US Stamps

New Flag plate number has the potential of being overlooked

Dec 6, 2022, 8 AM
A block of four United States 2022 Flag forever stamps with plate number P2222 is shown photographed under ultraviolet light with a single example of the same stamp from the original P1111 printing. The color of the tagging is noticeably different.

Philatelic Foreword by Jay Bigalke

The United States 2022 Flag forever stamp printed in double-sided panes of 20 by Ashton Potter (Scott 5659) has been issued with plate number P2222.

With a new Flag stamp design on the horizon for 2023, this plate number could possibly be overlooked by collectors.

When the Flag stamp was issued Jan. 9, 2022, it was available in multiple varieties printed by the U.S. Postal Service’s two contract printers, Ashton Potter and Banknote Corporation of America.

The stamps printed and processed by Ashton Potter showed plate number P1111 when issued.

The multicolor plate numbers appear on a selvage strip between stamps on the double-sided panes.

The new plate number on the Ashton Potter double-sided pane corresponds with a new print run using stamp paper that is different from the original printing.

Postal Service spokesman Jim McKean confirmed to Linn’s Stamp News that the plate number change was made because of a change in paper.

“Plate number P2222 printed 2022 flag stamp booklets were shipped to SFS [Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, Mo.] in May 2022,” McKean said. “They began to be shipped to Post Offices and other sales outlets sometime after that.”

An examination by Linn’s comparing the two printings revealed a distinct difference when the two Ashton Potter panes are viewed under shortwave ultraviolet light.

The stamps from the newer printing with plate number P2222 appear noticeably brighter under the UV light, enough so that it should be possible to distinguish the printings when comparing single stamps under UV light.

When the Flag stamps were issued, the Postal Service identified the paper type for the Ashton Potter pane printing as “nonphosphored type III, block tagged,” indicating a luminescent coating applied on the stamps but not on the label found on one side of the pane.

The new printing also appears to use block tagging.

When a stamp with this tagging material is affixed to an envelope, automatic mail-sorting machinery detects the presence and location of the stamp and applies a postmark.

A similar paper change occurred with the 2019 Flag stamps (Scott 5344) printed by Ashton Potter. Scott catalog editors did not list a variety for that stamp, which also was the result of a paper change.

However, the new plate numbers are listed in the Booklets: Panes & Covers section of the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

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