1840 2d and 1841 2d a plating aid

1840 2d watermark small crown imperforate Pl 1. Issued 8th May 1840. Number issued 3,977,280. (16,572 sheets). PL2. Put to press July 27th 1840. Earliest known date used is August 18th 1840. Number issued 2,485,680. (10,357 sheets). A total of 623 from both plates spoilt in printing and destroyed. 1841 2d Watermark small crown imperforate Pl 3. First used 17th March 1849. Number issued 45,960,000 (191,500 sheets). Pl 4 put to press at the beginning of 1850. Number issued 42,000,000. (175,000 sheets).

The 2d blues of 1840 and 1841 are by no means as popular as their counterparts the 1d black and 1d red, but both are scarcer to a degree far more than their CAT value reflects. Perhaps it is because they are far less complex to study, or not so readily available, whichever the case, both stamps are rewarding in their appearance for they are to many, more attractive than their twins. The first 2d blue ever to be issued was placed on sale at the London Inland revenue office in the afternoon of May 8th 1840. The design is in every detail save the value tablet, the same as the 1d black and has been struck from the same dye. Two plates were prepared, plates 1 and 2 and there are striking differences between them allowing easy seperation within a few minutes. Stamps from plate 1, show the following characteristics, the side line of the NW corner is weak, faint or partially broken. The 12 O clock ray in the right hand star is usually clear and prominent, the top and side lines of the left upper corner are thin, in many cases the T and W, of two are moulded together at the top and the O is indented at the top right side. Plate 1 is the only plate that shows plate wear. A red maltese cross cancel is more usual although black cancels exist almost as readily and this is no real guide. Stamps from plate 2 show the following characteristics, the side line of the NW corner is strong, the upper right star has two of its three rays (middle and left) broken off, giving this star a rounded or bald appearance at top. The check letter S and T are generally a good deal lower in their squares than they should be, horizontal guide lines and doubling or thickening of the base line under TWO PENCE is usually seen. Maltese crosses are mostly in black. Red cancels are scarce but not rare. If a stamp is cancelled with an 1844 type numeral it will always be from plate 2. Plate 1 blues come in good range of shades. There are several listed and printed by Gibbons. Plate 2 however has only three listed shades, pale shades of blue are usually due to under inking of the plate before printing.

In January 1841 the decision was made to change the colour of the 1d stamp from black to red, the reason was that black cancels on black stamps did not really show up in the dim gas light of the Post Office and changing the colour to red brown would put matters right. A special new ink was also employed for printing the 2d value, made more fugitive properties to reduce the risk of fraudulent cleaning. It may be seen now that the second 2d of 1841 can be found with run colour, the ink worked!. It was considered at the time to be important to tell between the first and later 2d, so two new plates were prepared, plates 3 and 4, identical to the first but with white lines added underneath POSTAGE and above TWO PENCE. Can I just draw your attention here to the fact that it is a relatively simple matter to ‘ink in’ these lines to produce an 1840 2d. In many cases a good glass will readily show the fraud but first appearances could trip a few of you up so be careful. Now to plate differences. Stamps from plate 3, show the following characteristics, maltese cross cancels are never seen on plate 4, only plate 3. This cancel is elusive but not rare, the letters A, D, J, O and P are very different from plate 4, A is open, D narrow, J with square foot, O narrow and P open. Horizontal or vertical guide lines are seen in many cases. The two side lines differ markedly in strength, the left is much firmer that the right, the base line under TWO PENCE is usually thick and sometimes doubled. The tops of each letter in TWO PENCE are sometimes distorted or thin. Stamps from plate 4 show the following characteristics, they are never cancelled with maltese crosses. Check letters: A is blind, D broad, J is round footed O broad and P is also blind. Hardly a single guide line vertical or horizontal is ever seen, there is little or no difference in the engraved finish of either side frame lines, but many of the side lines, usually at the right, are partially recut, the base line below TWO PENCE is not usually thickened but looks quite normal. Both 1840 and 1841 2d blues may be seen cancelled with distinctive maltlese cross cancels with Nos in the centre of maltese crosses, also town cancels and coloured cancels. However since the 1841 2d plate 4 was issued some six years after the maltese cross cancels were dropped the chances of finding a copy such used is very remote indeed. Although a few are known. The 2d Pl 1, 2 and 3 were imperf but Pl 4 was (with minor inscriptional changes in margins ) issued at a later date perforated 16 and 14, so it is possible and desirable to bring together matched trios, eg: Imperf, perf 14 and perf 16. Much like collectors match 1d blacks with 1d reds from the same plate. Brought together as matched pairs or trios their combination fetches a premium of 100% above the stamps as singles. IN any case the 2d of 1840 is far rarer than that of 1841. Plate 2 being scarcer than plate 1 and plate 4 scarcer than plate 3. Pairs from 1840 are rare, blocks almost unheard of, mint they are worth a small fortune, pairs from 1841 although very attractive are not really scarce. Blocks of four are however, mint singles are rare especially in fine condition and will always be a good investment. Mint pairs are very rare indeed and larger mint multiples highly sought after.

This short guide to plating should aid all who are interest, it may I hope also stir up interest in the mind of the reader. These, the very first stamps ever issued are very collectable indeed. A single copy of each is desirable especially in good condition, if finances permit a mild study of shades or at least one copy from each shade will always give great satisfaction and as the years pass, these first 2d values will always rise in catalogue status.