Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

We all have and handle these from time to time. "Back of book", Revenues, "Cinderellas", duty stamps and all kinds of other stamp like labels. Discuss them all HERE!

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Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

Many people collect the embossed duty (revenue) stamps found on vellum documents, and many collect the cypher labels found on the back of the documents, but as far as I'm aware, nobody (else) collects the embossed escutcheons which are used to secure the stamps to the documents.

It's not surprising that they are mostly overlooked, as they are extremely small, just a few millimetres across, but when you get in close they reveal a wealth of detail and beauty.

I now often buy vellum documents and embossed stamps purely for the escutcheons, if they look particularly interesting. Of course, anyone who collects embossed stamps is by default collecting escutcheons too, but I'm hoping that sharing some of my collection here will encourage the study and appreciation of these gems hidden in plain sight!

As well as the aesthetic value of many of the escutcheons, another reason to take a closer look at them is that they carry within them information which can't be found anywhere else. The original dies used to make the stamps are presumably mostly lost or destroyed; the stamp retains a lot of the impression from the embossing process but much of it is lost, as the soft paper doesn't have the "resolution" to faithfully record the mark of the metal die. However, the escutcheon does. The tin and lead alloy records the impression of the die in extreme detail, so they are like tiny "time machines" preserving the art on the particular part of the die which made the impression.

A little history for anyone not familiar with the stamps and cypher labels:

Stamp Duty on all legal documents was introduced by royal decree in Britain in 1694 by King William III and Queen Mary II. Originally the stamp was embossed directly onto the documents but it was quickly realised that the contraction and expansion of vellum or parchment caused the impression to disappear, so this method was replaced by a (usually) blue base paper glued onto the surface. These semi-adhesive stamps invited fraud, as they could be removed relatively easily, and moved to another document.

In 1701 a solution was found: the stamp was glued onto the document as before, then a thin strip of metal, the escutcheon, was passed through 2 slits cut into the document and the stamp, and secured at the back using a further stamp, the cypher label, which was then fixed in place over the ends of the strip using hot fish glue. The stamp, and the exposed section of the metal strip, was then embossed using a die, and fraud became virtually impossible. This highly effective security device was used continuously from 1701 to 1922.
(Paraphrased from the introduction of the book by William A. Barber "The Royal Cypher Labels of Great Britain, Ireland & the Colonies" 1988)


This £1 15 Shillings stamp - die E - was introduced in 1817


GB blue embossed stamp used on vellum<br />£1/15/- die E, Barber # 1, 1817-
GB blue embossed stamp used on vellum
£1/15/- die E, Barber # 1, 1817-


The royal cypher label on the back is number 330 from a 3rd recut plate from the reign of George III. These labels were produced using large copper plates, with hundreds of labels on each plate, and each stamp position is numbered. Copper is a soft metal, which wore down with use over the years, and the plates needed to be periodically recut. The H shaped mark across the '0' identifies this as the 3rd recut, and this restricts the possible date range for the stamp to between 1819 and 1828.

George III cypher label
George III cypher label


This escutcheon measures 7.3mm x 6.3mm. A good 1:1 Macro lens on my Nikon DSLR shows a lot of the detail:

Escutcheon on GB embossed stamp £1/15/- die E
Escutcheon on GB embossed stamp £1/15/- die E


However to show escutcheons in all their glory you need to get closer...
I tried a 2X converter on the lens but it was still not good enough, so I had to dust off the microscope and attach the Nikon directly to it, removing the camera lens and adding a 4X Objective:

Microscope
Microscope


This presents quite a few technical challenges, including getting enough light onto the stamp and fitting the escutcheon within the very small field of view. This required taking 3 sets of shots and stitching them together in the free software ICE.
But there's a far bigger problem trying to photograph though a microscope, and that is that the depth of field becomes very thin indeed. The embossed surface of the escutcheon is less than a millimetre thick , but the focal plane through the microscope can be as little as 1/100th of a millimetre.
The solution is to take many dozens of images, all at a slightly different focus point. Then the images can be stacked into a single image using the superb piece of software Zerene Stacker.
Here's the final image, which is actually a composite of over 100 images:

central flower in embossed escutcheon
central flower in embossed escutcheon


The image is upside because I wanted to see how the die might have looked. The human brain interprets an object illuminated from above as being convex, as that's how the sun illuminates a convex object. If you turn the image so that the illumination appears at the bottom, the brain interprets the object as concave. Here is the image rotated 180 degrees, with no other tricks or manipulations. The impression appears inverted although it's exactly the same image!

central flower in embossed escutcheon rotated
central flower in embossed escutcheon rotated


And here's a close crop of the 3 berries. These berries are each 1mm in diameter. It's clear that a lot of the detail has been lost in the embossed paper, but is retained in the metal.

Berry detail in escutcheon
Berry detail in escutcheon



There are huge numbers of different dies, with a wide variety of images on them, including plants, flowers, unicorns, lions, crowns, shields and much more. Since the escutcheon is fixed in place before the embossing process, there is a fair degree of randomness as to which part of the die is recorded which leads to a huge variety of different images, and partial images, appearing on these escutcheons. I'll post more here soon.

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

There are over 10,000 different dies for these embossed stamps, if you include all the variations, and identifying them can be quite a trial. Luckily "The Impressed Duty Stamps of Great Britain" Barber et al (1981) lists them in order of the tax duty payable, starting at ½d and all the way up to £50,000. What could be simpler?

It still took 15 minutes to find this one in the book, as I was labouring under a misapprehension, which is obvious once seen.

Pre decimalisation in 1971, the British currency was £sd (or Lsd) spoken as "pounds, shillings and pence".
There were 12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings, or 240 pence, to a pound. A guinea was 21 shillings, ie one pound and one shilling.
It's not quite as crazy as it sounds:

"The perceived advantage of such a system was its use in some aspects of mental arithmetic, as it afforded many factors and hence fractions of a pound such as tenths, eighths, sixths and even sevenths and ninths if the guinea (worth 21 shillings) was used. When dealing with items in dozens, multiplication and division are straightforward; for example, if a dozen eggs cost four shillings, then each egg was priced at fourpence. Basic addition, however, could be more difficult than using a decimal system." (Wikipedia).

Armed with this knowledge you have everything you need to solve the puzzle. If you can work out the correct tax value in less than a quarter of an hour, you are cleverer than me...

It's rather rubbed, but still readable in oblique light:

Blue embossed stamp, multiple shilling and pence values
Blue embossed stamp, multiple shilling and pence values


The answer:


I thought it was 1 shilling and 6 pence but there was nothing like it in the book under that value. The original collector had listed it as having a face value of 3 shillings and 6 pence tax, but that's not right either. You have to add up all the values, including around the edge, giving you a total of...

...6 shillings. And there it is in the book. It has a G embossed on it, so we know the stamp was registered for use in 1794 and the last record of its use was 1796, in the reign of George III.

6 shilling embossed stamp 1794-97
6 shilling embossed stamp 1794-97


Now to the escutcheon. The detail shows the seeded centre of the traditional floral heraldic emblem of England, the Tudor Rose.
The image is composed of 2 sets of around 50 images each, stacked in Zerene, then the 2 results stitched in ICE, as the 8mm x 3.3mm piece was too large to capture in a single field of view through the microscope.

Seeded centre of Tudor Rose escutcheon
Seeded centre of Tudor Rose escutcheon


The individual seeds are between 0.5mm and 0.65mm in diameter

Seeded centre of Tudor Rose escutcheon, crop
Seeded centre of Tudor Rose escutcheon, crop


And as with the previous example, if you rotate the image 180 degrees, the detail appears concave rather than convex:

Seeded centre of Tudor Rose escutcheon, rotated
Seeded centre of Tudor Rose escutcheon, rotated


The reason for the apparently random layout of shillings and pence is given here by the dealer who I'm currently buying most of these stamps from. I'd suspected that new values were engraved onto the dies each time there was a "price rise" but that's not quite right:

Hi Iain.
I believe the composite dies were engraved anew when they came into existence...new updated denominations weren’t added. But they had to reflect the new parliament increases on certain duties. A particular stamp was often used for a specific purpose as in the 6/- #2 which was used for deeds. So each stamp has a history of the applicable duty or tax due on the instrument over a hundred years or more. The only dies I know of that were altered/ re-engraved were various denominations of the ‘AMERICA’ stamp. When taxation in USA was abandoned in 1765 the dies were reused in
the UK but with AMERICA erased. These are mentioned in Barber.
I hope this is of some value,
Jeremy

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

It's often quite difficult to date these stamps but luckily the later ones have a Circular Date Mark and this is dated 20th March 1863.

10 shilling embossed revenue stamp
10 shilling embossed revenue stamp


And here's the image taken through the microscope. This is a composite of around 270 individual images:

10 shilling embossed revenue stamp escutcheon
10 shilling embossed revenue stamp escutcheon


The buckle on the garter shows well, as does the harp, representing Ireland.

There was a slight flap of metal bent over where the head would be on the harp figure. I bent this over using a pin, hoping to reveal the head but there was nothing underneath so it was clearly done like that when it was originally embossed. The tiny flap broke off, and you can see the pin marks where I tried to move it.
The alloy of tin and lead has the malleability of soft clay at this scale! It's amazing so many of these have survived as well as they have.

It's interesting that there are fine lines running across the metal. I haven't seen these on older escutcheons. These later Victorian Era ones were applied using a machine, so perhaps they are an artifact of that process, or of the manufacture of the sheet itself, perhaps due to it being made using a mechanised roller method rather than simply beating the metal into folded layers as with the very early ones.


10 shilling embossed revenue stamp escutcheon close up
10 shilling embossed revenue stamp escutcheon close up


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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Global Administrator »

.

What an interesting sideline!

The harp detail is quite superb. :)

Put this NZ Supreme Court one into stock today for $A150 (492JW) on pigskin vellum, with a £50 Queen Victoria, an uncommon £3 pink, and various KEVII, and all it had a was a boring silver crown! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Lovely clean shape after over a Century out here. :mrgreen: :mrgreen:



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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

.
Thanks. Wow, I never knew there were escutcheons on these kind of stamps!!

I've been looking for months, and have only ever seen them on the embossed blue and vermillion revenue stamps.

Now I need these too!

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by nigelc »

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the great scans of these items. 8-)

The word "escutcheon" seems strange to me in this context.

For me an "escutcheon" is a shield and the word is often used in heraldry for a shield-shaped charge (or arms) included in a coat of arms.

I've seen an old author use the word in the sense here but I believe the metal staple used to affix the revenue stamp is usually just called a "staple".

I've also seen old references to an "escutcheoning knife" used to cut the document and vellum to apply the staple.

I guess this comes from the knife being used to apply the tax stamp with its associated royal arms or cypher and the word "escutcheon" has been transferred to mean the staple?
Nigel

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

.
Thanks Nigel!

As I understand it, the word escutcheon has 3 distinct meanings; 1. a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms. 2. a flat piece of metal for protection and often ornamentation, around a keyhole, door handle, or light switch. and 3. the meaning here, as a "staple".

I believe it has no connection with the shield meaning, though I'm quite new at this and could be wrong.

Escutcheon is the word used in the catalogues and texts I've been consulting, and I think it goes back hundreds of years. Yes, the escutcheon knife is the knife used to cut the 2 slits in the vellum /parchments and the stamps to receive the escutcheon before it's bent round the back to be glued in place and fixed with the security cypher. I've seen an old photograph of one from the 1800s. I'll see if I can find it now...

Ah a quick search just reveals knives with escutcheons ON them, ie the shields!

It's in an article from the early 1900s, I'll dig it out and post the photo here shortly.
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

nigelc wrote:
18 Feb 2021 23:25
The word "escutcheon" seems strange to me in this context.

For me an "escutcheon" is a shield and the word is often used in heraldry for a shield-shaped charge (or arms) included in a coat of arms.

I've seen an old author use the word in the sense here but I believe the metal staple used to affix the revenue stamp is usually just called a "staple".

I've also seen old references to an "escutcheoning knife" used to cut the document and vellum to apply the staple.

I guess this comes from the knife being used to apply the tax stamp with its associated royal arms or cypher and the word "escutcheon" has been transferred to mean the staple?
Hello again Nigel, your question has sent me down quite a few rabbit holes this morning!

The naming of the "staple" is a lot more complicated than I previously thought. People do describe it as an escutcheon, but it does look like this is a "transferred" meaning from its use within the whole process, which is called 'escutcheoning' or "the escutcheon process."

I've found the 1901 document which describes the whole process (link to the pdf below) but here's the salient part, which also shows the knife. What's really odd for me is that they seem to be describing the paper stamp as the escutcheon, which is not a use of the word I've seen anywhere else. See the list of materials at the end, which identifies what I would call the escutcheon as simply Metal Tape, and the stamp as the Escutcheon!

Edit: having reread the piece again, I'm even more confused than before. The last sentence says:
"Escutcheons are only necessary on parchment documents. When written on paper, the stamps can be affixed directly to the paper."
However my understanding of the text is that the stamp IS the escutcheon, if it's not the (paper) stamp, then what is it? The only other paper on a vellum or parchment document is the cypher label which glues over the back of the "staple" to hold it in place and to prevent fraud, but that does not seem to be what is meant here, and in any case, cypher labels are less than an inch square, and are supplied with dozens or even hundreds on large sheets.

1901 escutcheon document
1901 escutcheon document


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Report_upon_Stamping ... d_1901.pdf
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by nigelc »

Nice reference Iain.

Yes, that makes sense. :)

I guess the paper stamp is somewhat shield-like both in terms of shape and with its association with heraldic symbols.

By the way, I'd forgotten the use of the word in furniture as decorative plate to protect a lock and the surrounding wood- thanks for that.
Nigel

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

Thanks Nigel, hope you've seen my Edit, just added at the end! The more I research, the less I understand :)
Yes, the use of the word as a decorative plate to protect locks is a huge issue for me, as when I search online for "escutcheons" as I regularly do, I mostly end up on Hardware and DIY sites.

I see on wiki that: "An escutcheon is a general term for a decorative plate used to conceal a functioning, non-architectural item. Escutcheon is an Old Norman word derived from the Latin word scutum, meaning a shield" so perhaps it's all connected after all...
Iain

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

Next up is a One Pound Five Shillings, Die D stamp, first produced in November 1830.
This one, you can see from the CDM, was used on 17th October 1839.

There is very little to see when viewed in direct light:

One Pound Five Shillings, Die D stamp
One Pound Five Shillings, Die D stamp


In fact the design can be all but invisible until viewed in oblique light:

One Pound Five Shillings, Die D stamp, oblique light
One Pound Five Shillings, Die D stamp, oblique light


Now to the escutcheon. The dimensions are 5.4mm x 7.7mm and it's in very good condition. Some of these are tarnished and dull and others shine like new silver.
There's quite a lot to see on this one too: the jewels in the crown, the fleur-de-lis, the detail in the ermine (fur) as well as the clasp around the stalks of the plants.

One Pound Five Shillings, Die D stamp, escutcheon.
One Pound Five Shillings, Die D stamp, escutcheon.


It's clear in the closer crop that the artist added even finer detail into the surface of the jewels and into the upper stalk. The outer dimensions of the central jewel are just 0.76mm square.

Escutcheon close crop. £1 5 shillings stamp
Escutcheon close crop. £1 5 shillings stamp


The most unusual feature of this escutcheon though, is at the top. The metal strips were cut from larger sheets, and this piece was cut twice. The shard of metal has twisted at a point on the right side, so we can see it edge on, and see how the sheet was created through ( I presume) hammering and multiple folds to create a laminate of at least 8 layers, probably many more.

Escutcheon laminated layers
Escutcheon laminated layers

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

Here's another reason to take a look at the escutcheons on revenue stamps: sometimes it's the only part of the stamp to have survived for two or three hundred years in good shape!

This rubbed, bent and scuffed £5 stamp dates from the late 1700s and it's in quite a sorry state, with very little of the embossed detail showing, even in oblique light:

£5 Duty revenue stamp
£5 Duty revenue stamp


This was part of a 3 set of £5 stamps on the same document, and the lower stamp has the same design, but with no escutcheon, and you can just make out the lion in the centre:

£5 Duty revenue stamp
£5 Duty revenue stamp


Now back to the stamp with the escutcheon on. Sadly it's a very small slice, just 3mm x 7.2mm, but that's enough to show some of the lion's body and part of the mane and bushy tail. At its thinnest, the tail is just 0.2mm wide.

escutcheon slice of lion
escutcheon slice of lion


Keen eyes will have spotted something unpleasant in the top left hard corner crack.
I'm hoping this is evidence of life long gone, not a recent hatching which will be infesting all my other stamps and documents....
I suppose this kind of thing shouldn't be a surprise considering the organic nature of the substrate; vellum is young pig skin or lamb skin, and the stamps were affixed with fish glue.

insect detail in escutcheon
insect detail in escutcheon


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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by OldDuffer1 »

What amazing engraving work! You can imagine the engravers with their magnifying apparatus. Must have wreaked havoc on the eyesight!

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

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OldDuffer1 wrote:
20 Feb 2021 22:48

What amazing engraving work! You can imagine the engravers with their magnifying apparatus. Must have wreaked havoc on the eyesight!
Hard to beat this one!

Image

https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/8539726.stm


A Birmingham engraver has inscribed the full text of the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin using just a needle tip.

Sixty-four-year-old Graham Short, from Bournville, said it had taken him about 300 hours to etch the script on to a pin head measuring 2mm in diameter.

He rested for an hour before each stage to get his heart to beat slowly enough to perform the delicate work.

Mr Short now plans to engrave a pin head with part of a chapter from the Koran.

He has been engraving on pin heads for about 40 years and said he had undertaken the Lord's Prayer challenge as a new way to push himself to the limits of his skill.

Birmingham is also home to sculptor Willard Wigan, whose miniature works on grains of rice and sugar have included Barack Obama's family, Elvis Presley and Snow White that are small enough to fit inside the eye of a needle.
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by librarianc »

This is way outside my collecting interests or comfort zone.................but the detail is fascinating.

I though I recognized the "staple" from an item I had in stock and finally located it.
gbembossedstaple.jpg
Great Britain Impressed Duty Stamp with Staple
gbembossedstaplelg.jpg



This is using flatbed scanner 1200 dpi x 250%

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

Global Administrator wrote:
20 Feb 2021 23:04
OldDuffer1 wrote:
20 Feb 2021 22:48

What amazing engraving work! You can imagine the engravers with their magnifying apparatus. Must have wreaked havoc on the eyesight!
Hard to beat this one!

Image

https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/8539726.stm


A Birmingham engraver has inscribed the full text of the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin using just a needle tip.

Sixty-four-year-old Graham Short, from Bournville, said it had taken him about 300 hours to etch the script on to a pin head measuring 2mm in diameter.


Impressive indeed! (to both...).

It's surprising how "over-engineered" these dies are, in terms of level of detail and quality.

They only had to be good enough to discourage fraud, and given the extra security of the embossed metal escutcheon piecing the document and the fact it was securely glued at the back with a label which itself was one of possibly hundreds of individually numbered cyphers, it really seems rather over the top!

In addition, as we've seen, the fibrous stamp can't capture the full detail of the metal die anyway, so unless it falls on the metal escutcheon, much of the fine detail was lost anyway.
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

librarianc wrote:
21 Feb 2021 01:25
This is way outside my collecting interests or comfort zone.................but the detail is fascinating.

I though I recognized the "staple" from an item I had in stock and finally located it.

Image
Great Britain Impressed Duty Stamp with Staple

Image


This is using flatbed scanner 1200 dpi x 250%

John A

Nice one John!

I've not had much success scanning them, but this has come out very clearly. You and I may be the only ones in the world getting so close up to escutcheons at the moment, but the Movement is growing :).

That's a £1 15s, #1, Style II, Die B II, if you are interested. The die was first used on 2nd July 1822 and (I can hardly bring myself to say it...) was subject to "defacement" on 24th April 1890. It's worth showing the cypher label on the back when selling these, as that's a whole area of collecting in its own right.

Recently I bought about 30 cypher stamps on eBay, mounted on 7 cards. Being interested in the embossed stamps, I bought the cypher stamps on the hope the blue embossed ones were present on the reverse and indeed they were! They are now turned over and presented the "proper" way.

Often in eBay listings, they don't mention even the embossed blue stamp when selling vellum indentures, and nobody focuses in on the escutcheon at all.

Talking of scans and detail, here's a rather wonderful vellum indenture I bought a couple of weeks ago, signed 1710. You can see why escutcheons get overlooked when the documents are as beautifully made as this one is, but the magnified detail in the escutcheon is outstanding too.


1710 vellum document
1710 vellum document


The document scanned beautifully but not the escutcheon.
The Coat of Arms is that of Queen Anne (1707 - 1714). To be specific, "she was Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland between 8 March 1702 and 1 May 1707. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, the kingdoms of England and Scotland united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain." (Wikipedia)

1710 vellum document
1710 vellum document


The stamps are rather faded and a little "rubbed" but considering they are over 310 years old, that's not really surprising!

Queen Anne 6d embossed stamp
Queen Anne 6d embossed stamp


And now the escutcheon through the microscope.
It measures 4.4mm x 5.7mm and only captures the 2 letters S and O from the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter "Honi soit qui mal y pense" which is a Middle French maxim, meaning "shamed be whoever thinks bad of it", usually translated as "shame on anyone who thinks evil of it" (Wikipedia).
This is a focus stack composite of around 50 images:

close up of 1710 escutcheon
close up of 1710 escutcheon


The diameter of the O is 1.4mm and the dot is 0.34mm.


close up of 1710 escutcheon
close up of 1710 escutcheon
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by OldDuffer1 »

For those of us who don't know anything about these can you show us the "cypher labels/stamps"?

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

Hi, yes, sorry, I should have referenced back to the first post in this thread, which shows one. Here it is. As well as being an area of study and collection in their own right, they are an excellent way to date the blue embossed stamps, especially the early ones, which don't have the circular date mark on.

George III cypher label
George III cypher label


The royal cypher label on the back is number 330 from a 3rd recut plate from the reign of George III. These labels were produced using large copper plates, with hundreds of labels on each plate, and each stamp position is numbered. Copper is a soft metal, which wore down with use over the years, and the plates needed to be periodically recut. The H shaped mark across the '0' identifies this as the 3rd recut, and this restricts the possible date range for the stamp to between 1819 and 1828.

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by librarianc »

Didn't even pay attention to the back...........as you say, many wouldn't!
gbembossedstaplebk.jpg
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

librarianc wrote:
21 Feb 2021 05:01
Didn't even pay attention to the back...........as you say, many wouldn't!

Image

John A

:) That's good to see John, and I'm very happy to have another opportunity to make good use of my recently purchased super rare "Royal Cypher Labels 1701-1922, The Dieter Bortfeldt Collection" (2003) book to look it up.

It's an early Queen Victoria cypher, and was made from the first plate, (cypher numbers 1- 320) which was registered in 1839, 2 years into her reign. There were 16 rows of 20 = 320 cypher labels on Plate 1, all hand made of course, so all slightly different, so your Number 57 was 3rd from the end of row 3.

The line through the number identifies it as the first recut, the earliest example of which was seen in October 1845. Plate 1 was superseded by Plate 2 (cypher numbers 321-704) in 1853, so that dates yours to the 8 year period between 1845 and 1853.
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by HalfpennyYellow »

This is an interesting collecting area. I had never given much thought to the metal staples / escutcheons themselves, but I became interested in the blue impressed duty stamps and the cypher labels after I had came across them the first time about 10 years ago. I still don't have a catalogue which lists these but since then I have accumulated a few from online purchases - some going back to the 18th century although most are from the Victorian era, such as this one dated 1864:

Image

I had asked about the cypher labels which are attached to these on this board back in 2012, although I never got any replies: https://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=40634

HalfpennyYellow wrote:
10 Oct 2012 08:43
I have recently purchased a small lot of these blue seals, most with cypher labels on the back, from eBay. I paid €12 for the entire lot.


I have tried to identify them as best as I can (mainly using this website: https://www.stamp2.com/articles/cinderella/cinderella11.asp). Can anyone confirm if I identified them correctly?

ImageImage
_________________________
1. King George I (?) - circa 1714-1727
Image

2. King George II (?) - circa 1727-1760
Image

3. King George II (?) - circa 1727-1760
Image

4. King George III (?) - circa 1760-1820
Image

5. King George III (?) - circa 1760-1820
Image

6. King George III (?) - circa 1760-1820
Image

7. King George III (?) (worn plate) - circa 1760-1820
Image

I don't have problems with the ones below, some even have the date.

8. and 9. Queen Victoria (the copper engraved plates) - circa 1837-1865
ImageImage

10. Queen Victoria (the copper engraved plates) - dated 15 October 1840
Image

11. Queen Victoria (the copper engraved plates) - dated 13 August 1844
Image

12. and 13. Queen Victoria (the copper engraved plates) - dated 13 December 1864
ImageImage

14. Queen Victoria (the Perkins Bacon printing) - dated 8 August 1866
Image

15. Queen Victoria (the Perkins Bacon printing) - dated 15 August 1866
Image

16. Queen Victoria (the De La Rue printing) - circa 1886-1902
This is the only one not on piece (i.e. without a blue seal).
Image

Did I identify them correctly (mainly the Georgian ones)?


Thanks in advance. :)
Collecting worldwide postage and revenue stamps - focusing on Malta, British Commonwealth and revenues in general

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

.
Hi, yes, I've seen your many interesting posts on the subject here on the forum. I'll check out the IDs on those 15 or so cypher labels and let you know. Give me 24 hours, as they say in the movies. ;)

I paid £60 for the cypher book so it will be great to get as much use out of it as possible!

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by OldDuffer1 »

Thanks for showing these- my bad for not noticing you had already posted one! All very fascinating and I guess some people collect these separate from the documents (or are they impossible to remove?).

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

.
Ha, no it was a good reminder that these things are not always clear! For quite a while I was confused about the difference between cypher stamps and the embossed stamps. I thought cypher stamps WERE embossed stamps.

I bought an expensive book / catalogue on the stamps then realised I needed a completely different (expensive ) book / catalogue for the cypher stamps.

As you suspected, the cypher stamps don't come off (except rarely, when they haven't been stuck down properly) as they are soaked in the fish glue. People just cut round the vellum and collect them that way.

It's best to keep them on piece of course but that's quite impractical when the documents are often so huge.
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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

HalfpennyYellow wrote:
21 Feb 2021 10:52



I had asked about the cypher labels which are attached to these on this board back in 2012, although I never got any replies: https://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=40634
Ok it took a little longer than anticipated but after 8 years here's my answer :)
https://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?p=7096433#p7096433


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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

Today's offering is the other escutcheon on the 3 x £5 stamps shown previously https://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?p=7088590#p7088590
The stamp is in even worse condition than the other 2, in fact it's so bad I haven't been able to completely ID it yet.

£5 embossed stamp
£5 embossed stamp


The cypher label on the back is a King George III Plate 1, 4th recut (see the 4 lines in the top left corner). The earliest use of KGIII cypher stamp was April 1762. Plate 1 was superseded by Plate 2 in Feb 1797, so this probably places it in the last fifth of the 35 year period, so the stamp is probably somewhere after 1790 and at the latest, 1797.

1790s KGIII cypher label
1790s KGIII cypher label


I rate the escutcheons between 1 Star (very poor condition, and / or low levels of interesting or useful detail) and ***** (rare and / or excellent condition and / or showing excellent levels of detail, or in some other way special or unusual).
This is a certainly a 1 Star!
It's small, very tarnished, split down one side, and showing only small amounts of detail, yet it still has something to offer, I'd say. The lion at the bottom is still recognisable, and some of the scroll work survives.
The image here is a composite of over 100 separate images taken through the microscope.

Escutcheon on £5 embossed stamp
Escutcheon on £5 embossed stamp


The Fleur-de-Lis by the lion's head (the stylised 3 petal flower on the left side of the frame) is just 0.3mm x 0.5mm:

Fleur de lis on embossed £5 stamp
Fleur de lis on embossed £5 stamp


The other "stamp" seen next to the stamp is the price tag of the vellum piece.


price on vellum document
price on vellum document

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Re: Collecting embossed escutcheons on revenue stamps

Post by Iain P »

I bid on this 1808 Canterbury prerogative court document just because it seemed the escutcheon was special, and so it turns out to be, in fact it's my best find to date.
The document is quite special too, as it has the Archbishop of Canterbury's seal on it, and also because it has the rare high values of £50 & £25 duty stamps.

£75 was a lot of money in 1808. I looked up the estimated buying power in today's money, and got 2 very different answers from 2 sites. One said it was around £3500, the other said around £6,700. Anyway, it equates, according to the first site, to 500 days' wages for a skilled tradesman at that time.

Canterbury prerogative court document 1808
Canterbury prerogative court document 1808


The Archbishop's seal only shows detail in oblique light:

Archbishop of Canterbury's seal 1808
Archbishop of Canterbury's seal 1808

Archbishop of Canterbury's seal
Archbishop of Canterbury's seal


The stamp is not in good condition:

£50 revenue stamp, Die A
£50 revenue stamp, Die A


But as I say, I was buying for the escutcheon, and what a beauty it is. The harp and the mermaid figurehead are perfectly centred, and the metal is clean, virtually unblemished and shiny. Luckily it's an unusually large escutcheon too, measuring 6.3mm x 7.4mm.

harp and figurehead detail on escutcheon
harp and figurehead detail on escutcheon


The outside diameter of the bottom soundhole on the harp is just 0.44mm, and the average diameter of the individual scales on the mermaid is just 0.15mm. The detail at the bottom in the partial buckle on the garter is superb too.

harp and figurehead detail on escutcheon, detail
harp and figurehead detail on escutcheon, detail

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