Malaya stamp printing paper - Lin Yangchen
  • Malaya stamp printing paper

©Lin Yangchen

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The printing paper supplied to De La Rue bore the Multiple Crown Script CA (“Crown Agents”) watermark impressed on the pulp using a dandy-roll. This watermark featured the Imperial State Crown symbolizing the British monarch's sovereignty, accompanied by the letters CA in an artistic 'signature' script typeface that mimicked cursive handwriting and was harder to forge.

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Neither the horizontal nor vertical periodicity of the watermark coincides with the width or height of the standard British Empire small-definitive stamp size; the watermark repeats at slightly greater distances. It can also be seen that there is some vertical separation between each row of zigzagged crowns.

During the 1950–1952 production cycle a crown fell off the dandy roll used to apply the watermark. The replacement of a wrong crown—the Saint Edward's crown, used at coronations—resulted in watermark "errors" in various values (Stanway 2009). Affected coconut definitives include those of Singapore and Johore. It has, however, seemingly never been clarified as to whether the "error" was intentional, perhaps necessitated by the unavailability of the correct crown, and indeed why a Saint Edward's crown exists at all.

The Crown Agents’ paper lacked some of the desired qualities of De La Rue’s own papers, so they usually gave it an additional proprietary coating, popularly termed 'chalk'. This kind of paper made the stamps less prone to reuse, since the coating was degraded when immersed in water. Furthermore, it was reflective and produced vivid print colours. See Easton (1949) and Watterson (2004) for details.

The characteristic “craters on the moon” are pits in the chalky coating caused by heating during production. This blue paper contains particles of undissolved blue dye (Fernbank 2013). Also visible is contamination with green and yellow particles, which could have happened through sharing of equipment for coloured paper production. The author has also observed green paper carrying blue particles. This piece has deep and precipitous pits, almost resembling the ancient cenotes (sinkholes) on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The orange stains are from a forged Okugawa Seal.

The 'night sky': surface pitting of chalky paper as seen with transillumination at high magnification.

After the war a multitude of paper types emerged, possibly due to the loss of supplies of chalk-surfaced paper in war-ravaged Europe. The papers can be roughly categorised into chalky, substitute (sometimes called “ordinary paper”) and striated paper.

Substitute paper (Barker 1996). Printings on this paper often have a crumpled-cellophane quality, with the ink forming puddles and accumulating along the edges. Pitting may occur, but the print quality differentiates it from chalky paper.

Striated paper (Barker 1996) is thinner than usual and has streaks running across the stamp, which may have been produced through a manufacturing process similar to that of laid paper. At high magnification, striated paper presents a texture reminiscent of asbestos. This paper originated just before the war but is seen here in a post-war BMA Malaya issue. See BMA 15 cents for more papers.

There is yet another kind of paper used for the coconut definitive that is not usually listed as a paper type: the thin buff-coloured card used in postal stationery, impregnated with slender coloured fibres perhaps as a safeguard against counterfeiting.


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