US Stamps

John M. Hotchner

Christmas seal collecting goes beyond obtaining each year’s single seal

November 13, 2017 03:00 PM

  • The Christmas seals in this block are normally printed and perforated, but a corner fold after those processes resulted in some of the margin remaining after the printed sheet was trimmed.
  • Shown front and back, this 1935 Christmas seal block of nine has a doubled row of comb-applied perforations, which are most easily seen from the back. Why there is a second strike of the comb in the middle row of this block is not known.

U.S. Stamp Notes — By John M. Hotchner

A basic Christmas seal collection contains the designs issued each year since 1907, but many of the years have two or more design types.

In the early years, the different design types can be traced back to the fact that multiple printers were needed to produce enough seals for national distribution.

In later years, there have been many issues with different seal designs going to make up the seal sheets.

Connect with Linn’s Stamp News: 

    Sign up for our newsletter
    Like us on Facebook
    Follow us on Twitter

In addition, Christmas seal specialists like to find design essays, proofs, printer’s marks and printing varieties.

Two examples of printing varieties, recently acquired for my 1935 collection, are shown here.

The first is an upper left block that has a corner fold diagonally from the top right seal to the bottom left of seal number seven.

The fold took place after printing and perforating, so the seals themselves are complete and normal.

But there was one more step: trimming the excess margin from the completed sheets before they could be distributed. In this case, because of the paper fold, some of that margin remains.

An even more interesting variety is shown front and back. The variety — a doubled row of perforations — may be hard to see from the front, but is obvious when looking at the gum side.

The perforations were applied by what is called a “comb perforator,” one row at a time.

Comb perforating received its name because the perforating head is in the shape of a comb: one horizontal row, with vertical tines (one stamp wide) extending from it.

Why there is a second strike of the comb in the middle row of the block is impossible to say for certain. Perhaps someone bumped into the perforator.

Specialists also look for usages of the seals they collect on cover, especially when tied by a dated cancellation. Here the real prizes are earliest known use (EKU) date cancels, and usages from outside the continental United States.

For 1935, the two are combined in a Nov. 22, 1935, usage from the Philippines. This is only the third reported use from that location, and it beats the previous EKU record by three days.

An essential resource for the Christmas seal collector is the Christmas Seal and Charity Stamp Society, which publishes an excellent quarterly journal with all sorts of member benefits. More information is available from the website.

The October cartoon contest winners will be announced in a future issue of Linn's.