By Thomas Myers
Argentina’s Seated Liberty stamps of 1899-1903 offer an inviting field for specialization.
First, and most important, the stamps are attractive, depicting an allegorical female figure of Liberty sitting with her left arm resting on a shield that displays the coat of arms of Argentina, with the sun rising over the ocean behind her.
Second, there is considerable variety among the stamps, presenting challenges for collectors who like completion.
Third, there is preproduction material, such as proofs and samples, that adds to the interest and scope of a collection.
Fourth, covers that demonstrate stamp usage are attractive and not difficult to find.
And last, and possibly best of all: None of the basic material costs an arm and a leg.
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The series appeared in 1899 with 15 stamps. Two new denominations and three color changes were added in 1901, and two additional denominations were added in 1903.
The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue begins with 22 different stamps (Scott 122-132, 132B, 133-142), with denominations ranging from ½ centavo to 20 pesos.
The high denominations, 1p to 20p, are bicolor stamps with the same Liberty design but in a larger format.
There are inverted centers known for stamps of the four highest denominations — 1p (Scott 139a), 5p (140a), 10p (141a) and 20p (142a) — and these scarce inverts are the exceptions that can cost thousands of dollars.
The stamps were printed by the South American Banknote Co. (La Compania Sud-Americana de Billetes de Banco) of Buenos Aires. The company did fine work, as well as producing perforation varieties and an assortment of preproduction material, all to the continuing joy of philatelists.
Fair quantities of samples (“muestras” in Spanish) and proofs of various colors and kinds of paper also are available. I like to add them to my collection.
I mentioned perforation varieties, and there are more than a few.
The Scott Standard catalog encompasses them all with a list of gauge 11½, gauge 12 and compound. The specialized Catalogo Kneitschel de Sellos Argentinos and other specialized catalogs also indicate that all denominations are known perforated gauge 11½, all through the 1p denomination were perforated 12¼ (where Scott measures them at gauge 12), and all through the 50c denomination were issued with compound (11½ by 12¼, or 12¼ by 11½) perforations.
The Seated Liberties get even more interesting when imperforate and part-perforate varieties are considered. The Scott Standard catalog lists and values imperforate pairs (unused only), vertical pairs imperf between (unused and used) and horizontal pairs imperf between (unused and used).
Most varieties are neither exceptionally difficult to find nor expensive, though it might take a little looking. They can be found in the usual places; for example, in American Philatelic Society sales books, at shows, and from online dealers and online auction websites.
Do pay attention to centering. Many of these stamps are poorly centered, and it took me some time to accumulate a set with really nice centering.
Also, watch for tropical staining. Tropical stains result from a fungus caused by high humidity, which can migrate and damage your other stamps. Remedies are available, but be careful.