In 1879 the Queensland Government decided that they could not afford the expense of obtaining printing plates from England for the new issue and so they decided to employ an Australian Engraver, Wm. Bell of Sydney, to make a single stamp die from which lead matrix blocks of 4 could be constructed for each value. Copper plate reproductions were produced in an electrolytic bath and thirty of these blocks of 4 were mounted together in a frame to form a typographic printing plate. The process was described in detail by Past President Butler of the Royal Philatelic Society, London in the Nov/Dec 1980 issue of the London Philatelist.
Three types of varieties can be found in stamps produced in this way, as follows.
(a) Matrix varieties which appear thirty times in each sheet of 120 stamps.
(b) Plate varieties which are constant during the life of the plate and appear once in each sheet of 120 stamps.
(c) Non constant varieties caused by plate wear, damage or dirt which are of minor interest.
In the cases of ld. and 2d. stamps which were those in greater demand, two matrix blocks of 4 were used for reproduction purposes. These are identifiable and are referred to in the catalogue as Die 1 and Die 11.
Bornefeld studied the matrix varieties and his findings were published in Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal in 1907, but he did not have in every case positional blocks of 4 available so some of his positions were incorrect and some of his distinguishing features were comparative and not positive and hence of limited value.
Corrected clues are given in the appendix to these notes and it is important to appreciate that each block of 4 is numbered in this manner
3 4 so that
Matrix No. 2 is the type of the Top Right corner stamp of the sheet.
Matrix No. 3 is the type of the Bottom Left corner stamp on the sheet.
Matrix No. 4 is the type of the Bottom Right corner stamp on the sheet.
As the crown over Q watermarked paper used has a marginal line all round the l0 x 12 watermarks it is sometimes possible to locate a matrix type by studying a marginal watermark copy.
There are no perforation varieties in the first electrotyped issue of 1879 but three types of paper were used for the ld. and 2d. stamps, the second unwatermarked paper being scarce. One type only was used for 6d. and 1/- values and two types for the 4d. Unused4d. stamps with the first watermark are rarities.
A number of Plates were used for 1d. and2d. stamps and the relative numbers of Die 1and Die 2 blocks of 4 in the printing plates varied as worn or damaged matrix blocks were replaced by new blocks, but not necessarily from the same die. As complete sheets of this issue are unknown there is doubt about the Die 1, Die 11 composition at any given time.
It seems unlikely that reliable printing figures for each type will ever be established, nor will the relative numbers of Die 1 and Die 11 be known, nor will the number of plate settings for 1d. and 2d. stamps be fixed because the GPO in Brisbane has retained no records about Queensland stamps.
In the case of 2d. stamps with the first watermark, the only plate error recorded by S.G. is ‘Penge’ in place of ‘Pence’. This error is stamp No. 116 on Plate l. There are a number of others, equally rare, such as
‘Queensband’ (‘b’ for ‘l’)
‘QU’ joined near base
Line across top of ‘W’ in ‘Two’
Bottom frame broken under ‘P' of ‘PENCE’
‘b’ flaw in ‘QUEENSLANb’
Lower right spandrel frame broken under second E of ‘PENCE'
At least one sheet of this 2d. stamp was printed with the watermark reversed, i.e. the tail of the ‘Q’ points to the left instead of the right.
The printings on unwatermarked paper were quite small whilst awaiting delivery of further supplies of watermarked paper from England and the burelé bands are not always easy to see as the ink is water soluble. With a strong glass the burelé impression can sometimes be seen even if it is colourless and any unwatermarked stamp is likely to be from this printing.
Some penny and shilling stamps of this issue with the second watermark were printed with aniline inks and show up as yellow when viewed in ultra violet light.
One interesting discovery is a penny stamp, Die I, matrix 2 with a ‘QOE’ error. ‘QOE’ errors are normally found on Die II, matrix 2 stamps. This does not appear to be a fake, but only one copy has been seen. The incidence of the ‘QOE’ error is one stamp in l20 and yet S.G. quotes prices for this varying from two to twenty-eight times the price of the normal. In the case of the 2d. ‘PENGE’ error the catalogue quotation varies from ten to seventy times the price of the normal Stamp.
S.G. l44 and 144a quotes Die 11 2d. variety ‘TW" joined at top. ‘TW’ is joined in three stamps out of four in the matrix group and the only one not joined is matrix 2 so that the scarcer stamp must be ‘TW' not joined.
The 6d. value has two interesting varieties - ‘QU’ joined at foot which can be found on both matrices 2 and 4 and along ‘P’ in ‘PENCE’ which is found on matrix 3.
There is only one variety of note on the 1/- stamps — a thickened and distorted 'G’ in ‘shilling‘ in matrix 4 on the later mauve printings·
Plate proofs on thin card are found on all values except 1/- and colour trials on thin gummed watermarked paper are known on all values except 6d. All of these are imperforate.
The halfpenny on one penny surcharge was necessitated by an increase to l½d. in the newspaper rate at a time when Queensland had no ½d. postage stamps. Forgeries have been seen with the surcharge reading downwards instead of upwards. According to Robson Lowe one hundred and seventy sheets of 120 were surcharged and two of these sheets were overprinted ‘Specimen’. If this information is correct the 'QOE’ error overprinted ‘Specimen‘ must be one of the rarest stamps in the world. One ‘specimen’ sheet has the overprint diagonally reading from bottom to top and the other diagonally from top to bottom, so the two 'QOE’ stamps, one on each sheet, must be unique.