By Janet Klug
About 15 years ago, I was working on a plating study of some Tongan stamps.
A plating study compares identical-looking stamps with one another to see if minor printing differences occur in the same position in a sheet. This documents varieties that occurred in the plate from which the stamp was printed.
A plating study is tedious close-up work, and is not for everyone. In practically no time at all, I realized my eyes were not as good as they once were, even with my then newly acquired bifocals. Doing this plating study made me realize the importance of a really good magnifying glass or even stronger magnifying devices.
We are probably all familiar with the kinds of magnifying glasses that one frequently sees associated with Sherlock Holmes. That would be a convex round glass (or plastic) lens attached to a wooden, metal or plastic handle like the one shown in Figure 1.
Magnifying glasses can be purchased for next to nothing, but a good glass is not inexpensive. Cheap plastic ones are fine for occasionally delving into the local telephone directory, but as tools for a stamp collector they are practically useless.
The power of magnification available in a magnifier is represented by X. The X means how much larger the object will appear when you look through the lens. A 3X lens means that objects will appear three times larger when viewed through the lens. The higher the number, the greater the degree of magnification.
In selecting a magnifier, it is not just the X number that is important. The quality of the lens can make a world of difference. When magnified, you want the stamp to be as crystal clear as possible. An inferior lens can make the stamp appear fuzzy, and that is not helpful when doing work that involves detail.
High-quality magnifying glasses are expensive. Some of the best made are used during medical procedures or in precision industrial applications and consist of two or three perfectly ground lenses sandwiched together. These might be overkill for stamp collectors, but once you see what they can do you will realize that the one you bought for $2 just isn't sufficient. Shop around and try several magnifiers before you buy.
You might want to choose a magnifying glass that has a light. These can be quite useful to illuminate the stamp you are trying to view up close, because the magnifier itself can sometimes block light from the field of view.
Many dealers who sell stamp collecting supplies carry ranges of magnifying glasses, and you might find what you need there. You can also check with drafting suppliers and dealers in scientific equipment.
One of my favorite sources is Edmund Scientific, 60 Pearce Ave., Tona-wanda, NY 14150. The company has a web site at www.scientificsonline.com. This outfitter carries a lot of products that stamp collectors would find useful, including all sorts of magnifiers. It is fun to look at all the supplies and equipment available.
The magnifying device I use most often is not one of the Sherlock Holmes type with a circular lens and a handle. My Crystal View magnifier that magnifies 4X is shown in Figure 2. This magnifier uses a dome of lucite for magnification. Its design allows light to collect through the top and sides, and it is perfect for examining and appreciating a single stamp.
The dome has a flat bottom that sits directly on the stamp that is to be magnified. When not in use, it has a wooden base that helps protect it from scratches. These are available from a number of sources, including Amos Advantage, where Linn'ssubscribers receive a discount. Write to Amos Advantage, Box 828, Sidney, OH 45385-0828; or visit www.amosadvantage.com.
I also have a loupe, shown in Figure 3, that I take with me to stamp shows. It is a neat little package that slips easily into a purse or pocket with an excellent two-lens system that folds into itself.
The only problem is that it blocks a good deal of light, so it doesn't work as well in the dark corners of a stamp show.
I also have a very large stand magnifier, shown in Figure 4, that I acquired several years ago at a drafting supply shop. This has a heavy, large lens that sits at an optimal fixed distance above the object you wish to view under magnification.
It allows me to view several stamps under magnification simultaneously, or an entire cover. It is great for making comparisons by viewing stamps side by side. There is some distortion around the edges, but it is still a useful tool.
When I was working on the plating study, I found I really needed magnification greater than I could get from any of these magnifying devices.
That's when I discovered the small, lighted monocular microscope with 30X magnification shown in Figure 5. Only a small portion of a stamp may be viewed at a time, but that view is bright and clear, thus enabling the observation of fine details necessary for plating stamps.
The one I have is a Panasonic and was fairly expensive, but I have seen similar devices from other brands for about $30, including several in the Edmund Scientific catalog.
You should invest in a good magnifier. Being able to see the crisp details of line-engraved stamps is a delight. Seeing how tiny dots of color form together to make a colorful stamp printed by lithography is amazing.
July 30, 2015 08:04 PMIn the Editor’s Insights columns in the July 20 Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Aug. 10 weekly Linn’s, I mentioned Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board without giving too much detail. Linn’s goal is to engage its audience both in print and online and to grow this audience. The role of the newly formed Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board is to assist us achieving these goals by keeping us focused on the needs of our audience and helping us adapt to today’s market. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 09:01 AMAs in previous years, Rarities Week, the series of sales conducted June 22-26 by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, included several name sales as well as an assortment of notable items from around the world. The week kicked off with something of a do-over: a sizable assortment of better United States stamps and covers that had appeared in four previous sales, but whose winning bidder then failed to pay for them. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 04:35 PMThe Tieton, Wash., post office is a simple 1935 cement block building with a slat wood facade. Townsfolk in the agricultural community of 1,200 in central Washington believe the post office could become a landmark, if only the United States Postal Service would allow them to cover the front with a stamp-like mosaic. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 03:11 PMThe American Philatelic Society will host the nation’s largest annual stamp exhibition Aug. 20-23. The show will take place at the DeVos Place Convention Center, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, Mich. Read More ›
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the largest souvenir card produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The card is one of three issued to honor the centenary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke discusses Canada’s recently recalled $1.20 Dinosaur Provincial Park stamps featuring inaccurately described Hoodoo rock formations.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the discovery of another pane of the intentionally created upright variety of the $2 Jenny Invert stamp.
Chad Snee discusses the recent sale of the glass locket containing the famed 1918 Jenny Invert airmail error stamp.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.