US Stamps

Missing light green of the 1969 United States Christmas stamp can fool collectors

Apr 27, 2023, 1 PM

U.S. Stamp Notes Adventures in Expertizing by John M. Hotchner

Let’s begin this column with an inquiry from a reader who has several examples of the 1969 6¢ Christmas stamp showing the painting Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine (Scott 1384).

He had sent them to me because he questioned an expert certificate that said the stamp in question — the lower left stamp of the block shown in Figure 1 — is not the error listed in the Scott catalog as 1384c, light green omitted.

His focus was on the central area where the sky meets the tree line. This can be seen as a horizontal light green line on the other three stamps, and it is true that green line is completely missing on the lower left stamp.

So, what gives? Why the negative opinion from the expertizer?

To answer that question, we need to start by noting that this stamp was printed on the nine-color Huck press. The several colors were applied using two of the three three-color printing stations. The first plate/cylinder printed the light green, red and yellow colors.

The second printing station added dark green on the right and left sides of the stamp and the brown color seen in several areas of the central design.

This stamp was a problem if judged on the basis of the number of different varieties created, including color-omitted errors, and that is before we get to the matter of the precancels added in the four locations that served as the test sites for precanceled Christmas mail. I wrote about the precancels in the U.S. Stamp Notes column in the Feb. 13 issue of Linn’s.

There are many minor to major color misregistrations, misperfs, missing digits in the plate numbers, and some color intensity varieties to find on this Christmas stamp. They are not Scott-listed errors, but Scott does list imperf pairs, tagging omitted, and the following six color-omitted errors:

Scott 1384c light green omitted, $30 mint;

Scott 1384d light green, red and yellow omitted, $600 mint;

Scott 1384e yellow omitted, $1,250 mint;

Scott 1384g yellow and red omitted, $2,250 mint;

Scott 1384h light green and yellow omitted, $500 mint; and

Scott 1384i, light green and red omitted, not valued.

The error within most collector’s budgets is the light green omitted. The Scott Catalogue of Errors on U.S. Postage Stamps (18th edition), says that 1,000+ examples of 1384c exist.

The problem in this case is that the light green normally extends to the left into the tree branches next to the church in the central vignette. The hoped-for error in Figure 1 has a large dot of light green in the tree branches. Therefore, the expertizing finding is correct: No color is entirely missing.

So my friend has a nice freak with most of the light green missing, but it has to be 100 percent gone to qualify as the error.

Also, it would be highly unlikely for only one stamp in a block to be missing the light green because of the way the ink was applied to the plate.

Usually all stamps in a block of four have the omitted color, or the stamps near the color-omitted error show only a bit of green ink. The latter is because the ink trough was running out of ink, meaning the inking-in roller that deposited ink on the plate got an insufficient amount of ink.

A block of four with all four stamps being Scott 1384c is shown in Figure 2.

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