Gb Proofs Essays Trials Game


King Edward VII Essays and Proofs


(Notes taken from a report by Dave Willmer on the display of this collection given to the GBPS at Worcester, 14th July 2012.)

It is no exaggeration to say that this collection is one of the finest, if not (in the opinion of many) the finest collection of this reign. Graham states that the proofs were items that he particularly enjoyed collecting; their proliferation throughout the collection is more than adequate testament to this.

A particular thread developed within the display is that the stamps of Edward VII should not be seen in isolation. Many of the designs for the low values were taken, sometimes with only little modification, from the Queen Victoria ‘Jubilee’ issue, although the ½d, 1d, 2½d and 6d were completely redesigned, the 4½d value dropped, and a new value (7d) introduced.

The authorities consulted Thomas De La Rue & Co. Ltd about the new issue of stamps soon after Edward VII came to the throne. In response, De La Rue produced several sets of composite, or ‘paste-up’, essays, in which the frames for the Jubilee set and the 1881 1d lilac were used, with Victoria’s head being replaced by appropriately-coloured three-quarter (termed Type A) or quarter (Type B) face proofs of the King. So confident were they with the designs, which many people consider handsome and less austere than the eventual adopted designs, that they engraved the head.

Unfortunately, their optimism proved unfounded, as the King rejected it. The controversial decision was taken to commission the Austrian artist Emil Fuchs to redesign the head. There are a number of essays in the collection of the Fuchs design (two of which are in red, though the authorities preferred lilac), some signed by the artist. Two essays for the 1d displaying Type A and Type B heads are shown in Fig. 2. There are also later head dies, one of which is initialled by Austen Chamberlain, the then Postmaster General.

In addition to redesigning the head, Fuchs prepared the design for the ½d, 1d, 2½d and 6d values. For all of these values the same frame and head design were used, the head being a larger version of that used for the other low values. A particular problem with the initial design of the 2½d arose from the fact that its colour clashed with that of the ½d green, especially in poor light, and this at a time when the difference in value — 2d — was significant. The Post Office was not satisfied by the initially adopted purple printing on blue paper, the combination used in the Jubilee issue, and almost at the last minute changed the stamp to a blue design on white paper, destroying more than 17,000 sheets in the old colours in the process, though a few examples survived.

The other low values, in which the small Fuchs head was used together with modified Victorian frame designs are, as expected, very well represented in the collection. There is a further extensive collection of die proofs and essays for the initial designs. This includes a postal notice for the new ½d and 1s Jubilees, altered to meet UPU requirements, and Victorian colour trials for the 1s with the new approved colour.

Inasmuch as the Edward VII low values owe much in their design to the Jubilee issue, the high values from 2s 6d to £1 also mimic, to an extent, their Victorian counterparts. In fact, essays for values from 2s 6d to £5 were submitted initially but the £5 design was subsequently dropped. The designs were based upon the corresponding stamps of the issues of 1882–1884, though corner letters were omitted and the composition of all the frames was different, especially in the case of the 10s. An initial essay for the £1 in the Victorian design was aborted in favour of one which was more practical, both essays being present in the collection. Designs for a £5 value were submitted, and die proofs struck. Unfortunately, demand for a £5 stamp had rapidly declined owing to a reduction in telegraphic charges, and no Edwardian stamps of this denomination were ever issued.

In 1909, the Post Office requested monocoloured trials of the 1½d, 2d and 4d values, with a view to economy, and also a design change for the 2d. Accordingly, De La Rue submitted three designs for this value, of which the third was selected: these are displayed here. There is a lot of speculation regarding the withdrawal of this 'Tyrian Plum'. As Graham himself points out, it may have been due to a colour clash with the 6d, to a faulty die, or to a faulty plate. Whatever the reason, the death of Edward VII prompted the Inland Revenue to inform De La Rue that the issue was to be cancelled, and that the 2d stamps were to be destroyed. As is well known, only a very few examples survived.


Frame 1

  1. Title Page
  1. 'Stamp Committee' Page with 1887 Designs
  2. Essays in Victorian Frames with Quarter Head Portraits
  3. Essays in Victorian Frames with Three-Quarter Head Portraits
  4. Composite Essays with Large Head Images (11 Feb 1901)
  5. Composite Essays with Large Head Images (12 Mar 1901)
  6. Handpainted Essays for Unappropriated Dies (19 Feb 1901)
  1. Introduction
  2. Medallion Trials (Mar/Apr 1901)
  3. De La Rue Sketch Head (Early Apr 1901)
  4. Essays B and A with Photographic Head (19/22 Apr 1901)
  5. Paste-Up Essay with Photographic Frame (25 Apr 1901)
  6. Approved Essay with Photographic Frame (Apr/May 1901)
  7. Coloured One Penny Essays with Sketch Head (Apr/May 1901)
  8. Embossed Head Design Prepared by Emil Fuchs (1 May 1901)
The Twopence Halfpenny Value - Essays
  1. Paste-up Essay and De La Rue 'photo replica'

Frame 2


The Twopence Halfpenny Value - Essays (cont)
  1. Essays of 10 July - B
  2. Essays of 10 July - C with photo replica
  3. Essays of 10 July - D with photo replica
  4. Essays of 10 July - E with photo replica
  5. Essays of 10 July - F with photo replica
  6. Essays of 10 July - G and H
  1. Progressive Die, Unapproved (6 Jun 1901)
  2. First Letterpress Edwardian Head Die (6/25 Jun 1901)
  3. Approved Die Proofs (27 Jun 1901)
  4. Master Die Proofs for ½d Value (Jul/Aug 1901)
  5. Master Die Proofs for ½d, 1d and 6d Values (Aug 1901)
The Halfpenny Value
  1. 1887 Victorian Issue with Die Proof
  2. 1901 Die Proofs
  3. Printing Registered 26 Sep 1901
  4. Striking Book Entry and After Striking Proof (28 Jan 1902)
  5. De La Rue Fugitive Ink Booklet

Frame 3


The One Penny Value
  1. Victorian Penny 1d Lilac Proofs and Colour Trials
  2. Final and Approved Die Proofs (20 Aug 1901)
  3. Colour Trials in Doubly Fugitive Ink (4 Sep 1901)
  4. Colour Trials in Singly Fugitive Ink (4 Sep 1901)
  5. Striking Book Entries (Jul 1902 and Apr/Jun 1910)
The Twopence Halfpenny Value
  1. Die Proofs (Aug/Sep/Dec 1901)
  2. Essays in Purple on Blue Paper (Apr/May 1901)
  3. Trials for Proposed Change of Colour to Blue (9 Dec 1901)
  4. Colour Trials in Shades of Blue (9 Dec 1901)
  5. Coloured Proofs on Thin Card (Dec 1901)
The Sixpence Value
  1. Die Proofs (Aug 1901)
  2. Die Proof After Hardening (7 Sep 1901), Striking Book Entry (28 Feb 1902), Specimens
  3. Die Proof (7 Sep 1901), and Plate Proofs in Black
  4. Die Proof After Hardening (3 Dec 1901), Registration Sheef Imperf, Striking Book Entry (Apr 1902)
  5. Plate Proof in Black of Two Bottom Rows (5 Nov 1902)
  6. Imperforate Colour Trials on Unwatermarked Paper

Frame 4


  1. Departmental Official Issues
  2. GPO Notice of Edward VII Stamp Issue
  1. Unapproved Die and Approved Die (15 Jun/27 Jul 1901)
  2. Approved Dies for 2d and 5d Values with White Backgrounds (27 Jul/5 Sep 1901)
  3. Die Proofs of Small Head with Solid Background (Sep 1901)
The Three Halfpence Value
  1. Victorian Essays and Proofs and Edwardian Head Plate
  2. Die Proofs (1901/1902/1904)
  3. Imperforate from Registration Sheet (1905) and Striking Book Entries
The Twopence Value
  1. Victorian Essays and Proofs and Edwardian Head Plate
  2. Die Proofs of Duty Plates (1886), and Head Plate (15 Mar 1902)
The Threepence Value
  1. Victorian Essays and Proofs and Edwardian Die Proof
  2. Striking Book Entries and Die Proofs (1901/1902)
The Fourpence Value
  1. Victorian and Edwardian Die Proofs and EVII Specimen
  2. Die Proofs and Striking Book Entries (1901/1902)
The Fivepence Value
  1. Victorian and Edwardian Die Proofs
  2. Composite Essay (11 Feb 1901), Striking Book Entry and Die Proofs (27 Dec 1901/3 May 1902)

Frame 5


The Ninepence Value
  1. Victorian Essay and Victorian and Edwardian Die Proofs
  2. Die Proofs (10 Dec 1901/5 Apr 1902) and Striking Book Entries
The Tenpence Value
  1. Victorian Essays and Die Proofs
  2. Die Proofs (27 Nov 1901/28 Jun 1902), Striking Book Entries, Specimen and Cancelled Overprints
The One Shilling Value
  1. GPO Notice for Issue of Victorian Bicolour 1s, 1900
  2. Victorian Essays and Die Proofs
  3. Victorian Colour Trials - Heads in Purple Nos 1-6 (9 Nov 1899)
  4. Victorian Colour Trials - Heads in Purple Nos 7-9 and Green 1A-3A (9 Nov 1899)
  5. Victorian Colour Trials - Heads in Green 4A-9A (9 Nov 1899)
  6. Edwardian Combination Essay (11 Feb 1901) and Victorian Die Proofs
  7. Head and Border Plate Die Proofs (1901/1907)
  8. Striking Book Entries and Die Proof (25 Feb 1902)
  1. Overprint Die Proofs
  2. Madagascar UPU Specimens
  3. Colour Trials Nos 1-2 on Chalk-Surfaced Paper with 6d Value (1905 or later)
  4. Colour Trials Nos 3-7 on Chalk-Surfaced Paper with 6d Value (1905 or later)

Frame 6

  1. Notice Sent To Postmasters with Designs of New Stamps, 1884
2s 6d to £1 Values
  1. Die Proofs for 2s 6d, 5s, 10s (1901/1902)
  2. Die Proofs for 2s 6d Value (1901/1902)
  3. Die Proofs for 2s 6d, 5s, 10s Values (1901) and Specimens
  4. Striking Book Entries and Die Proofs for 2s 6d, 5s Values (1901)
  5. Striking Book Entries and Die Proofs for 10s, £1 Values (1901/1902)
  6. £1 Value - Die Proofs for Victorian Telegraph Issues, Unapproved Edwardian Die (1901)
  7. £1 Value - Essays and Die Proofs of Approved Design (1901) and Specimens
£5 Value
  1. Specimens of Victorian Telegraph Stamps
  2. Die Proof and Specimens of Victorian Telegraph and Postage Stamps
  3. Die Proofs of Unissued Edwardian Stamp (1901/1902)

'Transvaal' Essays
  1. Die Proofs of Transvaal Issue (1901)
  2. Plate Proof and Type 1 Essays in Transvaal Design
  3. Type 2 Essays in Transvaal Design (1)
  4. Type 2 Essays in Transvaal Design (2)
'Canada Head' Essays
  1. Unadopted Essays for 2d, 4d, 9d and 1s Values

Frame 7


'Canada Head' Essays (cont)
  1. Canada 1c Die Proof, and Essay and 'Sample' Stamp with Canada Head (1903)
  2. Canada 1c Die Proof, and 'Sample' Stamp Die Proofs with Canada Head (1903)
  3. Die 2 'Sample' Stamp Proofs in Various Colours
  4. Die 2 'Sample' Stamp Proofs of 1d and 4d
  5. Die 2 'Sample' Stamp Proofs and Watermark Sample
  1. GPO Notice for Issue of Booklets
  2. Striking Book Entry and 1d Tete-Beche Pair from Registration Sheet
  3. St. Andrew's Cross Proofs, Specimens, ½d Tete-Beche Pair from Registration Sheet
  4. Specimen Overprint Booklet and Panes
  5. Striking Book Entry and Specimen and Precancelled Booklets
  6. Advertisers' Voucher Copies
  7. Britannia Head Booklet Trials
  1. Striking Book Entry and Control Blocks for ½d Colour Change (1904)
  2. Colour Trials for 1d Value, perf. 14 (1906)
  3. Colour Trials for 1d Value, imperf. (1906)
  4. Chemical Experiments - De La Rue Dummy Stamp Trial

Frame 8

  1. Chemical Experiments - Victoria Head Dummy Stamps Used for Cleaning Trials
  2. Colour Trials at Somerset House Using Edward VII Die Proofs (1911)
  1. Colour Trials of 1½d Value (1909)
  2. Colour Trials and Die Proof of 4d Value (1909)
  3. Die Proofs (1909) and Colour Trials (1910) of 4d Value
The Sevenpence Value (in Monocolour)
  1. Essays for Monocolour 7d Value
  2. Essays and Die Proofs of Rejected Designs for 7d (1909)
  3. Die Proof (1909) and Colour Trials (1910) of Approved Design
  4. Striking Book Entries, Die Proof (1910) and Specimens
  5. Madagascar UPU Specimens
The Monocolour Twopence Value
  1. Colour Trials in Old Design and Rejected Essay for New Design (1909)
  2. Unapproved and Approved Essays for New Design (1909)
  3. Die Proofs for New Design (1909)
  4. Imperforate Proofs and Colour Trials
  5. Colour Trial, Unissued Stamp and Specimen in Tyrian Plum
Somerset House Trial
  1. Somerset House Experimental Comparative Printing with Cancelled Overprint

By Rick Miller

In the dark recesses of the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, beyond the booklet panes and covers, remote from the carriers and locals, past the postal stationery, past the revenues, yonder of the hunting permit stamps, just past the savings stamps and right after the telegraph stamps, you will find essays, proofs and specimens.

Now that we have located them in the catalog, all we have to do is figure out what they are.

We can start with stating what they are not.

They are not valid for postage, revenue or payment of any other official service.

Linn's contributing editor John M. Hotchner puts essays, proofs and specimens in the oddities category of errors, freaks and oddities, while cinderella stamp experts Bonnie and Roger Riga consider essays and proofs to be cinderellas.

Essays are stamp designs that were submitted to postal authorities and that ultimately were not used. Sometimes essay designs are altered only slightly and used, and sometimes they are entirely rejected by the postal authority.

Not all essays find their way into private hands to be collected. Some are destroyed or remain locked up indefinitely in the archives of government or private printing offices.

Some authorities, particularly in the United States, include as essays artist's sketches, models, photographs, or prints of an unadopted or unfinished design for a stamp. Some authorities specifically exclude them.

The Essay-Proof Society (disbanded in 1993) defined an essay as, "Any design or part of a design essayed to or produced by a government or established mail carrier for a stamp and differing in design in any particular from an officially issued stamp. There are die essays, plate essays, and forms of experimental essays, as well as unfinished or incomplete designs that may form part of a finally approved design."

A relief-printed British essay showing Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, is shown in Figure 1.

Essays are of interest to specialist collectors for a number of reasons.

They often show the evolution of the design leading to the issued stamp in its final form.

Sometimes essays are more interesting, striking or attractive than the stamp that was actually issued. They also have the romantic appeal of what might have been but never was.

The 3¢ green Benjamin Franklin essay attributed to Gavit & Co. shown in Figure 2, United States Scott 11-E3, would certainly have made a handsome stamp if it had been selected for production.

Great Britain, the country that invented the postage stamp, is one of the few countries never to have issued an official airmail stamp.

Airmail essays in the design of the 1-penny blue Mercury shown in Figure 3 were sold at the London International Stamp Exhibition in 1923. According to the Sanabria World Airmail Catalogue, these essays were also printed in black, brown, green, red and violet ink.

Neither the idea of an airmail stamp nor this attractive design was adopted by the British post office, and the essays remain evocative souvenirs of what might have been.

The essay shown in Figure 3 looks like a finished stamp. Essays are often obviously not postage stamps because they lack part of the design or part of the production process that postage stamps have.

The striking red and black 75-centesimo Eritrean imperforate essay, shown in Figure 4, is one of three African Portrait die essays on card stock submitted but not adopted for the colony by the Italian authorities.

Unlike the airmail essay of Figure 3, the Figure 4 essay is obviously not a postage stamp because it lacks the production details of a finished stamp. It is printed on card stock and lacks gum and perforations.

Proofs are trial printings of stamp designs before they go into production.

Proofs differ from essays in that they have the same design as the finished stamp.

Some countries have openly sold proofs to collectors, and these items are relatively easy to obtain. Proofs are virtually unknown for other countries and for most private printing firms that have never released proofs to the collecting market.

For U.S. proofs, the Scott U.S. specialized catalog notes that some essays that differ in design from the issued stamps are listed in the proof section "to keep sets together at this time." Regardless of where it is listed, if it differs from the issued stamp, it is really an essay, not a proof.

There are many different types of proofs.

Large die proofs are printed on large pieces of card that are about the size of the die block. A large die proof of the $5 John Marshall definitive stamp, U.S. Scott 313P, is shown in Figure 5.

Conversely, small die proofs are printed on a small piece of card, not much larger than the stamp design. A small die proof of the U.S. 10¢ ultramarine Messenger on Bicycle special delivery stamp, U.S. Scott E6P, is shown in Figure 6.

Progressive proofs are impressions that are taken as the design is being engraved to check the work. Progressive proofs are usually printed in black ink.

Plate proofs are printed from finished plates. They are usually printed on different paper stock and sometimes in different colors than the issued stamps.

Because they are carefully printed when the plate is fresh and new, they usually have a finer impression than normal production stamps.

Plate proofs in colors different from the stamp as issued are known as trial-color proofs. A trial-color plate proof block of six orange-brown French 20-centime Ceres stamps, including a tete-beche pair, is shown in Figure 7. The issued stamp, Scott 3, is black.

Hybrid proofs are plate proofs that were trimmed closely around the stamp design and mounted on card stock to resemble a large die proof. They usually sell for less than large die proofs, so careful examination is necessary to make sure that any large die proof isn't really a hybrid.

Proofs are most often printed on India paper or card.

India paper has no sizing and is thin, soft and absorbent. It wrinkles or disintegrates when moistened, and it sometimes shows bamboo particles. Card is thicker than paper.

Stamp fakers sometimes give plate proofs of rare and valuable stamps on India paper a thicker backing or shave die proofs on card down in hopes of passing them off as the issued stamps.

Specimen stamps are postage stamps that serve as examples. They are marked to prevent their usage as postage.

Specimen stamps are most often overprinted "SPECIMEN," "MUESTRA," "SAGGIO," "MUSTER," or the equivalent terms in other languages. Specimen stamps might also be marked by being punched, perforated, handstamped or inscribed.

The $500 Sultan Ibrahim postage and revenue stamp of the Malayan state of Johore, Scott 125, shown in Figure 8, bears a "SPECIMEN" overprint.

Specimen stamps typically are distributed to the Universal Postal Union and to individual postal authorities as examples of what stamps that are valid for postage look like.

The UPU convention of 1878 required that each member nation submit three examples of each stamp that it issues to the UPU for reference purposes.

The UPU did not require that the stamps be marked as specimens, but most postal administrations did so as a precaution against their being used for postage.

Although they are uncommon, specimen stamps are not particularly pricey because demand for them is weak. They are not listed in most stamp catalogs.

The 10¢ pale red-brown Daniel Webster stamp, U.S. Scott 307, with the unusual "ULTRAMAR" handstamp, shown in Figure 9, is an atypical specimen. The handstamp, meaning "overseas," was applied by Portuguese postal authorities to examples of stamps that postal workers were likely to see on mail coming from overseas.

Essays, proofs and specimens can find their way into your collection as an adjunct to a traditional postage stamp collection or as part of an EFO or cinderella collection.

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