A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

'Roo Stamps of Australia - Watermarks and Dies

1913 Scott 7 5p orange brown
"Kangaroo and Map"
Wmk 8; Die II
Into the Deep Blue
The typographic "Kangaroo and Map" stamps of 1913-1945 Australia, affectionately known as the 'Roos, are a delight for the WW collector and specialist alike.

In fact, considering the 1913, 1915, 1915-24, 1929-30, 1932-36 five major issues (with five different watermarks as well), the watermark variations (inverted, sideways), the many recognized shades, and the four major die variations, the 'Roos offer a lifetime of study.

How should the WW collector approach, then, the 'Roos?

To begin with, here are the (major number) issues...51 stamps!

1913 Wmk 8 - 15 stamps
1915 Wmk 9 - 7 stamps
1915-24 Wmk 10 - 15 stamps
1929-30 Wmk 203 - 7 stamps
1932-36 Wmk 228 - 7 stamps
1945 Wmk 228 - 1 stamp (redrawn)

Of those, the 2017 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has sixteen stamps @ CV $5+-$10+, or 32%. The "Roos are moderately expensive to expensive for the WW collector, but, I must admit, I am willing to spend more, as I find them fascinating.

It is clear that the fastidious WW collector will need to check the watermarks for these stamps. Actually, the watermarks are usually quite evident, although Wmks 8,9,10 do look somewhat similar. A little bit of practice, though, and it should no longer pose a problem.

Although perhaps not as important, the WW collector should also become familiar with the four recognized major Die states that these stamps have - as the Die state can have major consequences for the value of the stamp.

In the next section (A closer look), a " 'Roo 101 Overview"will examine what the WW collector should know regarding watermarks and Dies.

As far as catalogues, the Scott Classic 1840-1940 has a level of detail that will satisfy many WW collectors. But also consulting a Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth & British Empire 1840-1940 catalogue will provide even more information.

For a specialist approach, obtain the Australian Commonwealth Specialists Catalogue (Brusden White).

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings = 1 Pound
1913 Scott 1 1/2p green
"Kangaroo and Map"
Wmk 8; Die I
The 1913 issue (the first regular issue for Australia proper, although there was a 1902 postage due issue) had 15 stamps (major numbers), and is characterized by being on watermark 8 "Wide Crown and Wide A" paper.

Scott ( and of course Stanley Gibbons) lists many (minor number) shade variations. As an example, Scott lists "green" (Scott 1), "yellow green" (Scott 1a), and "deep green" (Scott 1b) for shades on the 1/2p stamp.

Watermark 8
"Wide Crown and Wide A"
A wide "A" is below a wide crown. Note that the orb and cross rests on a horizontal line between two triangles at the top of the crown.

1913 1/p green
Wmk 8 Inverted; Die I
When one is watermarking, be alert to any variations from the usual "upright" watermark orientation.

Wmk 8 Inverted
"Wide Crown and Wide A"
Here, the 1/2p green (Scott 1e) shows an inverted watermark. That increased the CV from $7+ to $17+.

There are also "sideways" watermarks that have been reported. If one finds a 1/2p green with "Wmk sideways, crown pointing to the right", the CV is a cool $30,000. !!!

Now, let's introduce Die states. They are best examined with a magnifying glass, or a scan of the stamp.

The major Die states are Die I (SG Die I), Die II (SG Die II), Die III (SG Die IIA), and Die IV (SG Die IIB).

Die I is only found on the 1/2p, 1p, 2p, and 3p.

Die II was used extensively until 1945. Die III and Die IV are further variations on Die II.

Specialists actually recognize seven variations with Die II - but we will only review the major variations, that is Die III (SG IIA), and Die IV (SG IIB).)

Die III also has the Die II characteristics. (Die III found on 1p, 2p, and 6p.)

Die IV also has the Die II and Die III characteristics.

1913 1/2p green
Die I Close-up
Die I, as shown on the close-up of the 1/2p green, is characterized by a break in the inner vertical frame line at the lower left portion of the stamp even with the top of the denomination letters.

See it? It should be obvious!

As mentioned earlier, one would want to check for the Die I state for 1/2p, 1p, 2p, and 3p denomination stamps.

And, as it turns out, the 1/2 p denomination is only found in the Die I state! If one wants to look at a "for sure"  Die I stamp for comparison purposes, take a look at your 1/2p green!

1913 Scott 6 4p orange
Wmk 8: Die II
On the other hand, the 4p orange is only found as Die II. But Die II was used until 1945, and Die II stamps can show progressive damage to the frame lines 

1913 Scott 7 5p orange brown
Wmk 8; Die II Close-up
The Die II characteristic is simple- the break in the inner frameline was repaired - there is no break compared to Die I!

Note here on the close-up of the 5p orange brown that the vertical inner frameline even with the top of the denomination letters does not show a gap.

1913 Scott 6 4p orange
Wmk 8; Die II Close-up
Worn Plate
This 4p orange likewise is Die II - but shows evidence of wearing. Note the small gaps in the vertical inner frameline. I'm showing a worn Die II plate, so it will not be as confusing or surprising if one is trying to differentiate between Die I/Die II.

1913 Scott 2 1p carmine
Wmk 8; Die I
O.K., now that we know the difference between Die I/Die II, let's check out a stamp that can exist in either state.

The 1p denomination can exist as Die I, Die II, (or even Die III, which we will see an example of later).

The 1p also can be found with a number of (minor number) color variations- "red", "pale red", "rose red", besides the major number "carmine".

1913 Scott 2 1p carmine
Wmk 8; Die I Close-up
This 1p shows the characteristics of Die I - note the gap in the inner vertical frameline even with the top of the denomination letters.

1913 Scott 2d 1p carmine
Wmk 8: Die II
Here is a Die II 1p stamp. (When you learn the characteristics of Die III, you might want to come back to this scan, enlarge it, and assure yourself that this is not a Die III stamp.)

1913 Scott 2d 1p carmine
Wmk 8: Die II Close-up
A close-up of the above 1p shows the inner frameline has been repaired - no break in the inner frameline at the level of the top of the denomination letters. Therefore, Die II.

1913 Scott 5 3p olive bister
Wmk 8; Die I
I mentioned earlier that the 3p denomination can exist in the Die I state. It can also be found in a Die II state, and, if so, the CV increases from $10+ to $80+.

Colors found for the 3p include olive bister, pale olive green, and green in Scott. I should note that SG has the colors as olive and yellow-olive. There seems to be some (wide) discrepancy between Scott and SG catalogues for color variations for some of the denominations.

1913 Scott 5 3p olive bister
Wmk 8; Die I Close-up
A close-up shows this stamp is a Die I - see the gap in the inner frameline at the level of the denomination letters?

1915 Scott 43 2sh brown
Wmk 9; Die II
Now we are moving on to the January-August, 1915 seven stamp Wmk 9 "Wide Crown and Narrow A" issue.

All of the stamps in this issue can also be found in the 1913 Wmk 8 issue, so watermarking for Wmk 9 is mandatory.

There really is no need to check for Die states with this issue, except for the 6p bright blue. The 6p bright blue is commonly Die II (Scott 40b), and very rarely Die III (Scott 40c CV $1,500).

I should mentioned that the Scott catalogue does not label the 'Roos with their Die state if the stamp only exists in that one Die state. The SG catalogue, though, labels every 'Roo stamp with their Die state, even if that stamp only exists in that one Die state. So SG labels the 2sh brown as Die II - which it is- even though that is the only state it exists in.

Watermark 9
"Wide Crown and Narrow A"
The watermark 9 stamps have a "Wide Crown" and a "Narrow A". Note the crown has a different shape than the Wmk 8 "Wide Crown". The orb and cross lie in a depression between two peaks of the crown.

1915 Scott 46 2 1/2p dark blue
Wmk 10; Die II
The November, 1915 - 1924 fifteen stamp issue is characterized by Wmk 10 "Narrow Crown and Narrow A" paper. Most of the stamps are identical with either or both of the 1913 or 1915 issue in terms of appearance. Consequently, watermarking is again necessary.

SG labels the 2 1/2p dark blue a "Die II" - which it is. Scott says nothing about the Die state for this stamp, as it only exists in this one state, as Die II.

Watermark 10
"Narrow Crown and Narrow A"
Watermark 10 has a "Narrow Crown" and "Narrow A". The crown is significantly thinner than the wider crowns of Wmk 8 & Wmk 9.

1923 Scott 49 6p yellow brown
Wmk 10; Die IV (SG Die IIB)
Now, while looking at some stamps in the 1915-24 issue, let's take a look at what characterizes Die IV & Die III.

Recall that both Die IV and Die III have the Die II characteristic, in addition to the sign(s) for Die IV or Die III. I will not show the Die II characteristic for the Die IV or Die III examples, but you can check for yourself if you like by enlarging the scans.

Die IV (SG Die IIB)
Break in Outer Frame Line above "ST"
Die IV also shows Die III (SG Die IIA) Characteristics
AND Die II Characteristics
Die IV is characterized by a vertical "break" in the thick horizontal outer frameline between "ST" of "AUSTRALIA".

Do you see it? On some Die IV stamps it is obvious, and on other Die IV stamps, more subtle. With this stamp, it is on the more subtle end, but still obvious if one knows where to look.

And recall, if a stamp shows evidence of Die IV, it will also show the Die III sign.

Let's take a look...

Die IV also shows Die III (SG Die IIA) Characteristics
Break in the Inner Frame Line opposite Face of Kangaroo
The Die III sign is a break in the vertical inner left frameline across from the kangaroo face, specifically the eyes, 9 mm from the top of the design.

Hopefully, you see it. ;-)

If you see the Die III sign, check to see if there is also a Die IV sign.

If there is a Die IV sign (as there is with this stamp), then it is Die IV.
(Recall that Die IV stamps also always show the Die III sign,)

If there is no Die IV sign, then it would be a Die III stamp.

Let's look at another example of Die IV and Die III signs...

1920 Scott 51b 1sh blue green
Wmk 10; Die IV (SG Die IIB)
The Wmk 10 1sh blue green can either exist as a Die II or a Die IV stamp.

Die IV (SG Die IIB)
Break in Outer Frame Line above "ST"
Die IV also shows Die III (SG Die IIA) Characteristics
AND Die II Characteristics
It is pretty clear that this example is a Die IV stamp! Note the break in the outer frameline between the "ST".

It should also then have the Die III sign...

Die IV also shows Die III (SG Die IIA) Characteristics
Break in the Inner Frame Line opposite Face of Kangaroo
Indeed, see the break in the inner frameline opposite the kangaroo? So the stamp does show the Die III sign, but it is a Die IV stamp, as it also has the Die IV characteristic.

This could not be a Die III stamp anyway, as it is a 1 shilling  denomination. I mentioned earlier that true Die III stamps only exist in 1p, 2p, and 6p denominations.

Let's move on to the Wmk 203 1929-30 issue....

1929 Scott 96 6p brown
Wmk 203
The 1929-30 seven stamp issue is characterized by Wmk 203 "Small Crown and A Multiple" paper.

The stamps for this issue, according to SG, are either Die II or Die IV- one or the other, but not both. One does not need to necessarily check for Dies with this issue,as there is only one possibility for each stamp.

Watermark 203
"Small Crown and A Multiple"
The "Small Crown and A Multiple" watermark will not be confused with the preceding Wmk 8, Wmk 9, or Wmk 10 issues - the watermark is too different.

But it could be confused with the next watermark- Wmk 228.

Make sure there is only an "A", and not a "C of A". (And yes, I've made that mistake. ;-)

1929 Scott 97 9p violet
Wmk 203
Here is a 9p violet with Wmk 203 for Gwalia, Western Australia on November 10, 1932.

It was a gold mining town 830 km east of Perth in the Great Victoria Desert.

Gwalia State Hotel Built 1903
Today it is essentially a ghost town (except for tourists). The Sons of Gwalia Mine operated between 1897-1963. The first manager was a young mining engineer named Herbert Hoover (later 31st President of the United States).

1932 Scott 126 5sh yellow & gray
Wmk 228
The last major issue of the 'Roos was the 1932-36 seven stamp output on Wmk 228 "Small Crown and C of A Multiple" paper. One does not really need to check for Dies with this issue.

Watermark 228
"Small Crown and C of A Multiple"
Watermark 228 "Small Crown and C of A Multiple" resembles Wmk 203 superficially, but the "C of A" for Wmk 228 replaces the "A" in Wmk 203.

1935 Scott 125 2sh red brown
Wmk 228
The Wmk 228 issue also has the 2 shilling red brown stamp.

1935 Scott 125 2sh red brown Close-up
Non re-engraved has two horizontal lines
between "SH"  and Circle Numeral Tablet
A closer look reveals two lines between "SH" and the circle value tablet.

The 1945 re-engraved version (not shown) will have only one horizontal line between "SH" and the value tablet, among other differences.

Deep Blue
1915-24 "Roo Issue in Deep Blue
Wmk 10
Deep Blue (Steiner) has spaces for all the 51 major numbers for the 'Roos as found in the Scott catalogue.

I would think, if one took great interest in the 'Roos, one would need to add some quadrilled pages, and let the fun begin. !

1915 Scott 50a 9p lilac
Wmk 10: Die II
Out of the Blue
The 'Roo issues offer great possibilities for the collector.

I hope this basic introduction (watermarks, dies) will whet your appetite a bit. !!

Note: Gwalia State Hotel pic appears to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Curious what your method for detecting watermarks is?

    1. Black watermarking tray and watermarking fluid. I use Clarity, which is non-toxic and non-flammable.

    2. Great, thanks Jim

  2. Very clear and useful distinctions of the types and watermarks. Thanks very much for the detail photographs to illustrate the descriptions.

    1. Thanks Roy for the vote of confidence. That was my intent.