This page last updated: 26 February 2005


::: BANK NOTE ISSUE - Comparison of Scott 31 and Scott 31a :::

Back to 1864 2 Kamehameha IV, Scott No. 31.

Scott No. 31, the red-orange NBNCo. stamp, from the Seventh Printing
No 31
31a 1200
Scott No. 31a, the vermilion ABNCo. stamp with no hint of orange

Distinguishing between Scott 31, the red-orange NBNCo. stamp of the 1860's and 1870's, and Scott 31a, the vermilion ABNCo. stamp of the 1880's, is difficult. When the ABNCo. printed Scott 31a, it used the old NBNCo. plate. Thus, no minute design changes help us distinguish the new vermilion stamps from the older red-orange stamps.

The ABCo. Monogram

ABNCo. engraved its monogram ABCo. [no "N"] on the NBNCo. plate in the left selvage along side position 16 and in the right selvage along side position 35. Click Here to see the layout of the monogram. If one has a position 16 stamp with the left selvage intact or a position 35 stamp with the right selvage intact, the presence or absence of the ABCo. monogram will prove a Scott 31 (monogram absent) or Scott 31a (monogram present). Why the ABNCo. added this monogram twice to the plate used for Scott 31a and once to the plate used for the 18 stamp (Scott No. 34) but not on the other NBNCo. plates used by the ABNCo. remains a mystery. See Bank Note Plate Layouts.

31a monogram

The ABCo. monogram alongside Position 16

Color Difference

The orange element in the color of Scott 31 is completely lacking in Scott No. 31a. This color difference is the most reliable test for many collectors. Attempting to distinguish these colors under artificial lighting is almost impossible. A white light will be the best if using artificial light is necessary. Sunlight is better than any other light source for seeing the presence of orange.

31a 3rd color 600
31 color 600

Scott 31

Scott 31a

Gum Difference

If you have a stamp with original gum, distinguishing Scott 31a from 31 is easier. Brownish gum, unevenly applied by hand, was used on all of the NBNCo. printings (Scott No. 31). The ABNCo. used a yellowish gum, evenly applied by machine, on Scott No, 31a.

31a gum-300
31 gum-300

Scott 31

Scott 31a

Paper

Paper differences are not much help. Some papers of the earlier printings of Scott 31 are coarser than the finer weave used by the ABNCo., but it is too difficult to separate Scott 31a paper from the later printings of Scott 31.

31a paper-1200
31 paper-1200

Scott 31

Scott 31a

Plate Re-Entry Evidence

For an untrained eye, these colors appear almost identical, leading collectors to search for positive identification in other clues. However, no other conclusive test has been found. There is a subtle change in the King's appearance on many Scott 31a stamps. But since this change affects only some plate positions, at the end of the day it only serves as positive identification for a Scott 31a stamp from one of the affected plate positions but fails to eliminate Scott 31 as a possibility for other positions.

Dr. Herbert Munk, a great philatelic scholar of the early Twentieth Century, commented: "The chief difference seems to be in the expression on Kamehameha IV's face; he looks younger and more alert on the vermilion stamp. His hair and beard also seem to stand out more clearly from the background in the newer stamp . . ."

Meyer and Harris submitted photographs of the two stamps to a Philadelphia "analytical photographer" named Raymond D. Kershner who described the King's face as looking "old and haggard" in Scott No. 31 but "rejuvenated" in Scott No. 31a. As they saw it: "Kamehameha looks old and haggard, needs a beard trim, looks frowsy in general [in Scott 31]." However, in Scott 31a, he "is neater, eyes clearer, beard trimmed, looks better in every way." This "make-over" only applies to some positions on the Scott 31a sheet. Meaning some Scott 31a stamps have the same, old, tired looking king's image. Frankly, I don't find the "old king" so haggard as Meyer and Harris describe him, but there is a subtle freshness to the king's face in stamps from many plate positions in Scott 31a compared to Scott 31. However, another comment by Kershner is more noticeable: "Kamehameha is looking past us, slightly to our left" in Scott 31 but "is looking us in the eyes, though he has not turned his head" in Scott 31a.

At Meyer Harris, p. 216-218, an analysis of these differences and their cause is offered. There, the authors state Clarence W. Brazer (the renowned authority on proofs and printing of the mid-20th Century) examined the stamps and concluded the ABNCo. "wash etched" the die. The Williams Brothers explained "etching" in Fundamentals of Philately, p. 126, as follows: "coating the surface of the die with an acid resist, then scratching part of the resist away, and allowing acid to eat away that part of the metal that has been thus exposed." Wash-etching, the phrase used by Brazer, is not explained by the Williams Brothers, but is used by Brazer to describe a process of retouching the die by exposing certain larger areas of the die (as opposed to exposing only specific lines) to the acid etching method described by the Williams Brothers.

Brazer explained the NBNCo. did not harden its plates so plate wear could be repaired (and thus making it possible for the ABNCo. to engrave its monogram on the plate). A softer plate also permitted re-entry of the die at specific plate positions. According to Brazer, the ABNCo. re-entered some - but not all - plate positions using the die retouched by wash etching. This explanation is probably correct but since records were not kept, exactly why the King's appearance changed is uncertain.

POSITIONS 17 AND 18 COMPARED

Brazer pointed to positions 17 and 18 of the ABNCo. printing, as evidence that only some positions were re-entered. According to Brazer, position 17 was not re-entered but position 18 was re-entered. Following Brazer's conclusions, differences should exist only between Nos. 31 and 31a in position 18 and position 17 should be identical except for color. However, even in position 17 of Scott 31a the King's appearance seems fresher than in Scott 31.

Positions 17 and 18 of the NBNCo. plate (Scott 31) for comparison; taken from the last NBNCo. printing.

Scott 31 17-18 1200-1

Positions 17 and 18 of the ABNCo. printing.
There is a subtle freshness in the king's appearance in position 18 compared to position 17. Examination of details proves even position 17 was re-entered but there is less effect of the wash etching done on the die. This difference suggests the die was wash etched and some positions were re-entered and the die was further etched before entering other positions.

31a 1200 17-18 pair

According to conclusions by Kershner and Brazer, evidence of the retouched die is seen in many details. Brazer focused on nine areas to demonstrate the differences. Kershner commented on most of the same nine areas Brazer described. I have added the wave at the top of the head as another area for study. For consistency, the following images have been taken from positions 17 and 18 of the last NBNCo. printing and positions 17 and 18 of the first ABNCo. printing.

King's Head

Position 17

Scott 31

31a pos 17 head-600

Scott 31a

31-17 head - 600

Position 18

Scott 31

31a pos 18 head-600

Scott 31a

31 pos 18 head 600-2

King's Face

Position 17

Scott 31

31a pos 17 face-600

Scott 31a

31 pos 17 face-600

Position 18

Scott 31

31a pos 18 face-600

Scott 31a

31 pos 18 face-600-2

Detail

Kershner Comment

Position 17:
No. 31-No. 31a

Position 18:
No. 31-No. 31a

Brazer's Comment

Hair Above Ear
"More highlight on hair above ear" in Scott 31 and "very little" in Scott 31a. Both Kershner and Brazer are vague as to whether they mean the left or right side of the stamp but evidence of etching is seen on both sides.

31a and 31 pos 17 hairaboveLear-600 31a and 31 pos 17 hairaboveRear-600
31a and pos 18 hair above Lear-600 31a and pos 18 hair above Rear-600

"The hair above the ear was deepened by wash etching, which removed many of the actual bits of intaglio surface that would and did appear in the earlier printings as white spaces."

From Eyebrows to Eyes
"More detail in space between eyes and eyebrows" in Scott No. 31 and "very heavy shadow" in Scott 31a.

31
31a pos 17 space above eyes-600 31 pos 17 spaceaboveeyes-600
31a
31
31a pos 18 space above eyes-600 31 pos 18 spaceaboveeyes-600-2
31a

"The eyebrows and space down to the eyes show a typical etched mass, with typical etched edges."

Beard
"More detail in beard, particularly between the chin and ear" in Scott 31 and "little detail in beard, space between chin and ear practically solid" in Scott 31a.

31

31a pos 17 beard-600 31 pos 17 beard-600

31a

31

31a pos 18 beard-600 31 pos 18 beard-600

31a

"The beard was strengthened by wash etching and its outlines trued up at the same time. (This is where the beard trim comes in.)

Beard Below Ear - Detail
See comment under Beard. Again Kershner and Brazer are vague as to which side. The effect shows better on the king's left (right side of stamp).

King's left

31a and 31 pos 17 chintoLear-600

King's right

31a and 31 pos 17 chintoRear-600

King's left

31a and 31 pos 18 chintoLear-600

King's right

31a and 31 pos 18 chintoRear-600

See Kershner comment under Beard. Brazer made no specific remark about the space between the chin and ear.

Moustache Tip on Right
Kershner made no specific comment on this area.

31

31a pos 17 L moustache tip-1200 31 pos 17 Lmoustache tip-1200-2

31a

31

31a pos 18 L moustache tip-1200 31 pos 18 Lmoustache tip-1200-2

31a

"Note edge of one wash area showing below end of moustache at right side of stamp - a straight horizontal line." The tip of the moustache seems to blend into the beard in Scott 31a, but has a more distinct edge in Scott 31.

Upper Lip
"Definite highlight on outline of upper lip" on Scott 31 and "no highlight" on Scott 31a.

31a pos 17 upper lip-60031 pos 17 upper lip-600
31a pos 18 upper lip-60031 pos 18 upper lip-600

"The upper lip is etched, noticeably." There is more white space above the lip in Scott 31a.

Left Eye (right side of stamp)
No specific comment.

31a pos 17 Leye-60031 pos 17 Leye-600
31a pos 18 Leye-60031 pos 18 Leye-600

"Kamehameha's left eye (right side of stamp), which looked as if it had a cataract on it, has been etched to have a proper iris and pupil." In position 18, the change in the iris of the king's left eye is to me the most noticeable of all changes. The change is less noticeable in position 17, but there is a change.

Right eye (left side of stamp)
"King is looking past us, slightly to our left.".

31a pos 17 Reye-60031 pos 17 Reye-600
31a pos 18 Reye-60031 pos 18 Reye-600

"His other eye has been etched so that the pupil points forward, not sidewise. The pupil has been made smaller." The change is most noticeable in position 18.

Left shoulder (right side of stamp)
No specific comment.

31a and 31 pos 17 Lshldr-600

Detail

31a and 31 pos 17 Lshldr dtl 1200
31a and pos 18 Lshldr-600

Detail

31a and 31 pos 18 Lshldr dtl-1200

"A small wash-etched area on his left shoulder in the 1864 stamp has been enlarged to a large one, whose straight vertical edge shows conspicuously." I cannot see what he means, except in both positions, the lines of the coat seem sharper.

Shading to left of "H"
No specific comment.

31a pos 17 L of H-60031 pos 17 L of H-600-2
31a pos 18 L of H-60031 pos 18 L of H-600

"The shading on each side of HAWAII is typical wash-etched strengthening. So is that under the first E and the last A of Elua Keneta." This effect seem true in both positions.

Wave at Top of Head
No specific comment.

31

31a pos 17 top knot-600 31-17 top knot - 600

31a

31

31a pos 18 hair top knot-600 31 pos 18 top knot-600-2

31a

No specific comment. I see noticeably more white spaces in Scott 31 than in Scott 31a. Also, this effect seems present in both positions.

Back to 1864 2 Kamehameha IV, Scott No. 31.



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