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Canadian Stamp Auctions

Stamp Market Commentary

Commentary No. 128 - 17 February, 2010

Admiral Lathework

According to Unitrade, it was late in 1916 that the manufacturers of the Admiral stamps introduced the practice of engraving an engine-turning pattern called “lathework” on the bottom margin of the sheets. Ten different types are known.

Hans Reiche’s pamphlet “The Canadian Lathework Design” states: “The Canadian Banknote Company in Ottawa was engaged in printing the King George V issue, often called the Admiral issue. After having printed the Admiral stamps and some Postage Due sheets for almost 6 years starting in 1911, sheets suddenly appeared with the lathework printed at the bottom. This venture lasted for 7 years and then, as suddenly as this appeared, it vanished again forever.”

Reiche gives 10 possible explanations as to why the lathework exists. None are definitive; including the reason we understood which was to show the wearing of the plates. He appears to conclude that the lathework system contributed to the proper wiping of the ink across the plates.

We show below 3 examples of the 50¢ Admiral with lathework. All have Type D lathework which is consistent with the Unitrade catalogue. But there are differences between each which help illustrate some of the factors that so interest collectors who specialize in this area.

Here are some of the things to look for:
1. The type of lathework
2. The completeness of the impression
3. The colour of the lathework vis a vis that of the stamp
4. Whether the lathework is inverted or not

Example 1

Lot 485
Eastern – Jan 23, 2010
Realized $11,500
This stamp appeared in Eastern’s recent sale of the Crossings Collection in Halifax. It has the full Type D lathework and full original gum that is lightly hinged.

Unitrade notes that “full lathework” on the 50¢ Admiral is rare and gives it twice the value of a copy with only a partial imprint.

In their research in preparation for this sale, Eastern was only able to find one other example of the 50¢ with full lathework and this was a block of 4 that was badly off centre. The above stamp was considered to be one of the highlights of the Crossings Collection.

Example 2

Lot 965
Eastern – Dec 2, 2006
Realized $10,500

This 2nd example comes from the Michael Roberts’s
Collection sold at auction by Eastern in 2006. It originally came from the George Marler Collection.

The lathework in this block has almost disappeared but this doesn’t seem to have had a negative effect on the price realized.

In terms of condition, the block was lightly hinged. The auction catalogue didn’t say that only the top stamps were hinged, so we have to assume that there were hinge marks top and bottom.

Unitrade comments on this when stating in its pricing policy that its “values are for lightly-hinged Fine singles, and Fine blocks of 4 with light hinge marks on the top pair (bottom pair NH).”


Example 3

Lot 721
Eastern – Dec 11, 2001
Realized $9,250



This 3rd and final example appeared at a Maresch auction 9 years ago.

It is a corner margin block of 4 that was lightly hinged in the top pair only.

Maresch called this lathework “incredibly strong lathework, type D (60%). But it is clearly not as strong as in Example 1 above.





General Comments

We wish to offer a few comments and caveats. First, we are not specialists in these types of stamps, just very interested observers. Second, please note that the images come from different auction catalogues, with the result that the colours in the three examples are quite inconsistent. We would expect that the original copies all had the same colour.

The examples all show lathework in the proper position, i.e. the lathework is right side up and is not inverted. They clearly show full, partial and very slight lathework impressions.

We would imagine that it would take a number of years to become knowledgeable about the Admiral lathework designs. We have admired their beauty and intricacy for some time and would guess that this area of collecting would give great satisfaction.

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