This is the final piece of this series I hope you have enjoyed the 12 elements of a postage stamp made simple. We will uncover the remaining important aspects of a postage stamp which are Shapes & Size, Textual Elements, and Watermarks. In comparison to the other articles of the series, this one is expected to be shorter. Let’s Begin !!
The most commonly deployed shape of a postage stamp is in the form of a rectangle. Such a shape complements the efficiency and adds to the efficacy of the postal executioners because it is easier to produce stamps with a rectangular shape in sheets. The rectangular stamps majorly have two variants “Horizontal Design” and “Vertical Design”.
Some of the other shapes that have been used are Triangles, Octagons, Circles, Rhombus, Hearts, and Banana. Some of these were issued by Tonga from 1969 to 1985. The most commonly used size ranges from 10mm to 30mm. Many countries have a practice of using limited dimensions as most of their printing is automated.
The smallest postage stamp was issued by “The Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin” in 1856. The shape was a square with sides measuring 10 millimeters. The biggest postage stamp was issued by the United States measuring 52×95 Millimeters. They were meant for exclusive use with mailing newspapers.
Textual Elements: –
The majority of the stamps have some sort of textual content imbibed into their respective design. Apart from the denomination and the country name some of the other functional elements such as Type of Stamp, Plate Number, Year of Issue, Nationalist slogans, Name of the event being commemorated, etc. are also incorporated.
Quite a few countries like The United States, Malaysia, Venezuela, Malaysia, etc. use text-only designs on their stamps. But in recent years text has been used more sparingly. Example – Benjamin Franklin Quote 4×4 Stamps
Countries where there is a practice to use multiple languages and scripts like Israel who use Hebrew, Latin and Arabic characters are a classic example of multiple textual elements. Example – Rabbi Bar-Ilan (Berlin) Israel stamp
In many stamps, the outer margins are used to inscribe the name of the Designer or the Printer, Year of issue. This gives a distinctive differentiation to the stamp and makes it attractive for collectors. Example – A stamp from Iraq as below
A watermark is a key differentiator of a common and rare postage stamp. These are incorporated at the time of manufacturing the printing paper. These are small designs depicting the shape of a crown, stars, anchors, letters or other characters or symbols. In the paper manufacturing industry, these are known as “Bits”. These can be detected by holding it against a source of normal light or using a special “Watermark Detector”.
Some of the watermarks are quite difficult to identify. Watermarks can be normal, reversed, inverted, sideways or diagonal. The positioning of the watermark is also dependent on how the paper is inserted into the plates for printing. The Machine Made watermarks are read from right to left. Multiple Watermark is repeated all across the sheet. The Sheet Watermark, design appears only once on the sheet but extends over many stamps. Individual stamps may carry only a small fraction or none of the watermark.
“Marginal watermarks” occur in the margins of sheets or panes of stamps. They occur on the outside border of paper (ostensibly outside the area where stamps are to be printed). A large row of letters may spell the name of the country or the manufacturer of the paper, or a border of lines may appear. Careless press feeding may cause parts of these letters and/or lines to show on stamps of the outer row of a pane.
The first watermark that was used in British stamps was an “Elephant’s Head” between 1865 and 1876. The major objective of using watermarks was to avoid counterfeiting. Some of the other symbols used were Star and Umbrella like those at the back of Indian Princely state stamps. Example – British Commonwealth stamps from the Falkland Islands
With this, we come to the conclusion of this series. It was a great learning experience for me both as a student of Philately and producer of this blog. I hope my efforts enthralled you equally. Do not forget to share your inputs.
With this, we come to the end of 12 Elements of a Postage Stamp and we will embark upon a new journey exploring the vast world of Philately.
The Journey must go on… Stay Tuned…
Self Taught Techie, Father to a budding philatelist son and a Global Business Professional Having Traveled across four continents. I have helped European and Indian Businesses to turn around and realize business objectives in 180 to 270 days. Reading & Writing is my second nature. I rekindled my childhood passion for stamps after forty years and love to collect European Pre 1960s MNH OG stamps majorly from France, Germany, and Italy.