seen the light of philatelic day.

But then, under this criteria, aren't there other errors noted above that should not be given catalogue status? No doubt. We must leave this as one of life's little unsolvable riddles.

Among the more visual of missing color errors is the type caused by the presence of foreign matter: extraneous paper, or something else getting between the plate and the paper at the moment of printing. Among the "something else" can be folded over paper from the same sheet. The earliest color missing from a multicolor stamp is the red cross missing from the 1932 Red Cross commemorative. The lower left corner of one sheet was folded over such that the red cross was printed on the folded over back of the sheet, leaving only the figure of the nurse and lettering, with the red cross printed on the folded over paper.

A similar phenomenon, affecting an entire one color stamp, is known on Washington-Franklin era definitives; the design being printed on the gum side.

Figure 8 - illustrates the result of a piece of loose paper getting on the sheet between the blue and red prints of one of the Champions of Liberty issue; obstructing the application of the red color and creating an error on the top stamp.

The impression cylinder that presses the paper against or into the plate can be at fault. Usually, a weak spot may result in just a bit of the design being absent, but if a major portion of the cylinder is affected or absent, an error can result. See Figure 9, the 10-cent Crossed Flags issue of 1973, which was created by the absence of an entire length of the impression roller.

Finally, as illustrated on the vertical strip of "C" sheet stamps shown in Figure 10, photogravure plate wiping can be so efficient that most of the ink has been removed from a band three subjects long. The second stamp up has not a speck of ink.

10. INVERTED COLOR. This is an area that proves an old rule that remains valid today: increase the complexity of the printing process or the printing equipment, and the result is the possibility for, and likelihood of, new errors.

Inverted colors became part of U.S. philately with the first U.S bicolored stamps, issued in 1869. Shown in Figure 11 is the 24-cent invert, one of the three inverts from that issue.

Two press insertions were needed to produce the final product, and in a very few cases, the paper was turned 180 degrees for the second insertion.

The most famous U.S. error; the already mentioned 24-cent inverted airmail Curtiss Jenny of 1918, is shown in Figure 12. This invert and the 1869's illustrate the need to be careful in describing what we see, for what we assume is not always correct. The first insertion printed the vignette, the central design. So it is the frame that is inverted!

The difference between 1869 and 1918 is that the paper was inverted for the second pass of the 1869's while it is likely that the frame plate itself was inverted when a C3a was completed.

The only U.S. invert that is exactly what it seems to be is the 1986 Candleholder invert, on which the intaglio candleholder and lettering were printed last.

In this category we also have the intentionally produced error. The 4-cent Pan American issue of 1901 was intentionally produced in inverted form, but the prize has to go to the 1962 Dag Hammerskjold stamp. When discovered with its yellow background inverted with respect to the frame (the yellow was printed first), the Post Office Department decided to reproduce over 40 million of the error, so that every collector of U.S. stamps could have one.

11. ERROR OF COLOR (INK). There are value judgments made in this field every day, and some of them are informed. When a variety becomes an error is open to some debate on most of the items that fit here.

Colors can differ on a specific issued design for many reasons. In the first 125 years of U.S. stamp production, issues that lasted several years often changed colors as their lifetime extended. It wasn't that the production personnel didn't care, though the emphasis was more on production than on eliminating varieties; it was simply very difficult to maintain exact color control of ink batches as contractors technology changed, and the availability and cost of the ink's contents varied.

Thus, there are a great many color varieties, some of which help to date the stamp during its lifetime, that are given catalogue recognition, but are not called errors.

To qualify for error status, the stamp must have been printed in an unintended color, not just a first cousin of the normal. It usually must be shown that the wrong ink or wrong mixture of ink was used. And finally, to be considered an error rather than a production variation, the incidence must be confined to a very small proportion of the total print run.

The earliest U.S. stamp to qualify as a color error is the 1893 4-cent Columbian "blue" shown in Figure 13. This stamp illustrates the role of popular acceptance in the error equation. The normal color of the 4-cent Columbian is "ultramarine". From its discovery, collectors have debated whether the blue is really a distinct color rather than a shade variety. The argument has been fueled by the fact that a convincing explanation of just how the blue could have been produced has never been advanced.

The bottom line, as they say, is that the public believes the blue version should be given error status, and has so voted with its wallet by being consistently willing to pay a huge premium for it.

The $5 1938 Presidential "red brown" frame is a consensus error. The normal color ranges front carmine to red. The error was discovered by postal employees shortly after issue, and the great majority were located, recalled and destroyed. But some few had been sold over the counter, and postal employees- bought a few.

Announcement to the hobby came over ten years later. Less than 150 copies are now known. The Bureau has examined examples and stated that the carmine was somehow contaminated by black ink to create the error version.

Another Prexy issue illustrates how murky this area can get. The 30-cent Theodore Roosevelt was issued in "deep ultramarine" according to Scott, but to say that there are 15 different shades of this stamp is not an exaggeration. Two of these are noted in Scott without being given error status: "blue" and "deep blue". The latter has become a de facto error because it has a catalogue value of $75 mint, compared to $4.25 for the normal and $15 for the plain blue. Yet it is no easy task to tell the blues apart without the aid of an expertised reference collection.

There is clearly a marked difference between the ultramarine and the blue/deep blue. The number of examples of the latter is relatively small compared to the total print run. The public seeks the stamp and pays a substantial premium for it. Why is it not listed as an error?

A color error on which there is no question is the 5-cent carmine of 1916-1917. The perf, I 0 version is Scott No. 467. Scott 485 is imperforate. And the 5-cent rose perf. 11 is Scott 505. The cause is unique in U.S. philately. A 5-cent transfer roll was mistakenly used to re-enter three plate positions on 2-cent plate 7942, after the original transfers were removed as defective.

Because these were only three among 400 transfers, and 5 is easily confused with 2, the plate went to press before anyone noticed the error. The normal 5-cent is blue. Shown in Figure 15 is the Scott 485 in the center of a block of 42, a rather spectacular example of the error that was in a recent auction sale.

Watch our site for the next installment of John Hotchner's EFO Guide.

 

 

 

 

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