Stamps printed on colored papers can be intriguing to collect

Apr 14, 2016, 7 AM

By Janet Klug

If you have been collecting stamps for a while, you will have noticed that most of them are printed on white paper.

Every once in a while, however, you might find a stamp that seems to have been printed on colored paper, and this makes it stand out among the other stamps that live in your stamp albums.

Collectors sometimes erroneously identify a stamp as being printed on colored paper, when actually the stamp in question may have been printed on regular white paper that was dampened before going into the press. The ink then was likely to bleed a bit on the wet paper during printing, resulting in the paper becoming lightly tinted.

An example of this effect is shown in the first illustration here: a 1-franc stamp from Ruanda-Urundi issued in 1931 (Scott 45), showing Barundi women. The stamp was printed on white paper in rose-red ink that lightly tinted the paper.

The second illustration shows a stamp that appears to have been printed on colored paper. The 10-franc stamp is from New Caledonia (Scott 174) and was issued in 1928. The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue lists this stamp as printed in violet for the frame and brown for the vignette with pinkish background.

If you turn over that New Caledonia stamp, a close look at the perforation edges reveals that the paper is white. The pinkish color is the result of the violet ink that tinted the stamp.

Sometimes a designer will create an image with a background color covering the entire stamp. If appropriate paper of the desired color cannot be obtained, the background color can be ink-printed on white paper.

The Macao stamp shown here is an example of that method. It is a postal tax stamp issued in 1945 (Scott RA10) showing a religious design symbolizing charity.

This stamp has a piece of selvage attached at the bottom that clearly shows both the color of the paper and the color of the printed background. The Scott Standard catalog lists the stamp colors as red-violet on pinkish. The “pinkish” is a printed color and not the color of the paper.

In 1956, the first United States commemorative stamp to be issued on colored paper (Scott 1083) celebrated the 200th anniversary of Nassau Hall at Princeton University. An example of this 3¢ stamp is shown here — black ink on orange paper, representing Princeton’s school colors — along with a damaged example of the same stamp.

Look at the upper-left corner of the damaged stamp and note the orange color of the scuffed area, proving that the orange color is not superficial, but is the color of the paper throughout.

In 1887, Great Britain issued 12 stamps for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, celebrating the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Three of the denominations of the set were printed on colored papers: the 2½-penny on blue paper (Scott 114), the 3d stamp on yellow paper (115), and the 6d stamp on rose paper (119).

An example of the 3d stamp printed in violet on yellow paper is shown here, front and back. If you have ever mixed colors, you might remember that combining violet with yellow will yield brown, and that is why the queen’s image on the yellow paper looks brown.

The back of that same 3d stamp shows that the paper upon which the stamp was printed was definitely yellow itself, and not merely printed yellow.

Stamps of a design similar to the Jubilee issue but showing King Edward VII were issued beginning in 1902. The 3d denomination (Scott 132), was printed in dull purple on orange-yellow paper. An example is shown in the last illustration.

It is fun to look through your collection for stamps printed on colored paper, or those that seem to be so, and identify which is which.

And be sure to watch for stamps that were unintentionally printed on colored papers — they just might be valuable.