Logo: SG43 Plate 77
Plating penny reds varies from simple to difficult depending on the particular 1d red you have in front of you! It works like this -
The letters in 4 corners penny reds (penny plates) - SG43/44 - G1 - are usually easy to plate as the numbers are part of the design. I find that a low power magnifying glass can make life much easier when plating these stamps especially if it's illuminated. Or scan them and look at the blown up scan. Plating them is quite easy as the actual number is visible in the margins. There are a huge number of minor constant varieties on these stamps that do merit looking at as they can still be bought cheaply and the study of the varieties do give a lot of insight into how these stamps were printed. Fascinating! By the way, if you happen across any "impossible" numbers, like 69, 70, 75, 77, 126 and 128 do look at them closely. They are probably other plate number that look different due to the vagaries of printing but they could be really rare stamps so if you're not sure please do send me an email and I'll be happy to give a second opinion.
The perforated Alphabet III stars can be plated by using a combination of visually checking corner letter positions using Wiggins' 'The Plating of Alphabet II' and 'The Plating of Alphabet III' then using JB Seymour's 'The Postage Stamps of Great Britain Part 2' and Tonna's 'Penny Red Stars' which give details of marks usually not visible on the half-tone images in Wiggins' books. Also, the GBPS website has images of the imprimatur registration sheets showing images of the original sheets printed which are a great way of checking corner letter positions. If you join the GBPS or RSPL you will be able to access their libraries. You will find your membership fees worth spending for this access alone. The GB Journal which you will receive as part of GBPS membership is also worth the membership fee on its' own. Specialist philatelic books can be very expensive and hard to obtain in their original form but cds and online references are very cheap.
All earlier stamps can be plated by using Fisher/Brown's 'The Plating of the Penny 1840-1864', Seymour's 'The Postage Stamps of Great Britain' (Parts 1 & 2, Edward Proud's 'Penny Black Plates', and Litchfield's 'Guide Lines to the Penny Black' and by comparison to the registration sheets (known as "imprimaturs")which can either be bought as photographs or more conveniently on cd or viewed on the GBPS website.
I have listed below some more books which are of use but the best way to start is to sit down for a little while with someone who has done it before as the use of the Fisher Brown plating gauge which is used to measure corner letter positions is much more easily explained by someone who is familiar with it rather than just learned about from books. Join your local philatelic society and you will soon find someone happy to offer advice and practical knowledge based on years of experience. Buy some cheaper copies of positively identified plates and practice re-identifying them!
SG Specialised Catalogue, Volume 1 (Queen Victoria) part 1 - current edition 2020) is a must and is full of useful information.
Ken Statham's 'The Essential Guide to the Great Britain Line Engraved 1d and 2d Stars 1840-1864 has a lot of detail in it and is very interesting but is so expensive that many will not be able to afford it even if they can find a set of his books!
NPM Imprimatur photographs can also be obtained but they are quite expensive. The originals are stored at the British Postal Museum in London. They have an enormous amount of fascinating material as do the British Library. I think that looking at Imprimatur photographs, or decent scans of them, and comparing them with your example is pretty much the best way to positively identify stamps. These can now be obtained on cd at sensible prices or on the GBPS wesite for free!
Plating is one of those things that appears quite daunting at first, but gets much easier with practice. This is particularly true when it comes to identifying the difference between Die I and Die II and spotting the differences between the different Alphabets so don't give up - it will all fall into place! Also, if there's a stamp that you just can't identify as it doesn't quite fit with the varieties listed don't be tempted to dispose of it too quickly. It might be a new or very scarce variety! This is definitely one of these things where practice, if not making things perfect, as plating is not an absolute science, it certainly makes things get easier as time goes on. Also, don't drive yourself too crackers. There are some stamps that just aren't plateable!
The SG Specialised Queen Victoria catalogue lists 15 different ways to tell the difference between Die I and Die II but the best 3 ways to stick to, as recommended by Ken Statham are -
1) The Queen's nostril is much more curved in Die II than Die I.
2)The "Williams Lines" - Mike Williams showed them to me and although not identified by SG they are a really good clue. The 2 lines are usually clear and appear on Die II in the top of the Queen's hair under the A in POSTAGE. One of them is much more prominent than the other.
3) Die II side frames are usually stronger than on Die I especially on earlier plates on small crown paper which appear from both dies.
I think it's a very good idea to have a clear example of both dies next to eachother as a constant reference when sorting stamps.
Image: The difference between Die I and II
This plate 58 rose red C10 very clearly shows the 2 flaws often referred to in the Tonna books "<2/3" (which means a break in the right frameline 2/3 of the way down!) and "1 o'c ray NE sq short".
Image: C10 PLATE 58 DF
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