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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Variety Focus: Sweden's 20/20 öre "Double Print" Stamp

A closer look at Sweden 1876: 20 öre red on 20 öre faint orange Ringtyp perf 14; Facit no. 23/Scott no. 23b

One of my specialized collections is of the Swedish "Ringtyp" (sometimes called "Circle Type") issues of 1872-99. Within these old sets of stamps, my favourite issue is the so-called 20 öre "Double Print" stamp, which is unique in the world of philately.

The first ringtyp stamps were issued on July 1, 1872, to replace the previous "Vapentyp" ("arms" type) stamps. Nine values between 3 öre and 1 riksdaler were issued, all perforated 14, all with the same basic design: a large central numeral of value inside a circle or "ring." One of the primary reasons for this stamp issue was that the numbers on the previous vapentyp stamps were small and sometimes difficult to read-- the ringtyp design featured a much more prominent numeral inside a circle in the center of the stamp.

Facit Nr. 22f, 20 öre printed in extremely pale orange
The 20 öre value was printed in red. A number of printings between 1872 and 1877 produced an assortment of shades of red-- red was a difficult color to reproduce exactly. However, one of the printings of the 20 öre stamp was done in a colour of "dull orange" SO pale that the design could almost not be seen (Facit no. 22f). This printing was sent to post offices in 1875, but it quickly became a problem. Either the colour was too difficult to see, OR the stamp was confused with the yellow-orange 24 öre value.

As a result, the stamps were recalled by the Swedish Port Office (towards the later part of 1876), and it was decided that the stamps would be printed a SECOND time, this time in a brighter red colour-- rather than be destroyed.

Of course, with the fairly simple printing technology of the 1870s it was almost impossible for the printers to get perfect registration between the two colors, so most often the examples of the "double print" stamps we find have a faint "ghost image" of the paler colour-- on the stamp below, it can be seen in the right margin, and inside the large number 20. For a better look, click on the stamp and you'll get a much larger image to look at.

A genuine example of the "Double Print" stamp
The listed catalogue value is relatively low, especially for a classic stamp of which only 180,000 were printed, and most were used and discarded on ordinary mail. I expect this is largely because only the Swedish Facit catalogue recognizes the stamp as a "main" number, while for all other catalogues the stamp is listed as a "variety." For Scott it is no. 23b, the other primary Scandinavian catalogue-- AFA-- lists it as no. 22x. As a result, most pre-printed album pages for Swedish stamps do not have a separate space for this stamp, even though it was an "official issue," and not an "error." If the album designers did include a space for the Double Print, the stamp would probably be worth 4-5 times more, because of the much higher demand to fill those empty spaces.

Another thing that makes this stamp interesting for collectors of Sweden is the "treasure hunt" factor. Although the variety is listed in most major catalogues, very few descriptions exist to tell people what to look for. Most copies I have found have come from duplicate stocks of the "normal" 20 öre stamp. Odds are good that next time you find yourself at a stamp show, you might just find one of these in a dealer's box, not marked as a vareity!

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