1. The 202 different types of the United States 1908-1922 Franklin/Washingtons are confusing to
most collectors. The Franklin/Washington Classifier makes it possible for any collector to readily
and reliably identify and enjoy these interesting stamps. Systematic identification of
characteristics makes classification reliable and easy. When you have completed, you will be
confident that you have properly identified the stamp.
2. The characteristics used to identify the stamps can be divided into two groups: external
characteristics and hidden characteristics. These characteristics are then used to find the right
intersection on the accompanying chart to complete the identification. Within each intersection
in the matrix of characteristics there is only one unique stamp (with one exception). Scott's
Catalogue numbers are used.
The chart is an Excel 5.0 spreadsheet which should be readable in most recent spreadsheet
programs. It can be downloaded from Franklin/Washington Classifier.
After downloading, save the file and use it in your spreadsheet. You may have to adjust the
column widths to the lengths of the entries.
4. The chart places the external characteristics along the top and the far left of the chart.
External characteristics are design, denomination, color, perforation, type of paper, printing
method and type of press. The hidden characteristics are those found just inside of the left of
the chart. Hidden characteristics are watermark and type. The identification process always
starts with identifying the external characteristics so that the search can be narrowed to only
those stamps in the box which contains all the stamps having those characteristics.
5. External characteristics are those which can be readily determined by observation without
magnification and with ordinary philatelic tools like perforation gauges, tongs and go-no go
gauge you can make yourself which will sort out the type of press. There is also a paper color
guide here to help sort out the "bluish" paper.
a. The first external characteristics are the design, denomination and color (along the left
hand side of the chart). These characteristics can all be identified by observation.
1) A138 ONE CENT Franklin (ill. 1)
2) A139 TWO CENT Washington (ill. 2)
3) A140 3 Cent 3 Washington (ill. 3)
4) A148 8 Cent 8 Franklin (ill. 4)
5) Denomination is obvious
6) Color is only important to identify the 5¢ carmine errors -- otherwise colors
satisfied UPU and Post Office conventions. The 5¢ error resulted from accidentally using a 5¢
master die during a reentry to correct an error on a 2¢ plate.
b. The second external characteristics are the perforations or lack thereof (the remaining
external characteristics may be found along the top of the chart). Any perforation gauge will do
although the clear plastic Instanta Perforation Gauge from Stanley Gibbons is very useful in measuring perforations on mounted stamps and covers.
1) 12½ to 8½ gauge (ill. 5)
2) Regular - 12, 10, 11, 12½
3) Coils -- Horizontal and Vertical perf 12, 10, 8½ (ill. 6)
4) Compound perfs -- top first -- 11x10, 10x11, 12x10, 10x12 (ill. 7)
c. The third external characteristic is the printing method . Engraved stamps can be
distinguished from offset stamps by the "feel" (vibrations) when the upright edge of a thin stamp
tong is drawn across the bumps of ink left by the engraved plate on the surface of the paper.
There is no "feel" when you draw the tong across an offset stamp. (ill. 8) Still another method to
distinguish engraved stamps is to place a piece of thin aluminum foil on the stamp and press it
carefully onto the stamp. Engraved stamps will leave an impression which is visible on the foil.
d. The fourth external characteristic is type of printing press -- flat plate or rotary. The
original engravings are entered from a transfer roll on a flat plate in both processes and are the
same size when entry has been completed. Stamp plates which are destined for the rotary press
are then bent into an arc of a circle. The result of the bend is to stretch the plate on its face
parallel to the bend. This makes the rotary press stamps longer in one direction than the flat
plate stamps. This stretch is what we will use to measure to determine whether the stamp is
rotary press or not.
A simple gauge which you can make will be used to perform this test. (ill 10) The gauge
is made from a discarded (or at least inexpensive) stamp that can be proved to be flat plate
using unambiguous external characteristics. The stamp to use is any one of the flat plate,
perforated 11 issue #498-516. If the stamp is perforated 11, is of the proper design and
denomination, and is engraved, there is no question but that the stamp is from this series and
was printed on a flat plate press..
The 1¢ #498 is recommended for this use as it is common and not likely to be wrongly
classified. Also its color is more contrasty than the 2¢ #499 although either will work
satisfactorily. Next carefully glue the stamp on a card like a 3x5 index card or a similarly sized
piece of manila folder. Next, cut a square notch -- approximately ¼ inch -- out of opposite
corners of the stamp and card. Mark the gauge as a Go-No Go gauge.
To use the gauge, place the gauge over a stamp and align the edges of the gauge stamp
with the edges of the stamp in question at one notch. Next, compare the edges of the gauge
stamp with the stamp in question at the other notch. The stamp is flat plate if both edges of the
stamp in question align with or are within the edges of the gauge stamp in the notch. The stamp
is from a rotary press printing if either edge of the design is longer than the gauge stamp. (ill.
Note: Thanks to Ken Srail for his suggestion of this improved Go-No Go printing gauge.
1) There is a special note for 2 of the stamps -- #544 and #545. These two
stamps can only be distinguished by the rotary press stretch. The stamps are some coil waste
from plates which had been stretched either horizontally or vertically to make both varieties of
coil stamps. One stamp has the stretch in one direction and the other has the stretch the other
way. These can be measured using the Go-No Go gauge.
e. Another characteristic to be considered is the color of the paper. The "Bluish" papers
were made of paper with 35% rag stock instead of all wood pulp. They have a characteristic
color which is more gray than blue. While uncommon, they are worth watching for. Here is a
picture of a mint copy shown on both sides. (ill. 18) (ill. 19)
f. The final external characteristic is the color of the 5¢ carmine error. If the stamp is 5¢
and carmine like the 2¢, it has to be from the 2¢ error plate which had 3 reentries to repair the
original entries. Somehow or other, the 5¢ transfer roll was issued from the stockroom instead of
the 2¢ and no one caught the error until the stamps were being sold. The stamps thus defined
are #465 perf 10, #485 imperf, and #507 perf 11.
6. External characteristics uniquely identify 89 (including #544 and #545) of the 202 stamps --
7. To identify the remaining stamps, we now have to use the hidden characteristics. These
require learning a few more skills
a. The first hidden characteristic is the watermark:
1) Double Line USPS (ill. 12 and 12a)
2) Single Line USPS (ill. 13 and 13a)
The tools required to identify watermarks are a good (and safe) watermark fluid, an eye
dropper, tongs, a magnifying glass, a black background -- preferable a black dish of some sort --
and an adjustable light to be able to change the light's angle on the stamp. The stamp is picked
up with the tongs and placed face down in the black dish or tray. It is then moistened completely
with watermark fluid from the eye dropper. Careful examination with a magnifying glass or
jewelers loupe in a strong light will reveal watermarks. There are also some patented watermark
detectors which use filters to filter out the color of the stamp and make the watermark standout.
The best of these are very good but the U.S. single line USPS is one of the most difficult
watermarks to detect.
There are cautions when looking for watermarks. Single line watermarks are often
elusive. Often there is only one small piece of a letter on the stamp. Take care and look several
times before concluding that the stamp is unwatermarked. The color of the stamp and
cancellations make the chore one which takes skill. This is particularly true of the 6¢ and 10¢
denominations. Practice makes you better (but not perfect). Adjusting the direction of the
viewing light helps. I sometimes put the stamp aside until I can take a second look later if I am
not satisfied that I have the right identification.
b. Because there were so many plates made to print the commonest 2¢ and 3¢ stamp,
the tranfer rolls became worn and had to be replaced or repaired. This resulted in identifiable
differences in the stamps which were printed. Our stamp collecting forefathers identified these
types and they have found their way into the catalogue.
1) There are 5 types of 2¢ and 2 types of 3¢ engraved stamps:
a) 2¢ -- I, IA, II, III (ill. 14)
b) 3¢ -- I, II (ill. 15)
2) There are 5 types of 2¢ and 2 types of 3¢ offset stamps:
a) 2¢ -- IV, V, Va, VI, VII (ill. 16)
b) 3¢ -- III, IV (ill. 17)
Careful examination in good light with a strong (10 power) glass is required. (at least for
my eyes.) First, classify by use of external characteristics to isolate the possible types. Then
compare with the pictures of the types and their descriptions as found in the catalogue. It is also
helpful to have some reference copies to compare.
Use of the hidden characteristics described above identify the remaining stamps. 38
pairs can be distinguished by watermarks. The presence of a watermark positively distinguishes
4 other stamps from others of like external characteristics. The watermark enables us to
positively identify 80 stamps of the 202 in the series.
Six 2¢ engraved Washingtons require type analysis to separate three pairs and nine
require both type and watermark analysis. Six 3¢ engraved Washingtons require type analysis
to separate three pairs. Ten offset 2¢ Washingtons require type analysis to distinguish two sets
of five. Only one pair of 3¢ offset Washingtons requires type analysis.
8. There, now, it wasn't so tough after all! The chart is the key to using the external
characteristics to focus your attention on the single characteric which identifies a limited number
of possibilities to simplify the process. Good Sorting! Now you can look for sub-types! :-)
© 1998 James E. Watson