Into The Red Part One - Looking at the Colours of the Omnibus Issues
One thing I have always loved about stamps is their colours. I suspect I am not alone in this: I think most of us are capitvated by the colours, which bring the designs to life. But at the same time colour becomes a source of confusion and frustration for many of us. We tend to think of colour as subjective, however, I do believe that it is actually much more objective than we think, when we have at our disposal a good, objective colour key, with standard colour names that we can compare our stamps to.
The study of colour though is a field that does have a certain science to it, and I believe that a large part of the reason why many collectors get so confused by colour is because most of the colour names given in the standard and specialized catalogues are actually not correct, or at least they do not comport with the standard names used in the colour keys or the colour wheels used by professionals who work in fields where standard colour names are important. One of the reasons for this is that once a name has been ascribed to a shade and collectors have become accustomed to it, the catalogue publishers do not wish to change it, in order to avoid confusing collectors. One example that jumps to mind is the famous "Pigeon Blood Pink" shade of US #65. I am sure that this very distinct shade is actually something much simpler on Gibbons' colour key, but it has been known by that name for so long that nobody wants to change the name.
The problem of course, with these colour names is that they are not useful to a novice, who is working with the stamps for the first time. If you have experience as a specialist, then it doesn't matter what names are used, but for beginners it proves to be very difficult, if not impossible to sort these. Hence the assertion that sorting shades is necessarily subjective.
One thing I thought would be fun, would be to sort my omnibus stamps by the basic dominant colour on the stamp and then use my Gibbons Colour key to name the shades. I decided to begin with the 1935 Silver Jubilee, both common design stamps and non-common ones and to focus on the colours. The first colour in this issue, on the very first stamp of Antigua is, of course, red, or carmine. So, I chose this colour as my starting point. Hence my title "Into the Red". For part one, on all my colours, I am going to focus on the Silver Jubilee issue, and then for subsequent parts I will look at the stamps of the other issues after 1935.
The great thing about looking at the stamps in this way is that most all the major variations of the basic colours will be present, so you will learn what the differences are between say a carmine and a scarlet shade, or a purple and a violet, such that you will eventually be able to tell at a glance, which group a particular colour belongs in. Then you can use your colour key to sort them more finely. The other thing, is you will gain a much greater appreciation for the different shade varieties that can be found on the stamps of these issues, their significance, and how you can use them to help sort the different printings of a set.
I should mention that correctly using a colour key does require some basic understanding of colour terminology, so that you can correctly use interpolation to modify the colour names given on the colour swatches in the key. This is going to be necessary in a lot of instances because very seldom will the colour you are looking at match exactly to the swatch on the key. But, as you gain more comfort in working with colour and confidence in naming colours you will find it fairly easy to do. I wrote a detailed post about the terminology of colour and the use of a colour key that lays this all out extensively. I won't repeat it here, but you can click here to read it.
The Colours Found on The 1935 Silver Jubilee Stamps
The Gibbons Colour Key contains 32 swatches that can all be described as relating to the basic colours of red and pink, with pink merely being an extremely light shade of red that contains a lot of white pigment. These 32 colours can be grouped as follows:
- Crimsons - 2 swatches
- Lakes - 3 swatches
- Carmines - 4 swatches
- Roses - 5 swatches
- Pinks - 3 swatches
- Reds - 10 swatches
- Scarlets - 3 swatches
- Vermillions - 2 swatches
The only group not represented in any of the Silver Jubilee stamps and in fact in any of the omnibus stamps is pink. All the other groups are represented to a more or lesser extent in the 1935 Silver Jubilees. However if you would look in the Scott or Gibbons catalogues, you will see most all of these stamps described as either scarlet or carmine only.
Before I get into showing you the shades and explaining the differences, I want to give some general explanation of the differences between these colour groups. The starting point for understanding the differences is understand that the basic primary colour is red, and it is this colour that gets modified in some way to produce the other colour groups. The colour spectrum has on one end red and on the other violet, so each group will fall closer to one end of the spectrum than the other. Generally, a colour group with either contain more blue or more orange than red. The bluish groups are the first four, the pinks and reds are balanced reds, while the last two groups are the orangy reds, but still read as red and not orange.
The deepest, most bluish red is crimson, and it actually is closest to human blood in its colour. Lake is also very deep and bluish, but it contains a very slight hint of brown that softens the bluish undertone. It is therefore a slightly warmer colour compared to crimson. True carmine is not actually that deep a colour. It is actually a very deep bluish rose. Deep carmine is quite close to lake, but lacks the softening brownish undertone. Most all stamps described as "carmine" in stamp catalogues are not actually carmine, but some variation of red or scarlet usually.
Rose shades read as variations of pink, but they are all bluish in their undertone, whereas pinks are neither bluish nor orange, but are just, as I said, very pale shades of red.
The red shades in the Gibbons colour key are either carmine-reds or rose-reds. In practice these generally read as very deep shades of red that are fairly well balanced. But carmine reds will still have very slight bluish tones to them, but will be much less so than carmines. Rose-reds read as very deep shades of red that appear somewhat pinkish, but again, are too balanced to be pure shades of rose. Becoming comfortable identifying these different shades of red is the starting point to being comfortable working with and naming all the other groups.
Scarlets still read as reds, but they all have a very distinct orange undertone to them. Vermilions contain even more orange still and pure vermilion reads as the very darkest shade of orange that still contains a hint of red. Scarlet vermilions and carmine vermilions both appear brighter and more saturated than the pure scarlet shades.
The brown-reds, including Venetian red and Indian red both contain brown and read more as rusts than anything. These shades are not represented on any of the Silver Jubilee stamps.
The Shades Found on The Common Designs
The common design stamp was printed by three firms: Waterlow, De La Rue and Bradbury Wilkinson. Generally, this colour was used to print the low value stamp, as the standard colour for first class mail that was agreed to by the U.P.U (Universal Postal Union) countries was red. Not surprisingly, the exact shades or red ink used by each printer are different and distinct from the others:
- De La Rue used variations of carmine, lake and carmine-red.
- Bradbury Wilkinson used variations of scarlet, rose-red and rose, for Newfoundland, which was an exception to all the other colonies.
- Waterlow used variations of bright red, deep red and carmine-red
I will present examples of the specific shades used by each printer under a separate heading for each printer as soon as I have presented the overview of the shades found on the non-common designs.
The Shades Found on the Non-Common Designs
There were 13 territories and dominions that either produced their own designs for this issue, or they overprinted stamps of other territories:
- Great Britain, printed by Harrison & Sons used variations of scarlet, rosine and scarlet vermilion.
- Canada, printed by Canadian Bank Note Company used variations of carmine-red.
- Morocco Agencies (British, French and Spanish currencies), printed by Harrison & Sons used variations of scarlet, rosine and scarlet vermilion.
- South Africa, printed by the Government Printer of Pretoria, used variations of bright crimson.
- Samoa, printed by Bradbury Wilkinson, used variations of carmine and lake.
- Cook Islands, printed by Bradbury Wilkinson, used variations of carmine.
- Niue, printed by Bradbury Wilkinson, used variations of carmine.
- New Zealand, printed by Bradbury Wilkinson, used variations of carmine and carmine-red.
- Australia, printed by John Ash, used variations of scarlet.
- South West Africa, printed by Bradbury Wilkinson, used variations of scarlet.
- Southern Rhodesia, printed by Waterlow used variations of bright crimson and deep carmine.
As you can see, these stamps cover a wide range of the red shades, but none of them read as a pure red. However, very few of them are truly carmine shades, as they are often described.
The De La Rue Common Designs
De La Rue printed the stamps of the following 7 crown colonies:
- St. Helena
- Solomon Islands
The colours that I have found on the frames so far are:
- Bright carmine-red
- Deep carmine
- Deep rose-carmine
- Bright rose-carmine
- Deep carmine-red
- Brown lake
- Bright carmine
- Very deep carmine
- Deep bright carmine-red
- Light bright carmine
I will now provide scans to show you the differences between the colours.
Carmine is shown by the stamp on the left. The pure lake shade is represented by the middle stamp, while the carmine-red shade is shown on the right stamp. Now compare these three to these red shades:
If you look carefully and compare the two rows you should be able to see that the shades in the first row are all bluish compared to the second row, which all lack any bluish or orange undertone. Now compare the second row shades with these ones:
These are the scarlet shades and they all have a slight orangy undertone to them compared to the red shades. Can't see the differences? Not to worry. They should become more apparent as we progress through the post.
Now that we have looked at the basic differences between the shade groups, lets take another look at the carmine shade group:
Here, on the left we have carmine, then deep carmine, then bright carmine and then light, bright carmine. Deep carmine is more intense than carmine - more saturated, but is the same general tone. Bright carmine is more saturated also, but is more vibrant. Finally, the light bright carmine is the same overall tone as the bright carmine, but contains some white.
Now, let's look at the lake shades:
On the left we have lake, then brown-lake and then carmine-lake. The lake shade is deeper and more intense than carmine, the brown-lake has a clear brownish undertone, while the carmine-lake has a clear bluish undertone.
Finally, let's take a look at the carmine-red shades:
On the left we have carmine red, then deep carmine red, bright carmine red and then very deep carmine red. In all cases, these shades lack the bluish undertone of the previous colours.
The Bradbury Wilkinson Common Designs
Bradbury Wilkinson printed the stamps for 8 crown colonies also:
- Bechuanaland Protectorate
- Falkland Islands
- Gilbert & Ellice Islands
- Trinidad and Tobago
These stamps are found with the following colours used for the frames:
- Deep bright scarlet
- Deep scarlet
- Bright scarlet
- Deep dull scarlet
- Deep rose red
- Very deep rose red
- Dull scarlet
- Dull carmine-red
- Deep dull scarlet
- Deep bright rose red
Newfoundland was the only one of these colonies to be printed in just one colour and it was distinct from all the others in that they are variations of crimson and rose, as follows:
- Pale red crimson
- Pale bright crimson
- Deep bright rose
- Pale bright crimson rose
- Pale bright rose-crimson
Let's now take a look at some of these shades, starting with the basic difference between scarlet and rose red. We do not have a pure rose red, but only a deep rose-red. Therefore we will begin with a comparison between deep scarlet and deep rose red:
The stamp on the left is deep scarlet, while the one on the left is deep rose-red. The main difference is that deep rose-red appears slightly darker and does not appear as bright.
Let's take a closer look at the scarlet shades:
From the left to right we have: scarlet, deep scarlet, bright scarlet, dull scarlet, deep bright scarlet, deep dull scarlet and finally bright scarlet again.
Now, let's take a close look at the rose-reds:
Here we have deep rose red, very deep rose red and finally deep bright rose-red.
Lastly, we look more closely at the carmine red shades:
Here we have dull carmine-red and carmine red. Hopefully you can see that both these lack any kind of bluish or orangy undertone. Dull colours are obtained when grey is mixed in with the basic colour. So the dull carmine red is somewhat greyish compared to the normal colour.
Finally, before we move on to Waterlow shades, let's take a closer look at the rose shades used to print the Newfoundland 4c stamp:
From left to right we have: pale red crimson, pale bright crimson, deep bright rose, pale bright crimson and pale bright crimson rose.
The Waterlow Common Designs
Waterlow printed the largest number of issues, numbering 11 colonies, as follows:
- Leeward Islands
- St. Christopher and Nevis
- St. Vincent
- Somaliland Protectorate
- Virgin Islands
The shades found on the frames of these stamps show a lot of variation, though most differences are quite subtle, and are mostly shades of red or carmine-red as follows:
- Deep red
- Deep bright red
- Bright red
- Deep carmine-red
- Very deep carmine-red
- Dull carmine-red
- Deep dull carmine-red
- Bright carmine-red
- Dull carmine-red
- Deep dull carmine-red
- Bright carmine-red
- Dull carmine-red
- Very deep rose-red
Let's take a closer look now at the basic shade groups for the Waterlow printings:
The stamp on the left is deep red, the centre stamp is very deep rose red and the one on the right is very deep carmine-red. The deep red stamp is neither bluish nor orangy in undertone, while there is a clear orangy undertone to the centre shade. The shade on the right is dark, but if you look carefully you can just see a very slight bluish undertone to the red. Each of these is a stamp from within a separate shade group, though so far I have only found the very deep rose red shade for rose-red. However there are quite a few reds and carmine =-reds.
Here are some of the reds:
On the right we have deep red, then deep bright red and finally bright red. The difference between the last two shades is difficult to see here, but will become more apparent, I think when the stamps are viewed individually.
Here are the carmine reds, of which there are many more shades:
Here we have from left to right, carmine-red, deep carmine-red, bright carmine-red, deep dull carmine-red, dull carmine red and very deep carmine-red.
Unfortunately the resolution of my scans and the overall clarity is greatly reduced when I scan and upload multiple overlapped stamps like this, but I wanted to give you a general sense of the differences. Next week I will upload individual high resolution scans of the shades and then you should be able to see the differences more easily as you scroll through the images.
The Non-Common Designs
Here are some of the shades found on the non-common designs:
Here is the 1d from South Africa. Here the shade is deep bright crimson, showing a very obvious bluish undertone to the red.
Here is the brown-lake shade on the 1d stamp from Samoa. I believe this one also exists in several shades of crimson or carmine. The hunt is on!
Here is the deep carmine shade on the 1d stamp from Niue.
Here are the 1d stamps from Great Britain and Morocco Agencies. These are tricky and in a light of another day I may determine them to be all the same shade, but for now I have identified, from left to right: deep rosine, bright scarlet, scarlet vermilion, light scarlet-vermilion and light scarlet. One tricky aspect to sorting this stamp is that the different multipositives used to print the stamps give different shading intensities. So it is necessary to focus on the solid colour in the background of the medallion as well as the overall appearance of the stamp.
Here is the scarlet shade on the 2d stamp from Australia.This one is borderline, because it is just on the cusp of almost reading as very deep orange, rather than red.
Here are the carmine shades of the 1d New Zealand stamp. From left to right we have deep carmine-red, bright carmine and light carmine. Note how much more bluish the centre and right stamps are compared to the one on the left. That is the difference between carmine and carmine-red.
Here is the bright scarlet shade from South West Africa.
Finally, we have the deep carmine and crimson shades of Southern Rhodesia. From left to right, we have deep carmine, deep bright carmine and bright crimson. The differences between them are subtle, but the right stamp is slightly more bluish than the other two and the centre stamp is less bluish and slightly brighter than the left one.
So there you have it: my overview of the red shades found on the 1935 Silver Jubilee stamps. It is a work in progress and the differences will likely require larger, higher resolution scans to see clearly. What I wanted to do here was to simply give you a sense of the broad differences to be found as well as to show you that each printer employed their own inks which gave rise to completely different shades of red from other printers.