Updated Proofs section of the gallery + article on proofs

I have created a new section of the gallery which shows only Iraqi stamps proofs. This section now contains many items (100+).

I also found a nice article explaining what proofs/essay are, it is taken from the NY Times.

Published: March 19, 1989

So much of a stamp’s design seems predictable – the name of the country, the denomination, ”postage,” ”par avion.” A casual glance fails to note the extraordinary skills required to produce what are often miniature masterpieces.

So much of a stamp’s design seems predictable – the name of the country, the denomination, ”postage,” ”par avion.” A casual glance fails to note the extraordinary skills required to produce what are often miniature masterpieces.

The greater efficiency of lithography in the printing of stamps permits designs that are showier somehow, with a greater range of colors than can be produced from an engraving.

But engraved dies yield what many hobbyists believe is the finest art in stamp design. The best way to appreciate this art and come to understand the printing process is with a collection of essays and proofs.

Essays are designs for stamps submitted by artists. They are often signed by the artist and difficult to catalogue because, after all, anyone can send in a design suggestion and, when it is returned, call it an essay.

Nonetheless, there is a strong interest in essays, especially those bearing a receiving mark by the postal authorities to whom the design was submitted. Collectors judge them as art rather than by the usual philatelic standards, in part because they are often one of a kind and thus supply is not the only consideration.

Proofs are a good deal more tractable. These are impressions taken during the preparation of the master dies for the finished stamp. (In British usage, essays that have been annotated by the postal authorities are also called proofs.) Proofs of a particular stamp come in various colors and sizes. Engraver’s progressive proofs are impressions taken as the master die is cut, from the first outlines to the final details, giving a collector a clear idea how the design developed.

When the final design has been cut, die proofs are pulled, usually on light cardboard or India paper, which have very fine texture and permit examination of the engraving in detail. In simplest terms, the printing ink fills the cavities of the engraving, and then is lifted out onto the cardboard or India paper.

Some countries, especially in Europe, make up presentation packs of die proofs for museums or government officials. Given their snob appeal it is not surprising that these are usually known by the French term epreuve de luxe.

Finally there are color proofs, tests of the dies with different colors and inks. Depending on the detail of the engraving, some inks are more suitable than others, and color proofs are listed as being in ”trial” colors or in ”issued” colors.

The Scott specialized catalogue lists United States proofs with the suffix P, and a brief browse indicates that collecting proofs of regular United States postage issues is not for those with slim wallets. No modern proofs are listed at much under $400 each, and only with the regular issue of 1902-03 (Scott 300P to 313P) do listed prices slip below $300.

But there are anomolies: the $5 Colombian (Scott 245), one of the great classics of any American collection, carries a catalogue value of $3,600 for a fine mint copy. The proof, 245P, printed with a fresher die on finer paper than the issued stamp, lists for $550. If a collector is seeking art and rarity rather than philatelic usage, proofs are good value.

This is especially true for the ”officials,” stamps issued in the late 19th century for mail sent by various Government departments. These are fine examples of the engraver’s art and their proofs are widely available for under $10 each.

Scott’s specialized catalogue also lists proofs in trial colors (with the suffix TC) and specimens (suffix S), which are sample stamps sent to international authorities and museums. The $5 Columbian specimen, 245S, lists for $675, another bargain.

In addition to permitting the hobbyist to trace the design and printing of a particular stamp, proofs are decorative. Finding an attractive proof and having it custom-framed makes a handsome gift for a stamp collector from a non-collector who might find the fine points of the hobby baffling.

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