Marginal Markings Committee


Plate Identification





Design Elements

From 1847 to 1894, all US postage stamps were contracted to private security firms for printing.  The printers identified themselves by imprinting the stamp or stamp margin, a traditional practice among security printers, as well as a form of advertisement.   Durland identifies 29 distinct imprints on pre-BEP issues and 15 BEP imprints. 

Each stamp of the 1847 issue bore the initials of the printer, Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson included within the outer frame line of the design.  


But in 1851, the printing contract for stamp production was awarded to Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Company.  In 1857, new plates were required and the printerís imprint was added to the selvage.  Since Casilear had left the firm in 1854, his name was removed from the imprint on the new plates, the imprint was modified .  An even later version of the companyís imprint, the Jos. R. Carpenter imprint, was used on Documentary stamps and the 1871-1874 Proprietary stamps. 


(Image courtesy of Chip Gliedman)


In 1861, the printing contract was awarded to the National Bank Note Company.  They continued to imprint each plate, but their imprints appeared in the top and bottom margins, as well as in the side margins.    



The Continental Bank Note Company reprinted the 1857-60 Issue and a small quantity were prepared as a Special Printing in 1875.



National, Continental and American were consolidated into the American Bank Note Company in 1878.  




In 1894 the BEP took over production of stamps.




A major category of marginal markings is markings that provide for the identification of the printing plate.  The plates were normally identified by at least a serial, or plate, number (although the number may have been trimmed before issuing the panes).  More recently, as the types of printing proliferated and the private printers became more numerous, the identification of the plates used may or may not be available to the collector.  Modifications to a plate layout or plate surface treatments were also occasionally marked.  Plate identification includes the following subcategories of markings:


A.        Producersí Identity: Markings that identify the printing firm.

B.        Modified Layout Designations: Markings indicating modifications to a particular plate.

C.        Plate Surface Treatment: Markings indicating that a plate has undergone some sort of processing.

D.        Plate Number Types:  Plate numbers or plate sequence numbers.

E.        Plate Position: Markings that identify the position of the plate, either within a set of plates being used simultaneously, or as placed on the press.


Plate Identification


Production Markings




Index to Plate Identification






Marginal Markings -

Producersí Identity

Modified Layout Designations

Plate Surface Treatment


Plate Number Types

Plate Position






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