Notes from the Past

Coil Waste

The term "coil waste" is applied to some U.S. regular stamps beginning in 1919 that consisted of odd-sized sheets of stamps from the end of coil-production press runs.

Already having been coil perforated in one direction, these were perforated in the other direction and sold as regular non-coil stamps.

The stamps so produced were:
    1919 - 1¢ green Washington Head, perf 11 x 10, size 19½-20 mm wide by 22-22¼ mm high (Scott 538).
    1919 - 2¢ carmine rose Washington Head (two types), perf 11 x 10, size 19½-20 mm wide by 22-22¼ mm high (Scott 539 and 540).
    1921 - 3¢ violet Washington Head, perf 11 x 10, size 19½-20 mm wide by 22-22¼ mm high (Scott 541).
    1921 - 1¢ green Washington Head, perf 11, size 19½-20 mm wide by 22 mm high (Scott 545).
    1921 - 2¢ carmine rose Washington Head, perf 11, size 19½-20 mm wide by 22 mm high (Scott 546).
    1923 - 1¢ green Franklin Head, perf 11 x 10, size 19¾ mm wide by 22¼ mm high (Scott 578).
    1923 - 2¢ carmine Washington Head, perf 11 x 10, size 19¾ mm wide by 22¼ mm high (Scott 579).
    1923 - 1¢ green Franklin Head, perf 11, size 19¾ mm wide by 22¼ mm high (Scott 594).
    1923 - 2¢ carmine Franklin Head, perf 11, size 19¾ mm wide by 22¼ mm high (Scott 595).
[see Editor's Note]

This method of using odd leftovers from coil production, which produced some very rare varieties, was so unpopular that, according to Konwiser (American Stamp Collector's Dictionary), the philatelic community under the leadership of Arthur E. Owen was successful in having the practice stopped.  After 1924 all coil waste was destroyed. 


- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume One A-F
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted November 30, 2000

Editor's Note:  The reason that the dimensions are important is that these stamps were originally printed on rotary presses.  The printing plates for rotary presses were made similarly to those for flat plate presses except for the last step of bending them into a curve to fit the round mandrel of the press.  As a result of this bending, the face of the plate was stretched a small amount along the circumference of the plate.  Stamps intended for use in coils perforated vertically were stretched from side to side; stamps intended for use in coils perforated horizontally were stretched from top to bottom.

This stretch can most easily be measured by comparison of the frame line dimension with that of a stamp known to have been printed on a flat bed press.  A simple gauge can be made by pasting a known flat bed press stamp on a 3x5 index card.  The corners of the stamp are then cut away by notching.  Scott 501, the 2¢ Washington head from the 1917-19 series, and Scott 552, the 1¢ Franklin of the 1922-25 series, are good choices for this application since the stamps can be identified unambiguously as having been printed on a flat bed press.  The gauge is used by overlaying the stamp in question and comparing the dimensions of the stamp with the gauge.  If either dimension is longer than the gauge, then the stamp is a rotary press stamp and the stretch was along the longer dimension.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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