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Transfer shift
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Author:  Robinr [ Mon Dec 27, 2010 7:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Transfer shift

Dear All,

The following refers to stamps produced by rotogravure from late KGV through late KGVI.

In The GBJ, vol.1, No.9, p.113 (1958), R.F. Strange reported the find of a transfer shift on the KGVI 1½d red-brown (SG464). He found the shift on no less than six individual used stamps, and appealed to readers who had extensive collections of KGVI to see whether any collector of cylinder blocks could help with identification of the cylinder that had a shifted image.

A later transfer shift on the 1941 2½d ultramarine, cylinder 127 no stop, control M43 was also mentioned. SG does not mention either of these serious flaws, although I see that the 2½d ultramarine, cylinder 127 no stop, control M43. is listed in the current Four Kings at £50 for both stop and no stop, which suggests that stamps from that cylinder are rare.

Unfortunately my source here is a photocopy of the page from The GBJ, and I have no access to old issues of that publication, so I don't know whether anybody replied, or what the status of the 1937 red-brown shifted transfer is.

Has anybody done a study of transfer shift (of this period), or knows enough about it to be able to comment? I believe that a shift of image onto a drum that is only discovered after the image is etched and hand-pulled proofs studied, would result in a spoiled cylinder with the logical trashing of the cylinder and a new (the next in the series) transfer being made. This would account for the imperfect series of numbering of cylinders and would remain implicitly as a perfect record for the printer to know how much material and work had been involved in the production of any stamp. And the success rate in transfers - which was a very delicate process. It was delicate enough using flat plates in photogravure, but transferring by hand onto a cylinder is much more delicate. If I'm right, the number of missing cylinder numbers stands as mute testament to the difficulty of making perfect image transfers.

I know of one case where a cylinder with a transfer shift went to press and panes of the faulty stamp went into distribution, like the two cases mentioned above. In this case, it seems that the flawed cylinder was very quickly taken down and a new cylinder with the same number went into use. It is tempting to draw the inference that the rapid replacement and distribution of a "corrected" cylinder was a cover-up, and that somebody hoped the original shifted transfer would not be noticed.

The implications in all this for a serious collector of cylinder blocks are manifest.

Any thoughts or comments? Seems odd to me that SG do not mention the subject when the remarks on varieties for the stamps of this period are otherwise often very complex and refer to nice subtleties.

Happy New Year!

Robin R

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