Paper And Watermarks - Part 4

Sometimes a watermark may be a large coat of arms covering a large area of paper and, of course, stamps printed on such paper will show only the very smallest part of the whole design. Such watermarks would be described by collectors as "Watermarked Coat of Arms in the Sheet." In addition to watermarks and different kinds of paper, collectors identify their stamps by the texture or color of the papers upon which they are printed. Hence, we have "granite" paper and "silk" paper, both of which are made from paper in which small particles of silk thread are introduced into the pulp. When these pieces of thread are so well chopped up as not to be discernible to the eye the paper is called "granite," and when the silk threads are merely short pieces, such as may be seen in any dollar bill, the paper is known as "silk."

In Great Britain a special paper was used for the first, "Mulready," envelopes and for some other stamp issues. This was a paper into the pulp of which had been introduced a continuous silk thread or threads. Sometimes this is called "Dickinson" paper after the name of the inventor of the process but usually it is known to collectors as "paper with silk threads." As with watermarks, all of these various kinds of special paper were introduced as safeguards against counterfeiting. Almost all have been discarded by governments issuing stamps although the watermark is still used extensively.

Generally speaking, such counterfeiting as has been done has been directed toward swindling collectors. There are very few instances on record where stamps have been counterfeited to swindle governments. Some instances of defrauding a government have, of course, been noted - for instance, the so-called "Chicago" counterfeit of the United States two-cent stamp. The counterfeits of these were printed in sheets, just like those made by the Government, and sold to users of mail who did not know they were counterfeit. Of course, the persons actually buying the stamps either knew or could suspect that they were counterfeit but the firms themselves that used the stamps had no knowledge. To market counterfeits of this sort it is necessary to involve mail clerks of firms using large quantities of stamps, and not only is the practice dangerous to the counterfeiter, who can never be sure that he will not be exposed, but also the returns are rather negligible for the risk and work involved. Hence, the fear of large-scale frauds against the Government, which were of such concern to officials during the nineteenth century, has largely disappeared. And the adoption of special papers and similar devices has practically been abandoned as too costly and unnecessary.

Paper may be, and often is, dyed various colors and used to give printed stamps a distinctly different look. The United States has used many colors of paper for its stamped envelopes principally to please users who wish something distinctive. Prior to World War II, this practice of having various-colored envelopes had been slowly cut down to the point that only three colors were available - white, amber (a yellowish color) and blue. As a conservation measure all but white paper envelopes were dropped from the schedules with the advent of the war and the colors have never been restored to use.

Incidentally, we have noted that all United States envelopes have been printed on watermarked paper. This watermark serves a particular purpose in identifying the manufacturer of the paper and also the quality of the paper. It will come as a surprise to many that until recently you could purchase envelopes in either of two qualities of paper - "standard" or "extra quality." The latter are the kind you received when you purchased one or more at a Post Office window. Should you have wished a box of envelopes, however, and to save a few cents on their cost you could have ordered "standard quality." However, this, too, has been discontinued. Today our stamped envelopes are produced of one quality only and on white paper only. The so-called "bluish" paper of the United States 1908 issue of stamps is not caused by a dye, but rather by a high rag content introduced into the paper as an experiment.