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Errors In Harris Plate Block Pages?

 
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Posted 04/02/2022   5:10 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add mrbchgo to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Greetings!

My father started a stamp collection with me way back in the 1970s: plate blocks of US stamps of the 1960s and 70s. It lay dormant for many years (decades, actually) until I took it out during the pandemic to start working on again.

After buying replacement sets of the Harris pages and replacing the old Harris crystal mounts with Showgard mounts, I set to work filling in the gaps. However, every now and then I have come across a page with a space for a plate block that seems to be a possible duplicate or the wrong size/shape, and I'm wondering if it could be an error and how to verify that.

For example, the 1974 Christmas "Peace on Earth" stamp (Scott #1552). The Harris pages have two spaces for this: a plate block of 20 (which I have), and a plate block of 12 (which I don't understand). I haven't been able to find anything online that would explain why this stamp has two different plate block configurations.

Is this in fact an error, or does it reflect a difference of opinions about what constitutes a plate block of this stamp, or something else? And more generally, how reliable are the Harris pages, and what resources are best for researching oddities like this?

--Mike
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Posted 04/02/2022   5:18 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Durland lists two different blocks of 12. One is 35634-35635-35636-35637-35638-35639 and the other is 35640-35641-35642-35643-35644-35645.
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Posted 04/02/2022   5:51 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Parcelpostguy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Plate blocks come in many versions over the decades. When plate numbers expanded beyond the then current corner black of four, the size of plate block grew as well. Here there are six numbers and thus a block of 12 is collected to show each number. HOWEVER, in prior years a plate block was the number and the inscription in the margin (normally the number was not in the corner) producing blocks of 6 or 8 generally. Fast forward to the new multi-plate number block which may have also had other margin inscriptions. The was a group who collected the plate block with all of the margin inscriptions. (Late zip blocks of 4 and mail early block of six were considered as their own item and okay to remove from the numbered blocks.) This resulted in many plate blocks of 20 being collected as a plate strip of 20, sometime including a stamp row inwhich there was no margin text or image.

Now on to 1552, a plate strip of 20 was need to capture all of the margin text. Harris reflects that collecting method as well as the plate numbers block of 12.

When you get to the issues where the marginal markings including plate number or numbers "float" it becomes more complicated. By "float" it means the marginal text and or images did not show up in the same position from one sheet to another.
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Posted 04/02/2022   7:26 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
HOWEVER, in prior years a plate block was the number and the inscription in the margin (normally the number was not in the corner) producing blocks of 6 or 8 generally.


Actually, early flat plate printings are collected as blocks of six and rotary press printings are collected as blocks of four.

For the purpose of this post's patient, let us call it a plate number block and remove the text from the equation. Without numbers I don't see it as a plate block. You will see blocks offered with siderographers initials and they are not offered as plate blocks, nor should they be.
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Posted 04/02/2022   9:07 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mrbchgo to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
So it sounds like the plate block of 20 that I already have actually _contains_ the plate block of 12, which would include only the rows with plate numbers and none of the rows with other marginal text ("Self Sticking Stamp", "Remove from Backing", "Do Not Moisten", "Bundle and Face Your Mail").

Is that phenomenon--a pane with a plate number or other text in the margin of every row--common in US stamps? This is the only example I can think of in my Harris pages, and I wonder why they left 2 spots for it. The only other thing I know of that comes close is another Christmas stamp, the 1968 van Eyck "Annunciation", for which some plate blocks have 7 plate numbers and others have 8.

I suppose I'll have to decide how much that empty space for the 12-stamp plate block bothers me.
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Posted 04/02/2022   9:32 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
There are many issues with the same condition. The first that comes to mind is the US Postal Service issue strip, Scott 1396 that also has six numbers. From 1970 onwards there are over one hundred that fit the bill. The 1975 regular issue Eagle and Shield 13 cent stamps, Scott 1596, have 35 six plate number listings in Durland.
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Posted 04/02/2022   11:45 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Parcelpostguy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Actually, early flat plate printings are collected as blocks of six


Parcel Post (Q1-12) are flat plate and the Plate Number Blocks are collected as four, six or 8 depending printing sheet location and inscription.

But I do agree that in the absence of any margin inscription, blocks of six with the number centered is how such are collected. That said, a single number centered on a block of six is only one of the many Scott Specialized listed plate block varieties. Durland is even more detailed listing 45 basic plate number/inscription combination varieties with positional variations not included in that number basic number. Of course, plate numbers on coils are a different game all together with its own long list of possibilities, more if you add in the backside numbering.

Now back to the OP's 1552, that was the very first issue not printed on just stamp paper with connected designs separated by perforation, rouletting, or scissors. Rather the printed stamp paper was separated into individual stamp and text paper wafers adhered to a backing sheet. Now 47 years and 4+ months later the consensus is almost finalized. However the backing sheet was not the only "new fangled" problem with the November 1974 issue.

1968 saw the start of plate numbers exceeding the coverage offered by a block of four. This was the start of the "floating" plate number mess. Walt Disney had multiple plate number but they all fit on a block of four. But the Christmas Toys did not and so began the expansion of the block size for non-floating issues. Only a handful of the large than four blocks were issue by the time 1552 arrived. The next issue faced and addressed was the different designs being more than four on a sheet. Thus then a plate number "block" was considered the selvage with the numbers plus as many extra stamps as needed to get all varieties on the pane. With the 50 State Flag or 50 Bird and Flower (and others) plate blocks of 50 were considered correct. Yet there were and are some who just save the block associated with the plate numbers in the selvage and two adjacent rows or columns. (Here I will give a tip of the hat to the plate number single collectors who do it their way).

In short when Harris issued the pages, no matter what they did, some collectors felt left out or overwhelmed. It was this expansion of the size of plate blocks which, at the time, was considered the main reason for a loss of interest in plate block collecting.

Edit: I started this post over three hours ago but variously interrupted by the honey do bee me exercises in home-life harmony. Thus any overlap with the prior two posts was unintentional not to mention lifesaving.

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Edited by Parcelpostguy - 04/02/2022 11:52 pm
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Posted 04/03/2022   10:59 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mrbchgo to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Many thanks for these very helpful replies!

The other puzzling thing about Harris plate block pages are frames that seem to be entirely the wrong size (not off by just a few mm). In the 1970s there are two examples:

1. 1975 "200 Years of Postal Service" (#1572-75). My plate block of 10 stamps measures 117 x 156 mm, while the frame on the Harris page measures 100 x 196 mm.

2. 1977 "Valley Forge Christmas" (#1729). My plate block of 20 stamps measures 58 mm wide, while the frame on the Harris page is 75 mm wide. (Height is OK.)

In both cases, my plate blocks appear to match photos I've found online, so I'm guessing that these pages in the Harris set have a design error that was never noticed before printing (or reprinting by Whitman).
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