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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Argentina Stamps - A guide to watermarking

1864 Scott 12 10c green "Bernardino Rivadavia"
Wmk 84 "Italic RA"
Into the Deep Blue
Argentina is a wonderful country for the classical era stamp collector, but it comes with a caveat.


Admittedly, the watermarking concerns are not as terrifying as Brazil's "Who's afraid of watermarking the 1918-41 series?" with eleven different, but often similar watermarks. But the nine commonly seen watermarks found for Argentina pose their own problems.

And Argentina used watermarked paper quite extensively between 1864-1867 and 1892-1970. In comparison, the United States stopped using watermarked paper about 1915.

Not all of Argentinian issues during this wide time frame need to be watermarked if the process is not needed for identification purposes. But there are many stamps during the classical era that do require watermarking. For instance, the "San Martin" issues of 1917, 1918-19, 1920, 1920, and 1922-23 are characterized by "Honeycomb", "Unwatermarked", "Multiple Suns", "Large Sun-7mm", and "R.A. in Sun" watermarking types respectively.

And a familiarity with the watermarks of Argentina makes collecting the stamps so much more enjoyable!

With that in mind, a group of stamps and issues have been selected to highlight the watermarks.

By the way, I use Clarity watermarking fluid, which was developed at the request of the American Philatelic Society, and is safe for philatelic materials, and is non-hazardous to use.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Centavos = 1 Peso
1865 Scott 11 5c brown rose "Bernardino Rivadavia"
Perf 11 1/2; Dull/Worn Impressions
Wmk 84 "Italic RA"
This catalogue wasn't kidding about the dull/worn impressions based on my copy of the 1865 5c brown rose. ;-)

Although watermarked paper is common generally for Argentina, most of the earlier stamp issues of 1860-1892 were unwatermarked, except for the 1864-67 "Rivadavia" issue of seven stamps.

They have the "Italic RA" watermark.

Wmk 84 "Italic RA"
My copies show the watermark quite clearly, and actually watermarking fluid was not necessary to see them.

One will need to check for watermarks, as the 1867-72 five stamp issue, similar in appearance to the 1864-67 issue, is unwatermarked.

1892 Scott 104 2p dark green "San Martin"
Wmk 85 "Small Sun, 4 1/2 mm"
Beginning in 1892, many of the stamps of Argentina are watermarked.

The fifteen stamp 1892-95 issue has the Wmk 85 "Small Sun 4 1/2mm" watermark.

1892-95 Issue - "Rivadavia", "Belgrano", "San Martin"
Wmk 85 "Small Sun, 4 1/2 mm"
Here's a look at part of the 1892-95 issue.

Wmk 85 "Small Sun, 4 1/2 mm"
The Wmk 85 watermark is characterized by a small diameter sun ( 4 1/2 mm), and a rather simple eyes, nose, mouth marking. Only one watermark (or partial watermark) is found on each stamp.

BTW, my pics of the watermarks will give you a realistic idea of what the "real" watermarks look like, but it will help to use them in conjunction with the catalogue watermark illustrations for identification.

1c brown "Rivadavia"
1892 Scott 93 "Wmk 85 Small Sun" & 1896 Scott 107 "Wmk 86 Large Sun"
But Argentina then had a subsequent issue in 1896-97 with many "identical" stamps, save for a new watermark - the "Large Sun - 6 mm".

Wmk 85 "Small Sun 4 1/2 mm"; Wmk 86 "Large Sun 6 mm"
Turning the 1c brown stamps just illustrated over, reveals the different watermarks.

1896-97 Issue - "Rivadavia", "Belgrano", "San Martin"
Wmk 86 "Large Sun 6 mm"
Here is a scan of some of the stamps in the 1896-97 issue.

Wmk 86 "Large Sun 6 mm"
Left lower row stamp: Wmk 85 "Small Sun 4 1/2 mm"
The large sun watermark is characterized by a sun 6 mm in diameter, and eyes, nose, mouth drawing that is more complex (lines for the eyes and mouth).

It is not too difficult to differentiate the small sun and large sun watermarks. Note that there is only one watermark found on each stamp with the (small) size stamp format.

1911 Scott 177 5c vermilion "Agriculture"
Wmk 86 "Large Sun" without Face
The "Large Sun - 6 mm" watermarks continue with the 1899-1903 "Liberty Seated" issue, the 1908-09 "San Martin" issue, and the 1910 "Centenary of the Republic" issue. But I will pass over those issues here, because the watermarks for them are not a distinguishing factor.

However, the 1911 two stamp larger format (19 X 25 mm) Agriculture issue has an interesting variation on the "Large Sun" watermark - no face!

Wmk 86 "Large Sun 6 mm" without Face
Here is Wmk 86 without a "face", as found with Scott 177-78.

1911 Issue "Agriculture"
Wmk 85 "Large Sun 6mm" with Face
Wmk Variation: Straight Rays vs Wavy Rays
In addition, the 1911 "Agriculture" issue (18 X 23 mm) has two variations of the "Large Sun - 6 mm" watermark. The stamps can be found with straight rays (4c, 20c, 24c), or wavy rays (2c), or both (1/2c, 1c, 3c, 10c, 30c, 50c).

Of interest, Scott gives no extra number, not even a minor number, for these watermark variations.

Left: 1911 Scott 179 1/2c violet "Agriculture"
Wmk 86 "Large Sun" with Straight Rays
Right: 1911 Scott 180 1c brown ocher
Wmk 86 "Large Sun" with Wavy Rays
Here is a closeup of two 1911 stamps. Both can have either variation.

Upper Row: Wmk 86 "Large Sun 6 mm" with Straight Rays
Lower Row: Wmk 86 "Large Sun 6mm" with Wavy Rays
The pic should clearly illustrate the watermark variation.

Left: 1912 Scott 192 3c green "Agriculture"
Wmk 87 "Honeycomb" (Horiz. or Vert.)
Right: 1915 Scott 212 5c red
The "Agriculture" motif design continues. The 1912 twelve stamp issue, though, has the Wmk 87 "Honeycomb" watermark.

Then the 1915 three stamp issue is unwatermarked.

Top Row: Wmk 87 "Honeycomb"
Bottom Row: Unwatermarked
The "Honeycomb" watermark is quite apparent.

One should to be aware that, for the 1c, 2c, and 5c denominations, they were also issued on unwatermarked paper in 1915.

1917 "San Martin" issue - Wmk 87 "Honeycomb"
Fair warning- the 1917-1923 "San Martin" various issues to be discussed/illustrated here come in five states: four watermarks and unwatermarked. !!

The 1917 issue of sixteen stamps showing small and large format portraits of "San Martin" was issued on "Honeycomb" watermarked paper.

BTW, do not confuse these large format "San Martin" stamps with the similar issue of 1916. The 1916 issue has "1816-1916" script along the lower central panel, while the 1917 (and subsequent issues) have "centavos" or "pesos" script for the lower central panel.

1918-19 Scott 259 50c gray black "San Martin"
In 1918-19, a   twelve stamp "San Martin" issue was forthcoming, but on unwatermarked paper.

1920 Scott 272 12c blue "San Martin"
Wmk 88 "Multiple Suns"
The 1920 eleven stamp "San Martin" issue introduced a new watermark, Wmk 88 "Multiple Suns"

Wmk 88 "Multiple Suns"
The "Multiple Suns' watermark with several suns and many rays going everywhere, and covering the entire paper, is quite distinctive.

1920 Scott 297 5c red "San Martin"
Wmk 89 "Large Sun - 7mm"
In 1920, there was also a seven stamp "San Martin" issue on another watermark. This watermark has a large sun, measuring 7 mm in diameter, and features several suns and/or ray complexes on each stamp.

Wmk 89 "Large Sun - 7 mm"
Wmks are closer together, so several appear on one stamp
Here are Wmk 89 "Large Sun - 7 mm" examples.

Compared these to the Wmk 86 "Large Sun - 6mm" watermarks of 1896-1911, where only one sun appears on a stamp.

Scott also states the rays are heavier for this watermark, compared to the earlier Wmk 86, but I don't really see that as a distinguishing factor.

1922-23 Scott 306 2c brown "San Martin"
Wmk 90 "RA in Sun"
Then in 1922-23, another  issue with eleven "San Martin" stamps was produced, but on Wmk 90 "RA in Sun" watermarked paper.

Wmk 90 "RA in Sun"
Diameter of Sun 10mm for issues before 1928
The Wmk 90 "RA in Sun" was actually in use for a long time on the stamps of Argentina. Between 1922, and continuing up to, but not including 1928, the diameter of the sun for these watermarks is measured @ 10 mm.

Also note the ray linkages between any two suns watermarks meet at a slight angle (not straight)? A later introduced watermark (Wmk 288) will have straight ray linkages between sun watermarks.

1928 Scott C16  1.08p rose & dark blue 
"Wings across the Sea"
Wmk 90 "RA in Sun" 9 mm diameter
I show this 1928 Air post stamp, because, beginning in 1928, and persisting up to 1970, the Wmk 90 paper was used, but a bit modified. The Sun is now 9 mm in diameter, rather than 10 mm in diameter. 

Wmk 90 "RA in Sun" -9mm diameter
For Issues 1928 and later
Here are the 1928 and later Wmk 90 examples with a measured sun of 9 mm. This is considered a minor variation, and no separate Scott numbers are given for this variation. Scott also has a note that Wmk 90 exists in several "types", but no further explanation is given.

1927 Scott 364a (Pelure paper) 2c dark brown
"San Martin"; Type of 1923-31 Issue
Without Period after Value
Wmk 205 "AP in Oval"
In 1923, a new "San Martin" small format design was used, and this issue has a period after the value. The paper is Wmk 90 "RA in Sun".

In 1923-24, a similar design "San Martin" issue was produced, but without a period after the value. This issue likewise has the Wmk 90 "RA in Sun" watermark.

But in 1927, the "without period after value" "San Martin" design was put on Wmk 205 "AP in Oval" paper for seven stamps. The "AP in Oval" watermark was formerly used exclusively for Postal Savings stamps. In fact, the "AP" stands for "Ahorro Postal" (Savings stamp).

Wmk 205 "AP in Oval"
I show a live example of Wmk 205, but it is not ideal, so I am including an illustration of the watermark here also.

1935-51 Lithographed Issue - Wmk 90 "RA in Sun"
The 1935-51 lithographed issue definitives used Wmk 90 "RA in Sun" paper. 

1935-51 Issue: Typographed Varieties
BTW, some of the stamps were also issued typographed.

1935-51 Lithographed Issue - Wmk 90 "RA in Sun"
Here are some more of the lovely 1935-51 issue with Wmk 90 "RA in Sun".

1949 Scott 497 50c red & orange "Oil Well"
1942-50 Lithographed Issue- Types of 1935-51 Issue
Wmk 288 "RA in Sun with Straight Rays"
But some of the stamps of the 1935-51 type  can also be found with Wmk 288 "RA in Sun with Straight Rays".Sixteen of the stamps (Scott 485-500) were issued between 1942-1950 on this Wmk 288 paper.

Wmk 288 "RA in Sun with Straight Rays"
As noted, the linkages between the rays and the suns are mostly straight. ;-) The difference between Wmk 288 and Wmk 90 seems kind of minor, similar to other differences in watermarks that were not given "major" recognition. Be that as it may, if one is collecting past 1940, one will need to separate out Wmk 90 from wmk 288 stamps for the 1935-51 type designs.

Deep Blue
1899-1903 Issue "Liberty Seated"
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 67 pages for Argentina, including 29 pages for the many "Official" and "Official Department" stamps. All of the major Scott numbers have a space.

1892 Scott 96 5c carmine "Rivadavia"
Wmk 85 "Small Sun, 4 1/2 mm"
Out of the Blue
I created this blog post about the Argentinian watermarks to help myself, as well to share with others. When I have a group of stamps from Argentina that require watermarking, I can refer to the blog post, open the catalogue, and, with those tools, be better prepared to successfully identify the watermarks based on the groundwork already done.

I hope the reader will find it useful too.

Note:The Wmk 205 and Wmk 288 images were scanned from the Scott catalogue for educational purposes.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Great article, Jim. Thanks for all of your hard work and for sharing all of your information with us.

    1. I enjoyed putting it together. Thanks Jerry!

  2. Very nice article, watermarks are an unknown terrain for me.

    thanks for this watermark lesson

    1. Axel - Yes, it may come in handy when you get to Argentina. ;-)

  3. Jim, this are for sure useful information for every stamp collector. I tried in the past to do such an article about wmk on Romanian stamps (https://blogdetimbrofil.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/dictionar-filigran/), but on a lower scale, and I noticed that it's an interesting subject for readers. Congrats for your great work! Catalin

    1. Thanks Catalin - your blog postings continue to be some of the best out there for WW collectors.

      I consider myself to be an ordinary collector, and if I find it useful to have a review of Argentinian watermarks, I suspect others - the majority which are also ordinary collectors- will find it useful too. ;-)

  4. Nice piece of work and very useful ! Thanks a lot !

    1. Thanks you - nice to know it is appreciated!

  5. Very useful my compliments ! One question . the distance between suns are the same in watermarks 288 and 90 ?

    1. I do not do a careful measurement, but roughly, yes.

    2. Thanks Jim for your answer. I'm an italian collector and I'm struggling to proper classify Argentina stamps.

      Let me try another question : Would you agree ( generally speaking ) on the fact that wm 90 is more visible than wm 288? I know it is not an accurate statement...but sometimes it seems the case….
      Thanks again and my best wishes !

    3. Perhaps. I've not done enough samples of Wmk 90/Wmk 288 to know for sure.

      All the best!

  6. Jim, this article is a great help! Was pulling my hair out over a couple of those "RA in Sun" watermarks that are supposed to have "bent" lines, but appear to have wiggly or disconnected lines instead of "bent." I next tried looking at the "RA" in the sun, expecting the differences in Scotts' reference pictures to carry through to the designs, but they do not. My next step is to find some issues in which there can only be one watermark and use those as a reference. Thanks again! -Steve