1908-22 Washington-Franklin issues
In addition to plate numbers, a number of marginal markings appear on
various denominations of the Washington-Franklin series.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing imprint
By far the most common marking other than the plate number was the
imprint of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. This generally
appeared over, under or beside two stamps, with the plate number appearing
on the next stamp. Partway through the printing of Washington-Franklin stamps, BEP decided this marking was no longer necessary as they had been printing all U.S. postage stamps for over 20 years, and the practice was discontinued.
$1 top imprint single; Scott 380,
8˘ top imprint single
bottom imprint single; and Scott 518,
$1 top imprint single
5˘ bottom imprint single; Scott 429,
6˘ bottom imprint single; and Scott 340,
15˘ top imprint single
The siderographer was responsible for creating the engraved printing
plates from a transfer roll. Upon completion, the siderographer's
initials were added to plates made from about 1906 to 1928. Early
on, the position of the initials varied, but eventually became
standardized in the lower left corner of the lower left plate.
These initials are frequently mistakenly referred to as "designer's
initials" or "engraver's initials."
333, 3˘, H.L.C. (Harvey L. Coté). Image courtesy of Doug D'Avino.
384, 2˘, D.H.S.
(Dennis H. Sherman)
466, 5˘ R.B. (Rudolph
Additional examples of siderographers' initials
Plate Finishers' initials
The plate finisher was responsible for removing extraneous lines and
dots from the engraved printing plates after the siderographer had
completed his job. The finisher's initials were added to plates made
from about 1909 to 1928. Early on, the position of the initials
varied, but eventually became standardized in the lower right corner of the
lower right plate.
Plate finishers' initials are frequently mistakenly referred to as
547, $2, with black W.E.S. (Walter E. Spring) and red A.L.C. (Adam L.
Chapman). Image courtesy of Doug D'Avino.
Additional examples of plate finishers' initials
Each time a plate was checked out for a printing run, the printer's initials
were added to the plate. This often led to a long string of initials
appearing up one side or across the top of the plate.
374, 1˘ Franklin, left plate
number single with plate number 5679 and printers' initials.
Additional examples of printers' initials
"Coil Stamps" markings
Excess stamps from plates used to print coil stamps were occasionally
perforated and sold. They are known as "coil waste" issues.
424, 1˘ Plate #6582 right block of 10 with COIL STAMPS marking
matching 1˘ Plate #6585 left and right blocks of 10 with COIL STAMPS
425, 2˘ Plate #6568 right block of 10 with COIL STAMPS marking
See open star examples under "Multiple markings" below.
Scott 343, 1˘
single photographically cropped from a top plate block of six, showing plate number
4980 and closed star. Image courtesy of Eric Chaulsett, ex-Patrick
Occasionally, single stamps or strips will show more than one type of
331, 1˘ left plate strip of 3, showing plate number 5179, Bureau imprint,
open star, and printers' initials.
Image courtesy of Doug D'Avino.
The open star indicated that the spacing of the columns of stamp
images was wider toward the outside of the sheet than toward the center.
This was an attempt to compensate for uneven moisture content during
printing, uneven drying of the printed sheets, and thus uneven shrinkage
and irregular perforations on the resulting stamps. The wider
spacing didn't work, so they later experimented with higher rag content
("bluish") paper, which also didn't work but had the side problem of being
much more expensive, too. Eventually, the Post Office, consumers and
collectors all learned to live with a high percentage of stamp production
being poorly centered.
384, 2˘ bottom plate block of 6, showing plate number
5717, Bureau imprint and letter A.
The "A" marking was intended to assist perforators. It
indicated that the columns of stamps were uniformly spaced, essentially
canceling the earlier marking of "open star" that indicated that the
columns were irregularly spaced. After all "star" plates were
retired, it was no longer necessary to differentiate using the "A" marking
and it was discontinued as well.
Scott 384, 2˘
left plate single, showing plate number 5296, open star, and printers'
394, 3˘ coil paste-up pair,
showing portion of Bureau imprint and open star.
414, 8˘ left single showing
portion of Bureau imprint and letter A.
418, 15˘ right single showing
portion of Bureau imprint and letter A.
Scott 422, 50˘ upper
plate block of 6, showing Bureau imprint, letter A and plate number 5749.
corresponding bottom plate block of 6 for the same issue.
plate block of 6 (Scott 417),
showing only the plate number.
By the time Plate 7042 was created,
there were no longer any "star" plates in service, so it was no longer
necessary to include the "A" marking to notify the perforator that spacing
between the columns of stamps was even.
perforated 11 from very early imperforate sheets, plate block of 6 showing
Bureau imprint, plate number 4848, and printers' initials.
U.S. Offices In China overprints
1˘ through $1 values of the unwatermarked, perforated 11 stamps of the
1917 Washington-Franklin series were overprinted at double their original face value for use
at U.S. post offices in Shanghai, China. The stamps were also sold
for a time through the
Philatelic Agency in Washington, D.C. The "Offices in China" stamps
merit a separate page and may be viewed here.
Comments? Suggestions? Email the
This page last updated June 11, 2023.