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::: PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT - Printer Errors :::

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Printer errors occurred when the sheet was fed improperly to the press. A handpress was used for this work. If the sheet was fed in upside down, an inverted overprint resulted. A shifted overprint happened if the sheet was aligned improperly with the overprint type. In a few cases, the printer fed the sheet to the press twice to correct an error in the first feed, resulting in a double overprint. Surprisingly, of the many thousands of sheets fed to the press for an overprint, fewer than two hundred were messed up by the printer.

Four sheets were fed to the press upside down, two sheets of Scott 57 and two sheets of Scott No. 59.

Scott 57 Inverts

Scott 57g

Notice the inverted overprint on the left is significantly lower than on the right. These stamps are from two different sheets. So far, only one example of the lower overprint (left image) has been recorded.

Scott 59 Inverts

Scott 59g

Notice the inverted overprint at the top is placed farther to the right than the lower stamp. These stamps are from two different sheets.

Students of this issue know the double overprints sometimes show two fully inked overprints and sometimes show one overprint fully inked and another poorly inked, with either a moderate or weak imprint. In all cases, the first overprint was incorrect - either it was too weakly inked or it was misplaced. Instead of accepting the mistake and moving on to the next sheet, the printer fed the sheet to the press a second time.

Until the 2001 edition of the Scott Specialized Catalogue of U. S. stamps, the Scott editors pursued an incomplete and inconsistent policy toward listing double overprints. In the 2001 edition, full recognition was given to the three different double overprint inking conditions: 1) a double overprint, both strikes heavy; 2) a double overprint, one strike moderate; and 3) a double overprint, one strike weak. Also, references to overprint varieties were standardized so, for example, a "d" is used only for double overprints, both heavy. The market will prefer a fully inked double but on some stamps the only examples of doubles are where one is a moderate or a weak impression.

Please send me an E-mail ( description of any double overprint in your record so a census can be constructed.


Scott No. 55 doubles

Fully inked doubles from two sheets of Scott No. 55d

Scott 57 dble

Scott No. 57d

Scott 59 dble

Scott 59d, only the left column of 10 stamps received the double

Scott No. 62 doubles

Fully inked doubles from two sheets of Scott No. 62d

Scott 66 dble

Scott No. 66d, the only recorded example of a fully inked double of Scott No. 66d but more should exist

Scott 71 dble

Scott No. 71d, examples from three sheets; there may be another sheet


Scott 54 dble med

Scott No. 54e, moderately inked doubles from two sheets

Scott 59 dbl med

Scott No. 59e, actually, parts of four overprints fell on this stamp

Scott 60 doubles

Scott No. 60e, moderately inked doubles, probably from two sheets

Scott 61 doubles

Scott No. 61e

nutmeg 73

Scott No. 62e

Scott 66 doubles med

Scott No. 66e

Scott 70 doubles

Scott No. 70e

Scott 71 doubles light

Scott No. 71e, moderately inked doubles from two sheets


A distinction needs to be drawn between a lightly inked double overprint and a "kiss" overprint. The "kiss" refers to the presence of small parts of a second overprint, perhaps only part of one letter or number. The "kiss" resulted when the sheet warped and touched the plate before the remainder of the sheet was struck. Thus "kisses" are not doubles at all in the same sense being discussed because the sheet was fed to the press only once. I have no difficulty in Scott's refusal to list "kiss" doubles.

Scott 53 dbl det-300

Lightly inked doubles, on the other hand, are uniform throughout the sheet and resulted from being fed twice to the press.

Scott 53 dbl
nutmeg 54f
Scott 55 dble-light

Scott No. 53f

Scott No. 54f

Scott No. 55f

Scott 57f
Scott 58 dbl
Scott 59 dbl lgt
Scott 61f

Scott No. 57f

Scott No. 58f

Scott No. 59f

Scott No. 61f

Scott 64f
Scott 67 dbl
Scott 68f

Scott No. 64f

Scott No. 67f

Scott No. 68f

Scott 71 dbl split vert diag 1
Scott 72 dbl lght

Scott No. 71f

Scott No. 72f

For Scott Nos. 53, 58, 64, 67, 68 and 72, double overprints are known only with one overprint lightly inked.

If the printer failed to align the sheet properly with the overprint plate when the sheet was fed to the press, the overprint fell in the wrong place. The result where the shift was sufficiently off center was split overprints, falling on different stamps. The most dramatic of the shifts resulted in missing a row altogether, leaving the variety "pair, one with and one without overprint." The latter error is blessed with Scott Catalogue recognition. Split overprint errors are not catalogued. My personal view is to leave the situation alone but a good case can be made for listing them.


One sheet from each the 1 green (Scott 55) and the 18 claret (Scott 71) were fed to the press too high so the type missed the top row altogether and the bottom row of type landed on the bottom selvage. Five vertical pairs from each sheet were thus created for this variety. Another sheet of the 18 was fed at such a bad angle the overprint missed a few stamps, creating several horizontal pairs of this variety.

Scott 55 variety

Scott No. 55g

Scott 71 variety

Scott No. 71g

Scott 71 variety on selv

Scott No. 71 variety


Sheets fed so the overprint falls upon two horizontal stamps received the overprint split horizontally. Sheets fed so the overprint falls upon two vertical stamps received the overprint split vertically. Diagonal overprints resulted when the sheet was fed at an angle. Stamps in the top row of vertically split overprints ended up with a missing line or two and stamps in the left or right column of horizontally split overprints missed some letters.

Scott 65 split vert
Scott 65 msg 1893

Vertical split

Missing date

Scott 71 split horiz diag

Diagonal and horizontal split

Scott 71 split horiz msg al

Missing "al"


  • Beardsley, Wallace R., "A Little Understood Variety/The Hawaii Provisional Government Double Overprints With One Impression Faint", Opinions V, p. 192-207, The Philatelic Foundation, New York, 1988. Provisional Government Issue; good explanation of the printing error; proposes a rating scale for uniformity.

  • Gregory, Fred, "Double Overprints of the 1893 Provisional Government Issue," 2001 Scott Specialized Catalogue of U. S. Stamps and Covers, p. 666-667, Scott Publishing Company, 2000; complete explanation of the double overprints.

Study 1: Printing and Printing States

Study 2: Quantities

Study 3: Loose Type Flaws

Study 5: Forgery Study

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