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...

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Cape of Good Hope Triangulars: 1853-1864 Four Pence Blues Part A


1853 SG 2 (Sc2a) 4 pence deep blue/ deeply blued paper

Into the Deep Blue

The Cape of Good Hope 1853-1864 Triangulars, one of the most iconic classical issues ever, deserves a space in every WW collectors album - don't you think?

Recently, I had the good fortune to obtain from a local dealer an accumulation collection of COGH triangles. The collection consisted of 46 stamps from 1853 Scott 1 1p brick red/ bluish paper to 1864 Scott 15 1sh emerald. They did not include the quite rare (and expensive) local "Woodblock" Scott 7, 9 issue of 1861. Therefore I will not cover the 1861 "Woodblock" stamps (not that I could afford to, anyway).

The COGH Triangular accumulation collection came with no catalog identification markers. That would be my job.  And so, reader, I am taking you along for the ride!

First up are the four pence blue triangulars: There are some 24 specimens, and I choose 17 of them for a closer look - 9 of them for this post A, and 8 of them for the next post B. 

We are going to learn by doing. Let's get started. 

Example One

First off, for triangulars, one has to show both the front and the back of the stamp. Why? The early 1853 ones issued by Perkins, Bacon were on paper more or less blued. They have their own catalog numbers (Both Stanley Gibbons and Scott). Later 1855-58 stamps were issued on non blued paper by Perkins, Bacon (PB), or by De La Rue (DLR) between 1863-64, and have their own catalog numbers. 

By the way, the bluing of the paper, which was caused by the introduction of ferrocyanide into the paper, was the result of an attempt by Perkins, Bacon to cause a chemical reaction (and ruin the face of the stamp) if anyone attempted to remove a cancel by chemical means.

Second, the catalogs (SG and Scott) break down the "more or less blued paper" stamps into two categories: deeply blued paper and slightly blued paper - each with their own catalog number. (Never mind that the intensity of blued paper had to do with how wet the paper was in the printing process (a random event), and not some deliberate move to make "deeply blued paper" stamps vs "slightly blued paper" stamps. ;-)

Third, the catalogs (SG, Scott), for the 4p blues/ paper more or less blued, only recognize two major blue stamp colors: "Deep Blue" or "Blue". This, despite the fact that the blue color comes in a myriad  of hues. 

So, with that very brief (but exacting) explanation above, what is the catalog number of Example One?

I chose 1853 Stanley Gibbons (SG) 2 deep blue / deeply blued paper (Scott 2a deep blue/deeply blued paper.  CV is $375. 

(By the way, notice the "anchor" watermark on the stamp? All COGH triangles should have this watermark. Apparently, though, the shape of the "anchor" can vary a bit if one is a close observer of those things. Also, this is an "upright" watermark, the usual condition. We will see an example of a "sideways" watermark later.)

Two comments regarding the catalog number...

Yes, this is a judgement call. (If one wants certainty, get a Cert from a reliable source.) But I did have help as we shall see in a bit.

In the world of COGH triangles, Stanley Gibbons (SG) is the leading catalog. I will usually place the SG number/ description first, with Scott number/description afterwards in parathesis.

Example Two

What about Example two?

It does have bluish paper on the back (Actually, not uncommonly, a green-blue color), but the intensity of the blue paper is not as much as Example one. 

And the bluish paper does seem to go the the edges. Why is this important? 

Because, for the 4d blues, we have, already, a "blue" inked stamp, and we need to make sure we are not just seeing the "blue" inked stamp showing through on the reverse, rather than actually blued paper. That is why it is important to look at the edges of the reverse, where we would not make that mistake. (Note:  A determination of true "blued" paper is made from the back, not from the front of the stamp. !!)

OK, so what is Example Two?

I believe this is most likely a 1853 SG 4 deep blue/slightly blued stamp (Scott 2 deep blue/lightly blued paper). CV is $170.

Example Three

Example Three is a lesson in how to determine bluing on the reverse side for the 4d blues. Note one can see "blue", but it does not go the edges? Yes, this is a 4d blue stamp that is showing evidence of blue ink on the reverse (from the stamp front), but the bluing is NOT from the paper. 

Also, note the color of the paper is cream, yellowish or tan? One can commonly see this paper color for the 1855-58 so called "white paper" issues. I say "white paper" in parenthesis, because this term can be misleading: the actual color of the paper is often cream, yellowish or tan i.e. "non-blue". And it turns out that stamps with truly white or pale appearing paper can be actual "blued" paper on close inspection (not always, but sometimes yes).

So what is Example Three?

This is a probable 1858 SG 6 deep blue/ white paper (Scott 4b deep blue/ white paper). CV is $90.

Example Four

Well, this is a tricky example, and one will need all of one's new found "blued paper/ non blued paper" knowledge to solve this one.

First, note the paper (besides the slightly blued aspect) seems "white"- certainly not cream or tan? Remember I just said that white appearing paper may be a clue for actual "blued" paper? ;-)

Now, let's look at the quite slight bluing on the back. Does some of the bluing go to the edges? It appears so. 

This example is probably a SG 4 deep blue/ slightly blued paper (Scott 2 deep blue/ lightly blued paper). CV $170. 

Comment: Example Four is not as good (or as convincing) of an example as Example Two above. In fact, If I received this stamp (and paid for it) based on this evidence, I think I would be annoyed. I suspect many people would think this is a 1858 Scott 6 deep blue/ white paper variety, which only has a CV of $90. (But the evidence points to SG 4 (Sc 2).)

Example Five

This is our first example in which I am calling a "blue" color, rather than "deep blue". How did I do it?

Quite simple. I took all of the 4d examples out to natural light, and picked those I thought fell into the category of "deep blue", while the rest were put into the category of "blue".  Admittedly, there are many hues of blues found for these stamps. But, what can one do (shrug) ?  (Of course, one could get a Cert regarding color if one really wanted to go that far.)

Ok, Example Five - note the prominent paper bluing into the edges of the stamp front. !! But recall that one should decide if the paper is more or less blued by examining the back of the stamp. And, yes, the bluing on the back spills over onto the edges.

Therefore, this should be SG 4a blue/ slight blued paper (Scott 2b blue/ bluish paper). CV $200.

Example Six

Example Six has a different blue stamp hue than Example Five, but I am still calling this "blue". I went back and forth on this one, because the spotty bluing on the back does appear to go to the edges. Yet the bluing on the back is not very impressive.

So SG 4a blue/ slight blued paper (Scott 2b blue/ bluish paper) versus SG 6a blue/ "white" paper* (Scott 4 blue/ white paper)? 

(* "white paper" for the SG6 varieties is actually often cream, yellowish or tan, while the stamps that actually do seem to have white paper, can be the "blued" variety. I know, a paradox. ;-)

I mentioned earlier that I did receive help in catalog categorizing the COGH triangles. And did I ever! Thanks to Chris Dorn (Handle (@beryillium Guy)) of The Stamp Forum, and the extensive back and forth discussion regarding my COGH stamps, I am now able to put together these COGH posts with some assurance of accuracy. If one navigates to the Cape of Good Hope thread, one will find the immense help Chris provided for these frankly difficult to I.D. stamps. 

I mention the help that Chris provided now, because he believes that Example Six may indeed be a SG 4a blue/ slight blued paper (Scott 2b blue/ bluish paper) CV $200. Admittedly, it is a subtle example, and for the purposes of my album, I'm leaving it as a SG4a (Sc2b) (probable) vs Sg6a (Sc4) (possible).

Example Seven

I am calling this Example seven a "deep blue" stamp color - it is a darker blue than Example Six "blue", for instance. 

But this stamp is another very difficult one: SG 4 deep blue /slight blued paper (Scott 2 deep blue/ lightly blued paper) versus SG 6 deep blue / "white" paper (Scott 4b deep blue/ white paper)? 

Based on the light bluing on the back that goes to the edges, and the white paper, this could be a SG 4 deep blue/ slightly blued paper. On the other hand, Chris Dorn was opining that there are some SG 6 that can be found on actual white paper (as opposed to the usual cream, yellowish or tan paper).

I decided I was having enough of the subtle differences, and decided to call this the lessor CV ($90 vs $170), that is SG 6 deep blue / "white" paper (Scott 4b deep blue/ white paper). (If this is the accurate I.D., then the SG6/Sc 4b paper is actually white!) Frankly, this example would probably need to get a Cert to see what the judgement is. Update note: Reviewing this, I'm more inclined to think this is a "blued" specimen (SG4/Scott2).

Example Seven - Sharp Printing
Perkins, Bacon & Co
This is really for future reference. This Perkins, Bacon stamp has a nice sharp print. Note the many white dots and the various patterns (boomerang shapes) in the blue background around "Hope"? This background pattern is sometimes referred to as "Engine Turned Background" (ETB).  Note the lattice work around the letters? Much of this is reduced or altered with the "woolly print" stamps found among the1863-64 De La Rue issues.

Example Eight

Ok, Example Eight is deep blue (to my eyes), and clearly has no blued paper on the reverse. This is a slam dunk SG 6 deep blue/ white paper (Sc 4b)

But notice the dark blue-brown spots on the triangular blue background area, mostly below "Postage" and "Pence"? It turns out that "dark blue" PB specimens seem to be more subject to sulfuretting, which can give those darker spots.

Example Nine

Ok, this Example Nine is similar to Example Eight: "Deep Blue" with brown sulfuretting spots on the front. The back, other than showing some blue ink from the stamp front showing through, is "white" (actually cream). Therefore SG 6 deep blue/ white paper (Sc 4b)

But, what about the sulfuretting? When we use the term  here, we are referring to actually a "Reduction" reaction.  (Oxidation occurs when a reactant loses electrons during the reaction. Reduction occurs when a reactant gains electrons during the reaction.) In fact, here it is thought that the "Reduction" is probably caused by atmospheric sulfurization (Coal burning for heat production, common in England/Scotland,  releasing H2S and So2). You will note, though, that stamp collectors commonly refer to sulfuretting as "Oxidation". But actually, for the sulfuretting of the 4d blues, it is chemically a "Reduction".  (Perhaps I should mention that I have a Chemistry degree.)

In addition,  it appears that the COGH 4d triangles used a pigment ink called "Prussian Blue". (Similar blue stamps of the era have been proven to have that pigment.) It is actually an Iron based pigment (Fe++/Fe+++), not lead (Pb). With sulfuretting, the Fe ion becomes Fe++ (receives an electron). With Oxidation (such as using Hydrogen Peroxide on the sulfuretted stamp), the Fe ion becomes Fe+++ (loses an electron).

Is it possible to reverse oxidation on a COGH 4d blue stamp using Hydrogen Peroxide 3% solution?

Take a look...

Example Nine Original and after H2O2 Treatment

Clearly, the brown spots are reduced (not entirely eliminated) using this process. But the result does prove that the brown spots were due to sulfuretting, and reversing by oxidation (using H2O2) is feasible. 

(Note: I am not advocating doing this to COGH stamps in general, but if one has a sulfuretted Four Pence Blue, it might be a worthwhile approach. I think I will elaborate on this with a future post.)

(Update: I have used H2O2 to remove sulfuretting on many more 4d blues, and it has been quite successful. In fact, most stamps show an even better result than shown here, with removal of all the brown spots.)

(Note: Caution on using H2O2 on blued paper specimens. Some very heavy hitter experts on COGH triangles do not advise this, as they are concerned it could remove bluing from the paper. But I tried it on a blued Four Pence specimen that had sulfuretting, and there was no loss of bluing at all (and it removed the sulfuretting!). Nevertheless, I would advise treading softly in this area.)

Out of the Blue
I hope you are becoming a bit more comfortable with identifying the Four Pence blue triangles (I know I am), and we will continue the conversation with the next post. !!

Comments appreciated!


  1. Without a doubt, one of your best posts. Ever. Very helpful.

    1. Thanks so much Roy - very much appreciated! Yes, I have really got into the COGH triangles, and there will be a number of additional posts on this topic.