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...

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

1864-79 GB Penny Red Sheet Reconstruction: In Search of Plate 77

1864 Penny Red Pair
Sheet Position OK & OL; Plate 90
Into the Deep Blue
The British Penny Red of 1864-1879 (Wmk Large Crown, Perf 14, Re-engraved portrait)  provides the WW collector with many study opportunities.

Each stamp is identified with letters in the lower quadrants with its place in the sheet (12 stamps across each horizontal row, 20 stamps down each vertical row). The first row left to right is lettered AA to AL. The second row is lettered BA to BL. This continues to the 20th horizontal row, which is lettered TA to TL. For good measure, the upper quadrants of each stamp is lettered inversely.

Altogether, there are 240 stamps in the sheet that can be identified by position with these letters.

AA-AE .... JA-JG Sheet portion
One could reconstruct a sheet by finding a Penny Red for each of the 240 positions. Although it appears simple, it would still require examining thousands of Penny Reds to reconstruct a sheet.

AG-AL...JG-JL Sheet portion
Certainly, price wise, it could still be done today by the WW collector, as the basic CV for a Penny Red is only $2+. What a challenge!

KA-KF...TA-TF Sheet portion
Well, is that what I have done? After all, I'm showing here a reconstructed 1864-1879 Penny Red sheet!

KG-KL...TA-TL Sheet portion
Alas, I cannot take credit for it. Perhaps five years ago, I bought the reconstructed sheet for a nominal bid price (I don't even remember how much) at our local stamp club auction.

Thank you to the previous collector who spent many hours necessarily putting this together!

Perfins on Penny Reds
Well, what further study can be done on the 1864 Penny Red?

Obviously shades. Scott lists rose red (major number) and brick red and lake red. As we present the many examples following of the Penny Red for this post, it appears that there may be even more shades.

One could identify the numeral cancel postmarks by town or post office station. I could, but I won't at this time. However, if the reader wishes to identify the towns, please post them in the comments section, - that would be great!

One could also identify perfins on the Penny Reds. One could look for reentries (specialized project). One could look for watermark differences (specialized project).

Plate Numbers are contained in the Scroll Work
Note: 2  1  2 (Plate 212)
Or... one could identify plate numbers!

It turns out that all of the 1864-1879 Penny Reds have embedded in the scroll work on each side of the stamp, the plate number!

Plate numbers used for these Penny Reds include Plate 71 to  Plate 225 (Numbers 69,70, 75,126, & 128 were never used because of defects; Plates 226 - 228 were made, but never used). Altogether, some 152 plate numbers can be found. Of those, I have 96 different plate numbers (63%).

The 58 common plate numbers have a CV of $3. Then they go up from there: 45 plate numbers are CV $10+-$80+. Plate 225 is $825.

And then the mother of all plate numbers.....plate 77.. is CV $500,000. !!!

Plate 77 was also rejected, but some got out. One specimen is in the Tapling Collection, and there are eight or nine others that are known. In 1944, a copy (Stamp MI) was found in a box among a million stamps sold. So, they are out there waiting to be discovered. !!

(For a heated discussion about the validity of a recent "plate 77" find, see this thread on the Stampboards.com forum. More here.)

To paraphrase...

Expert: Plate 77 is extremely rare. You have a snowball's chance in hell of finding one.

Me: So you are saying I have a chance?

So, since I have a chance, let's examine all the plate numbers for the Penny Red Reconstruction Sheet.

1864-1879 Penny Red Plate Numbers Examination...a closer look

AA (220)...AB (118)..AC (106)..AD (172)..AE (149)...AF (123)

AC appears to me to be a "deep lake red" color. AE is "rose red". Some others are "lake red"?

AA - Plate 220
AE (220) is $9, while AE (149) is $7.

AG (---)..AH (---)..AI (118)..AJ (---)..AK. (106)...AL(107)

AL (107) is $9.

You will note here that, on three stamps, I was unable to determine the engraved plate number.  Of the 240 stamps, I was unable to determine the plate number on 31 of them (13%). That actually isn't too bad. Since the plate number is engraved twice (in each side scroll), the chances are enhanced that it will be identified. On the other hand, a heavy cancellation will be a challenge for identification..

BA (85)..BB (193)..BC (79)..BD (100)..BE (86)..BF (89)

BA (85) is $4, and BE (86) is $5.

BG (--)..BH (103)..BI (72)..BJ (74)..BK (--)..BL (157)

BH (103) & BI (72) are $5.

BI - Plate 72
This is the earliest plate I have (plate 72). As plate 71 was released April 1, 1864, my example could not have been far behind. Note the nice rose red color.

CA (85)..CB (184)..CC (198)..CD (98)..CE (168)..CF (167)

CE (168) is $11, while CC (198) & CD (98) are $7.

CG (110)..CH (208)..CI (171)..CJ (90)..CK (--)..CL (--)

CH (208) is $18+, while CG (110) is $11+.

CH - Plate 208
Many of the plate numbers in the 200s have a higher CV. Note this stamp is fairly well centered on three sides, with the left side cut into by perforations. It is difficult indeed (impossible?) to find a well centered four sided copy that isn't cut into by perforations.

DA (76)..DB (79)..DC (150)..DD (99)..DE (111?)..DF (140?)

DD (99) is $6.

DA - Plate 76
Here is plate 76 on a nice rose red....plate 77 must be around the corner. ;-)

DG (171?)..DH (156)..DI (171)..DJ 80?)..DK (100)..DL (138)

All are at the nominal $3. Both the Scott 1840-1940 catalogue and the SG 1840-1970 British Commonwealth catalogue have a list of CVs for every plate of the 1864-1879 penny red.

EA (150)..EB (--)..EC (170?)..ED (124?)..EE (78?)..EF (176?)

All are at the nominal $3.

Note that a number of plate identifications have a "?" after the identification? I am reasonably certain about the identification, but not positively certain. 

EG (123)..EH (198)..EI (85)..EJ (206)..EK (160)..EL (108)

EJ (206) is $11, while EH (198) is $7.

FA (212)..FB (120)..FC (74)..FD (124)..FE (140)..FF (145)

FA (212) is $13+.

Note the earlier plate ( FC (74)) has a rose red color.

FA - Plate 212
The lake red color is seen on this late plate. Recall that the numbered 200+ plates often have a higher CV.

FG (--)..FH (144)..FI (148)..FJ (100)..FK (199)..FL (150)

FH (144) is $26, while FK (199) is $15.

FH - Plate 144 CV $26
This plate is one of the higher valued found in the reconstructed sheet. This particular example may have been cut on three sides. I should mention, as an aside, that there are imperforated specimens known for 48 plates - see SG (very high CV).

GA (94)..GB (147)..GC (162?)..GD (200)..GE (208)..GF (212)

GE (208) is $18+, GF (212) is $13+, and GC (162) is $9.

GA (94) & GB (147)
I'm struck by the particularly rich colors of this grouping. Deep Brick Red and Deep Lake Red?

GG (96)..GH (92)..GI (125?)..GJ (150)..GK (81)..GL (150)

All are the nominal $3.

HA (78)..HB (160)..HC (177)..HD (138)..HE (187)..HF (120)

All are nominal $3. But among these, are a forger's dream.

HC - Plate 177

HC - Plate 177 Close-up
A popular way for a forger to make a "77" plate is to obtain a "177" plate, such as this one, and eliminate the "1".  ;-)

HG (--)..HH (188)..HI (88)..HJ (144?)..HK (108?)..HL (141?)

HJ (144?) is $26, HH (188) is $12+, HL (141?) is $11+, and HI (88) is $10.

A lot of value here.

IA (184?)..IB (--)..IC (172)..ID (200)..IE (102?)..IF (129)

IF (129) is $11.

IG (81)..IH (109)..II (124)..IJ (123)..IK (--)..IL (--)

IH (109) is $4+.

JA (149)..JB (--)..JC (99)..JD (116?)..JE (--)..JF (81?)

JD (116?) is $11+, JA (149) is $7, and JC (99) is $6.

JG (176)..JH (--)..JI (87)..JJ (--)..JK (177)..JL (90?)

All are nominal $3.

JJ (--)
This Penny Red illustrates two possibilities.

One can check the numeral cancellations for towns and post office stations.

And see "JJ"? Those are my initials!  Did you find a stamp embedded within the constructed sheet that represents yours?

KA (--)..KB (85?)..KC (160)..KD (87?)..KE (193)..KF (118?)

KB (85?) is $4.

KG (154)..KH (125)..KI (94)..KJ (203)..KK (119)..KL (97)

KJ (203) is $21, while KI (94) is $6.

KJ - Plate 203 (CV $21)
Another high value 200+ numbered plate.

LA (93)..LB (95)..LC (162)..LD (148)..LE (78)..LF (97?)

LC (162) is $9.

 LE - Plate 78

Here is Plate 78. Hey, where is plate 77? ;-)

LG (104?)..LH (197?)..LI (190)..LJ (95?)..LK (102)..LL (207?)

LH (197?) and LL (207?) are $11, while LI (190) is $7+, and LG (104?) is $6.

I suppose the problem with higher CV plates is, if you were going to sell them, most customers would want certainty and not a "?" specimen. ;-)

MA (164?)..MB (164?)..MC (164?) ..MD (--)..ME (193)..MF (78?)

MA,MB, & MC (all attached) appears to be (164?), a $9 apiece value.

Attached MA-MB-MC (164?)
For plating other early issues, having attached strips is invaluable. For the 1864-1879 Penny Red, that luxury is not so much needed, as all stamps can be placed within a plated sheet by using the corner letters.

MG (207)..MH (125)..MI (167)..MJ (99?)..MK (--)..ML (140)

MG (207) is $11, while MJ (99?) is $6.

Large Crown Wmk Varieties
A variety of watermark can be found on MA (ML) up to plate 96. Unfortunately, I don't have any examples. (The TA (TL) variety doesn't show up on the 1864-79 Penny Red issue.)

State II of Large Crown Watermark
The Large Crown Watermark was altered from State I in 1861 (See prior Illustration), and hence all 1864-79 Penny Reds have the State II watermark.

Inverted watermarks exist for most of the plates - worthwhile checking one's collection.

NA (154?)..NB (--)..NC (--)..ND (92)..NE (78)..NF (79)

All are nominal $3.

What are the problems with identifying the plate numbers? For one, the engraver may have done a poor job with engraving the plate numbers. And the numbers are difficult to discern not infrequently. A "0" can be a "8" or a "6" or a "3", or vice-versa. A "1" can sometimes be mistaken for a "7" or a '4" or vice versa. In my experience, only the "2" is usually without confusion.

NG (86)..NH (--)..NI (118)..NJ (87?)..NK (153)..NL (101?)

NK (153) & NL (101?) are $11+.

OA (146)..OB (125)..OC (216)..OD (--)..OE (125)..OF (--)

OC (216) is $24, while OA (146) is $7.

QC - Plate 216 (CV $24)
A well centered specimen (which this is not) commands a 50% premium, according to Scott. Based on my sample of stamps, I think the premium is too low. ;-)

OG (156)..OH (124)..OI (151?)..OJ (96)..OK (90)..OL (90)

OI (151?) is $11+. OK and OL (plate 90) are attached.

PA (187)..PB (98?)..PC (184)..PD (100)..PE (203)..PF (179)

PE (203) is $21, while PB (98?) is $7.

PE - Plate 203 (CV $21)
This PE specimen is perfectly centered, yet the perfs cut into the design. !!

I should mention that all the Victoria Head portraits for the 1864-79 Penny Reds are  the re-engraved type. 

"PG" (FG-96)) ..PH (97?)..PI (140)..PJ (174)..PK (140)..PL (--)

The only error the previous collector made with the sheet reconstruction: He placed an FG stamp where a PG stamp should go.

PH (97?) is $4+.

PJ (174) -PK (140) -PL (--)
Clear Cancels
This is beyond the plate identification topic I'm covering here, but be aware that attractive town cancellations and circular datestamps also command a premium.

QA (209)..QB (150)..QC (76?)..QD (163)..QE (89?)..QF (145)

QA (209) is $10+. while QD (163) is $9.

QG (157)..OH (184)..QI (84)..QJ (184?)..QK (90)..QL (92)

All are nominal $3.

RA (167)..RB (176)..RC (--)..RD (122)..RE (129)..RF (196)

RG (129) & RF (196) are $11.

RG (79)..RH (119)..RI (124?)..RJ (140)..RK (114?)..RL (91?)

RK (114?) is $16, while RL (91?) is $7+.

SA (158)..SB (110)..SC (165)..SD (196)..SE (98?)..SF (--)

SB (110) & SD (196) are $11+, while SC (165) & SE (98?) are $7.

Changing the topic, are you getting bored with the relative simplicity of the 1864-79 Penny Red issue?

1841-1858 Penny Reds
One-tenth of a sheet (Upper left hand corner)
Perhaps you would like something more challenging, such as the 1841-58 Penny Reds?

Although reconstructing a sheet for the 1841-58 Penny Reds is no more difficult than for the 1864-79 Penny Reds, the expense would be more. CV ranges in the $10 category on up for each stamp.

The varieties of 1841-58 Penny Reds are also more complex: Imperf/perf 14/perf16- bluish/white paper- original/re-engraved portrait. See my GB 1840-1900 post.

The real challenge comes with plating.

SG Volume I Queen Victoria Catalogue
Each stamp is usually identified plate wise by the position and shape of the bottom corner letters. One will need a good reference source, such as the catalogue above. Of interest, some of the plates used for the Penny Black (Plate 1b, 2,5,8,9,10,11) were also used for the Penny Red.

Now, back to the 1864-79 Penny Reds...

SG (167)..SH (72)..SI (110)..SJ (--)..SK (--)..SL (154)

SI (110) is $11+.

TA (134?)..TB (110)..TC (76)..TD (137)..TE (98?)..TF (117)

TB (110) is $11+, while TE (98?) is $7.

TG (95)..TH (199?)..TI (158)..TJ (120)..TK (89?)..TL (--)

TH (199?) is $7+.

According to SG, re-entries are few for the 1864-79 Penny Red issue. The best ones are found on SL & TL on plate 83, and MK & TK of plate 71. I don't have those specific examples.

GE   Plate 208
Out of the Blue
Well, I didn't find Plate 77, but I came close. (Plate 76, Plate 78). ;-)

I also found Plate 177, the forger's favorite plate for making 77s.

And there were plenty of higher valued Penny Red plates found.

Hope this little excursion will whet your appetite for your own exploration of the Penny Reds.

Note: All the stamp scans are mine, except the watermark "Large Crown" diagram is from the SG 1840-1970 British Commonwealth catalogue, and is used here for educational purposes.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Hi, I have a collection of Penny Red (about 90), of course the 76 and 78 too, but no 77.
    If you are interested please contact me at mensa@europe.com and I can send some pictures.

    1. Hi Neoridendo
      I'm not interested, but I published your offer in case a reader is interested. Good luck!

    2. plate 123 one cent penny red, is it on the list with value. Tks

    3. Hello Artsong

      Plate 123 is listed with nominal value @ $4.

    4. Two pence blue 1862.
      Plate 9

    5. If Scott 29 2p deep blue Wmk 20 "Large Crown" "A8" design, then Plate 9 = CV $12.50.

  2. Hi we have a penny red stamp on the original envelope but it only has two letters L&D on left corners plate number 82, can you please guide us with more Info on this stamp? Thanks

    1. Hi - It is unclear which stamp you are talking about with your description. If you actually only have a letter on the bottom left and right corners of the stamp respectively (L & D), and it is a "Penny Red", then those stamps were issued between 1841-1858. See my blog post on them: http://bigblue1840-1940.blogspot.com/2012/05/great-britain-1840-1900.html

      But if you see engraved "82" for the plate number, it has to be part of the "Penny Red" 1864 issue. A plate "82" stamp on cover has a catalogue value of $24.

  3. Just stumbled upon this page and found it very informative,many thanks. Bought a collection 35 years ago at a house clearance auction and finally sat down during lockdown and became fascinated all over again.Got 12 penny reds and you have helped me catalogue them,thanks kev

  4. I have some that don't appear to have plate numbers at all, but can't find any information on them. Do you know if the plate numbers are missing or worn off? Any idea of value? Thanks!

    1. All of the Penny Reds 1864-1879 had plate numbers engraved on them. Admittedly, sometimes they are difficult to discern. If you can't find a plate number, unfortunately, that would make the stamp less valuable, as key information is missing. Keep looking!

  5. Good evening Jim. I'm dazzled. I have a 8 strip but the upper corners don't have a letter. There is only a sun? they are over stamped 198. Please advise. The lover corners are as follows: top: CJ, CJ, CK, CJ. bottom: DI, DI, DH?, DJ. Many thanks.

    1. mihai you have the 1841-1858 penny reds. There is a section in this blog post (above) which discusses them.