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The “numeral” Issue Of 1898

The “maple-leaf” issue had not been long in use before complaints were made that owing to the lack of plain numerals it was a difficult matter to distinguish the various denominations. In its issue for April 2nd, 1898, the Metropolitan Philatelist stated another ground for complaint and also referred to a forthcoming change, viz.:—

Much dissatisfaction is expressed by the French speaking inhabitants of the rural part

at the lack of figures of value on the stamps, the denomination in all cases being printed in English which they are unable to understand. It has, therefore, been decided to alter the new stamps by removing the maple leaves from the lower corners and inserting large numerals of value in their place. The space occupied by the head will also be somewhat enlarged and the value will be placed on a straight band below.

A few months later the redrawn stamps made their appearance, for the Monthly Journal for July 30th, 1898, records the issue of the 1c and 3c denominations as follows:—

The design is certainly improved, the oval being enlarged so that its outer line covers the outer line of the rectangle at each side and at top and bottom. The band being the same width as before, this allows a larger space for the head, which no longer appears so closely “cribbed, cabined and confined.” The inscriptions remain unchanged, but in each of the lower corners is a plain rectangular block, containing a colored numeral.

Mr. Howes states that these two values were issued on June 21st, 1898, and, following its usual custom, the Canadian Post-office did not place the other denominations on sale until the corresponding values of the old series were all used up. Thus, the ½c, 2c and 6c did not appear until early in September, the 8c was placed on sale in the first few days of October, the 10c was issued in the early part of November, while the 5c, which was the laggard of the series, was not on sale until July 3rd, 1899.


Although the design was entirely redrawn and the wider oval gave the portrait a less cramped effect, it did not satisfy all the critics—though, so far as this fact is concerned, it is doubtful if any stamp issued anywhere at any time has met with universal approbation!

The stamps were produced by the usual method of steel engraved plates and they were printed in sheets of 100, in ten rows of ten, as had now become the regular custom. The imprint is like that on the sheets of the “maple leaf” issue and, again as with that series, the numbering of the plates started with “1” for each denomination. So little interest seems to have been taken in these marginal varieties that no authoritative record of the several plates employed has been kept. Mr. Howes gives but one plate for the ½c, 6c, 8c and 10c values, three for the 5c, four each for the 2c and 3c, and six for the 1c but it seems highly probable there were many more especially for such values as the 1c and 2c which were used in very large quantities.

In 1901 there were rumours that some of the stamps of this type had been re-engraved, the foundation for the canard being the following paragraph from the Weekly:—

Mr. H. A. Chapman has sent me a specimen of a re-engraved 1c Canada numeral, in which the differences from the first issue demand recognition. The re-engraved type is shorter and wider than the one preceding it. I note also that the 2c is said to exist in the same condition.

In reprinting this statement the Philatelic Record observed “Can this be true; or is it only another case of a slight difference caused by the shrinkage after wetting the sheets for printing purposes?”

The Monthly Journal for September. 1901, soon set the matter at rest as shown by the following extract:—

Miss A. L. Swift very kindly informs us that a friend of hers made enquiries at headquarters in Ottawa, and was assured that no re-engraving whatever has taken place, and that any differences that exist must be due to shrinkage or expansion of the paper during the process of printing. Our correspondent, who is a well-known American writer upon philatelic subjects and a careful philatelist, tells us that the ½c, 1c and 2c of the numeral type and several values of the Maple Leaf type, show these variations, and adds that in the case of the ½c of both issues one size is found in grey-black only, and the other in deep black only. It is possible that the amount or thickness of the ink employed may have some effect upon the varying shrinkage of the paper.

The same journal refers to the matter again in the following month, viz.:—

In reference to the question of the variations in the size of the stamps of the last two issues of this Colony, a correspondent tells us that he has been studying these stamps, and has come to the conclusion, no doubt correctly, that the variations are due to differences in the quality and thickness of the paper. As in the old case of the Ceylon stamps the longer copies are on thicker paper than the short ones. All stamps that are printed on damp paper, and especially those from plates engraved in taille-douce, are liable to vary in this way.

The above seems to be the most reasonable explanation of the differences for the measurements of the so-called long and short stamps are practically constant, which one would naturally expect to find if two sorts of paper, differing slightly in thickness and quality, were used.

Reference List.

1898-9. Engraved and printed by the American Bank Note Co., Ottawa, on white wove paper. Perf. 12.

  • 60.  ½c black, Scott's No. 74.

  • 61.  1c  green, Scott's No. 75.

  • 62.  2c  purple, Scott's No. 76.

  • 63.  3c  carmine, Scott's No. 77.

  • 64.  5c  dark blue on bluish, Scott's No. 78.

  • 65.  6c  brown, Scott's No. 79.

  • 66.  8c  orange, Scott's No. 80.

  • 67.  10c brown-violet, Scott's No. 81.