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US "s" Jefferson 5c Secret Mark?  
 

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Posted 02/19/2015   4:34 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bill Weiss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
OK, the 5c Jefferson was engraved by William Marshall, but I can not find if he was the only engraver or just the vignetter engraver. Around ths time, another engraver (whose last name started with an "S") was James Smillie, who was a prolific banknote engraver and stamps, but I think he mostly worked on the 1869 issue. Now if we could tie in Smillie as the frame engraver, than we would have something!
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Posted 02/20/2015   09:39 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add essayk to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Bill, so YOU'RE the culprit! [heheh] From time to time I see the folks at Siegel making that same mistake, and my hunch has been that they are following someone else's notes. Yours perhaps? The man's name was Douglas S. RONALDSON, not Donaldson. He was the main lettering guy in the 70s 80s and into the 90s with National and later American. I don't think he was ever part of Continental, and I seem to recall seeing a note that his final career days were spent with the Bureau. But he didn't do this one. See below.

Here is a composite scan showing this spot on a card proof, a #67, and a #67a.



The ink for the buff shades does not give the sharp definition of the later formula, but you can see that the image is there. The card proofs were all pulled by American BNCo from a later plate, but the configuration seems to appear from the first. An early die proof would nail it down that it was on the die, as I suspect. Moreover, as you can see from the proof image on left, the S appears to be ligatured with another character below it, possibly a P or an F. Since the letter engraver for this 5c was J. Fanter (per Gene Hessler) it is conceivable there is a connection. It is doubtful that an engraver would take a chance on incorporating his own initials into the design like this, since his supervisor would probably detect it if on the die. He might get away with it with initials for someone not immediately recognizable to his superiors. But then again, this and the 10 cent are the only US stamps attributed to Fanter's burin. It is a tantalizing thought, whether it has merit or not.

Edit:
For the record, W.E. Marshall did the vignette, and Cyrus Durand (of engraving geometric lathe fame) did the frame.
BTW you won't have any situation where only one person did all the engraving. The BNCos of the 19th century used more than one person to engrave each security because the differences in engraving style each person brought to the task made it more difficult for a counterfeiter to exactly duplicate an image.
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Edited by essayk - 02/20/2015 11:06 am
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Posted 02/20/2015   7:14 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add essayk to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Okay, here's an image from a 76P1, which is a large die proof. I had to enhance it with sharpening the image, so it may appear unnaturally clean, but it has not been altered.




The marks in question are on the die, so they will appear on everything derived from that die impression, i.e. every impression on every plate. In other words, they are part of the engraving whether or not a part of the originally intended design. The last thing to check is whether or not these marks appear on 67-E8, which is the 5c Premiere Gravure and absolutely the earliest die state for prints of this design.
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Posted 02/20/2015   7:32 pm  Show Profile Check srailkb's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add srailkb to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
In my earlier post, I confirmed that the "S" is indeed present on the former Scott 57 (Scott 67-E9e) 5c Premiere Gravure.
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Posted 02/20/2015   7:42 pm  Show Profile Check srailkb's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add srailkb to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Image of Scott 67-E9e (formerly Scott 57):



Image of Scott 67-E9b small die essay (formerly Scott 57P2)

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Posted 02/20/2015   9:49 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bill Weiss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
OK, here is an image of the 1875 reissue plate proof, which I think might show it clearer than any previous image. Essayk beat me to it as I just obtained the critical info too;

"The stamp was designed by James MacDonough, portrait engraver was William E. Marshall, lathe border by Cyrus Durand, lettering and numerals by William R. Nichols. I trust that his helps. The "S" looks like an anomaly, meant to be an extension of the supporting lathe work." This info disageees with the Hessler info.

And that is the opinion of a respected essay-proof dealer/student/author. Frankly, I have no idea who is correct, but I am now leaning the other way, that it is indeed just an anomoly, mostly because there is no other incident that I am aware of where an engraver "hid" something in the design in any 19th century stamp, although there *is* an example of a 19th C. postal card (UX8) that has a hidden "M" in the design. Of course that does not include the "secret marks" applied to some of the 1861 special printings or 1873 issues as those were intentional, even though one can argue they too were "hidden".

Also, as essayk points out, why would an engraver take a chance that his "hidden" handiwork would be detected by another engraver or whoever had the final responsibility to examine every detail of the stamp.

Sorry I see can't load the image in this post so I'll do so in a follow-up.

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Posted 02/21/2015   12:01 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Bill Weiss to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Very sorry but I am unable to post the image I wanted, so I sent it to essayk and asked him if he could post it, but I haven't heard back from him, nor is it posted, so I guess we will just have to do without it. But bottom line, it shows the "S" very, very clearly. And that being said, I still stick to my last post - the engraver never intended it to represent the letter "S" IMO.
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Posted 02/21/2015   08:47 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add essayk to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Sorry Bill, I was out for the evening yesterday. Just got your note. The image exceeded the 100K limit. Here it is:




If you go in closer here is your image (without adjustment for Gaussian Blur):





What source did you use for the attribution of the lettering to Nichols? Gene Hessler, The Engravers Line, p. 328, identifies Nichols as lettering engraver for the 30c and 90c only, and as frame engraver for the 10c only. But for the 5c and 10c lettering he lists J. Fanter. If your 1861 expert was your source, could you ask him for HIS source and send that to me please?

BTW I too am extremely dubious about this being an attempt at placing initials. All the more since MacDonough himself was the designer. He was a major player in the formation of National, and not a man whose designs you would mess with that way. Personalizing vignettes was commonly done in engraving dies for use on bank notes, but usually on the periphery of the image so it could be shaved off the transfer and not included in the finished product. There are some notable and collectable exceptions for bank notes, but for stamps even that sort of thing wasn't done. But to alter the design without authorization, and have it go all the way to the finished product - that would have been a career move.

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Edited by essayk - 02/21/2015 09:11 am
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Posted 02/21/2015   09:26 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add essayk to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Sorry for the mix-up Ken. You're right that E9 is the Premiere Gravure, not E8 as I had said. But E8 is the earliest appearance of this design in a print - and I expect these marks to be there as well, since they had to stand out in relief on the die. They are not the sort of thing that would have been easily cut in along the way. The engraver had to cut the metal around them to form them. Nothing haphazard about that, and very different from the normal manner of personalizing an engraving.
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Posted 02/22/2015   04:50 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add I_Love_Stamps to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I must chime in here.. Although I studied this area I have only ever heard of this through other people and never in print. I'm inclined to think it's just an anomaly from the background rosework and when the lettering was added the design was augmented in such a way that it just appears as initials as the area of the design was carved in deeper than the rosework. Does that make sense? It's hard to describe what I'm talking about. But the short of it is I don't believe it's any "secret mark". That notion is rubbish IMO.
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Posted 02/22/2015   08:36 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add blcjr to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I have literally no expertise in this matter. But I've followed the thread closely, enjoying the posts of those who do have expertise. May I suggest that from a lay person's perspective, sitting in judgment on evidence presented by expert witnesses, that the only conclusion that could be drawn here is "reasonable doubt?" Well, maybe not the only conclusion. I'd say the scales tip toward "the stamp is innocent of the charges brought against it and should be acquitted." There is certainly not enough evidence to sustain a conviction. (Play with "conviction" to get the sense of a double meaning here.)
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Posted 04/16/2018   11:47 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add stamperix to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
In the Michel USA catalog, one more "secret mark" of the reissue is mentioned, the missing small line in the border above right from the right "5". When I look at some 5c reissues online, indeed this line is then always missing. I just don't know if this is also sometimes missing for the normal issue, so if this is really an indicator for an reissue stamp? (maybe it's also interesting to ask why and when this line was introduced at all).
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Posted 04/17/2018   03:13 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add stamperix to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I have looked now at many Scott 75, 76 and 105. Indeed one can say that this line is not there at any 105, but on all 75 and 76 I have seen. But, on some 76 it appears quite thin or nearly not visible so that I guess that it's an indicator, but the notch at the bottom is the better one. This may be the case why the line is not mentioned here in this thread, but only the notch. For me it's interesting to know both anyway.
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