16th July 2012
“We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” – Oscar Wilde in The Canterville Ghost (1887)
In recent times American collectors have opted for EFO’s or Errors, Freaks and Odditiesas a term to describe “all the kinds of things that can go wrong when producing postage stamps”. Each category is carefully defined and there exists a dedicated society, the Errors, Freaks and Oddities Collectors’ Club (EFOCC) with its own website http://www.efocc.org/ that you may visit. Meet the Efockers !
In England we are happy to use the term Error, which describes correctly those accidents that might have occurred inadvertently during production. Sometimes bad things happen to good stamps. Variety is a term more useful still, embracing not only errors but also minor printing variations and occasional flaws. We find that these two terms suffice for most phenomena whether constant or inconstant, listed by the stamp catalogues or not. Such extraneous material as ‘Test’ or ‘Dummy’ stamps, not intended for issue, are categorised as such.
“Freaks and Oddities”, though ? These are harsh words indeed but what are the real stamp freaks? What might be displayed in a Philatelic Freakshow ?
A good start could be provided by a few dramatic Doctor Blade Flaws, hideous mutilations of the printed design, the images grotesquely perverted.
Then one could show the ‘inverts’. Quickly turn the page and there would appear . . . can you believe it ? The head actually upside-down !
The biggest draw, though, should be the Siamese Twins, unnaturally conjoined due to the failure of the perforating machine. I am referring to those pairs of stamps, sometimes very rare indeed, that destiny has condemned to being linked forever as a result of having been left imperforate horizontally, vertically, or sometimes ‘imperf. between’.
Two such ‘freaks’, highly desired by British West Indies collectors, will appear in our next British Empire & Foreign Countries auction, scheduled for October 5th and now in its later stages of preparation. The Jamaica 1932 2d. Coco Palms pair (S.G. 111a, catalogued at £9,000) is one star from the collection of the late Dr R M Craig of Shropshire.
More valuable still, the British Guiana 1938-52 4c. pair (S.G. 310a, now cataloguing £32,000), is one of many fine items that have appeared from the collections of the late Patrick Williams. This variety is one of the truly great King George VI rarities, much sought-after ever since the Trinidad Philatelic Society first reported that that a half-sheet of the 1946 printing with the horizontal perforations omitted had been bought over the counter at the G.P.O. in Georgetown. A real ‘lollapalooza’, as our American friends might say.
Whatever you call it, this striking phenomenon will surely not struggle to find a kind and caring new home.