I have seen a die proof of the $2 Newspaper stamp with 'Victory' vignette, which was signed by the vignette engraver GFC Smillie and the letter engraver LF Ellis. Here it is:
So far so good. The problem is that this $2 stamp was issued in 1895, and printed by the BEP. However, the actual vignette of 'Victory' has been used ever since 1875, on a $3 stamp printed by the Continental Bank Note Co. and later the American Bank Note Co.
What I'm trying to find out is whether the BEP used the engraved plates of this 1875 Victory engraving or whether the BEP had a whole new engraving made.
Unfortunately, I do not own any of these beautiful stamps, but if anyone has good copies of both the 1875 $3 stamp and the 1895 $2 stamp, could they then please compare the two and see if there are differences in the engraving of the Victory figure, or maybe even post hi res scans of the two?
According to Braceland's article in the May 1971 United States Specialist, page 150, "The vignette is the same as that used for the $3 denomination of the preceeding issue." I have scanned my PR25 at 600 dpi, but cropped out perfs to get under the 200k threshold. I can not find my $2 so this is the best I can do.
The more I look, the more differences I can find. I suppose we should be concentrating on the proofs more, but the issued stamps are sharp enough. I also suppose the tipoff that there are differences would be that the $3 shows a full wreath in the hand while it's partial on the $2. Of course, the engraving lines on the two wreaths are indeed different.
I always wondered why the $3 values looked so unfinished at the top relative to other values, and these scans just reinforce that thought.
Thanks so much for all your input so far and especially YeaPolska for the side by side scan. Yes, I can see differences too, but overall it seems to be a rather identical engraving. Leaving the wreath bit aside, which maybe understandably had to be fiddled with anyway, it seems that the differences may well be either over or under inking and maybe some subsequent strengthening of lines. After all, they were possibly dealing with a 20-year-old engraved die, if they had access to the original dies at all.
Which reminded me: Smillie did not just sign the above proof, he wrote something in front, which I can't decipher but which may hold a clue: here is a close up in stronger contrast of his signature. Any idea what it says?
Hang on, could it maybe read 'worked over by...' ? That would coincide with my theory of him having strengthened parts of the engraving.
The basic figure design is identical for the most part, no argument there. EDIT: So is its background.
What I think happened here is how production is commonly done. The earlier ink-on-paper artwork would be done similarly. Even now, it's done with computer-based art. That is, the design elements are done separately. So the figure would be cut on a die by itself, based on the master artwork of just the figure. For one, if you should slip during engraving a part, or don't like how the element is progressing, you don't ruin the whole thing. If you save copies in progress, you just make a new transfer of whichever version you want to a blank and continue. You've not doubt seen progressive proofs of other things, including portraits in progress but not completed with full shading, etc. Believe me that it's tremendously stupid not to break up artwork into elements and not to save progressive proofs.
So the figure may not be perfectly completed when transferred to the final die since you don't know what elements will be covered up by other elements and vice versa. You can erase parts by burnishing, to a certain extent. So potentially you get the different wreath shadings/drawings that way.
Leaving a finishing step/finalizing shading towards the end also probably accounts for the different left hands. There's heavy shading on inside elbow and forearm left sleeve on the $2, very different from the $3. There are two heavy extended shading lines at the bottom of the outer dress of the $2 that's not there at all on the $3. That's why I say compare the proofs; they are the clearest, cleanest prints we can get without having the dies.
So yes, a common root to the figure, but different finishing.
Right, so based on all this I'm to conclude that Smillie worked on the 1895 vignette, which will have had the 1875 engraving as its basis. So I'll need to wait for a signed die proof of the 1875 stamp to appear before being able to ascertain who engraved the original version. This and other signed proofs may be lurking somewhere, so maybe I'll start a new thread on that! Thanks, all, for your valuable input!
I am seeking research material on Newspapers & Periodicals. I have the following:
Braceland's series which ran in U.S. Specialist from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, Christie's Lynne Warm-Griffths Collection catalog Bennett's Jim Kotanchik Collection catalog, Siegel's Grant Inman, Part I catalog I also have Barbara Mueller's book with a decent chapter on them, and Melville's Special Services.
I know of these but cannot find copies:
Whitesell – U.S. Newspaper and Periodical Stamps: A Compilation of Articles from the Past Kelleher – Fisher Collection catalog Apfelbaum 295 – Ward collection (80 N & P lots)
Others, please? Or where to find the missing references, especially the Whitesell tome?