The Penny Black


In this section I will attempt to provide a brief outline of the major characteristics of the Penny Black, covering Plates 1a through 11.  I will also cover the necessary philatelic and plating terminology used for this area of study.  The form of this presentation will be far from unique or original.  This is merely a primer for those interested in becoming acquainted with the Penny Black Plates and the basic Plating procedure.  For this reason I have chosen to model this section after the Guide Lines To The Penny Black, by P.C. Litchfield. This will not be a comprehensive coverage of the book, and I recommend that the would be Plater obtain a copy as it is fortunately a relatively inexpensive book.  Other books, such as Charles Nissen's The Plating of the Penny Black Stamps of Great Britain, 1840, is quite expensive even in reprint format. For further information on Nissen's and other books for Plating the Penny Black, see the Plating References

The first step towards understanding the Plating of the Penny Black would be to cover some general definitions, which are covered individually in the following links:

State of the Plate
Ray Flaw
"O" Flaw
Fresh Entry
Double Bottom
Check Letters

How to get started: Basic Materials Helpful to the Plater:
1.  The Plating Of The Penny 1840-1864, Volume I, Die I, Plates 1a to 45.  This Book has very detailed information about the characteristics of the Penny Black Plates,  including illustrations, charts, and a listing of the measured check letter positions and constant flaws and varieties applicable to each stamp. This book, part of a series on the Plates of the Penny Blacks and Reds, is based upon a system devised by Roland Brown, and has been compiled by Harold W. Fisher.  The series is published by The Great Britain Philatelic Society.

2.  Linen-tester Type Magnifier of about 10X. This is, I find, the most useful means of examining the details of the stamps, and is required for use with the plating measurement gauge supplied with item 1 above.

3. The Plating of the Penny Black Stamps of Great Britain, 1840, Chas. Nissen & Co., London, 1922 by Charles Nissen and Bertram McGowen. This is a pioneering study of the Penny Black Plates, and contains photographic plates of all of the plates and stamp positions through reconstruction. The
problem is it will cost about £600.00 or a reprint is available through Stanley Gibbons (limited edition of 400 copies) at £135.00.

4. The Postage Stamps of Great Britain, Part One, Imperforate Line-Engraved Issues, by J.B. Seymour and C. Gardiner-Hill.  This is
a useful if used in conjunction with item 1. This volume was published by the Royal Philatelic Society and used copies are usually available.

5.  Guide Lines To The Penny Black by P.C. Litchfield.  This is quite useful and relatively inexpensive.  I have seen both hard cover and paperback reprints
of this book for about USD20.00.

6. Stanley Gibbons Great Britain, Volume I, Queen Victoria Specialized Stamp Catalog.  This catalog is quite comprehensive, and also useful when used in conjunction with item 1.

Strictly in terms of plating, perhaps the only reference of the above listed that will stand well on its own is item 1.  The other materials listed are useful to be sure, but they should be used in conjunction with item 1.
 Below are notes  on the individual 11 Plates of the Penny Black including some of the major characteristics used to identify each plate:

Plate1a Plate 6
Plate1b Plate 7
Plate 2 Plate 8
Plate 3 Plate 9
Plate 4 Plate10
Plate 5 Plate11
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