I am aware of the many websites with useful information on identifying Washington Franklin designs. My question is if any expericiened identifiers out there have a design / denomination to begin with for an amateur? Seems like some designs might be easier to distinguish than others.
Also, anything missing from this list of tools to complete the job above? 1. Informational websites 2. Perforation guage 3. Watermark fluid (Ronsonol), and black tray 4. Magnification device 5. Flat plate vs rotatary template
Rather than focusing on minutiae of identification, study the business problem facing the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and then look at the technology changes forced by quality problems, increasing mail volumes and high speed affixing machines. Also factor in stress related to wartime shortages of ink and other materials. Each change in perforations, paper, plate spacing or printing method had some reason. Understanding the timing and order of changes provides a compact and comprehensible view of the series with little or no memorizing required.
Sorting the designs is easy & a good way to start. There are not that many different designs, and you can sort them by eye. (The only other tool I would suggest is a Scott catalog.)
The designs you need to familiarize yourself with are:
A138 A139 A140 A148 A149
Those 5 designs will cover all of the W/F stamps from 1908-1921.
Then, the process of properly identifying each stamp begins!
The stampsmarter website would be my suggestion as to the place to begin. Once you're adept at measuring perfs & detecting watermarks - and distinguishing engraved vs offset and flat vs rotary, it is relatively straightforward!
The tinfoil technique is used to classify offset or engraved stamps. Simply put, place the tinfoil over the stamp and gently rub with an eraser. If an image appears on the tinfoil you have an engraved stamp. Determining offset or engraved should be the first step in the identification process. Hope this helps.
The initial thing should be to check the perfs first. That will help greatly to narrow the possibilities. Then check the watermarks where necessary, and then the types. Rubbing a finger lightly over the design should be enough to tell offsets from engraved, the offsets are smooth and the engraved have raised lines.
I totally agree with revcollector, check the perfs first. Here is an item, printed in 1945 that helps me. I did discover some errors in it but they are easy to identify. If you can find one of these, it might help. Also be aware of the coils. There are tons of fakes and altered full perf copies passed off as actual coils. In addition, Don's link to the Stampsmarter page is a wonderful resource. Good Luck. The W/F's can be a challenge. Wolf-==-