Plating The 3¢ U.S. Imperforate Stamp of 1851 - 1857

Identifying The Plates:

Following Dr. Chase's book, the first step in plating a stamp is to identify its plate. With practice, it is usually possible to narrow your choices to one or two plates. The steps Dr. Chase suggests are 1 - determine if the stamp has two, one, or no inner lines; 2 - determine if the stamp is orange-brown or not; 3 - determine the heaviness, clarity, and extent of recutting on the stamp. We shall call non-orange-brown plates "Dull Red", which is the commonly used (although very incomplete) color category for those plates. The chart below summarizes his process:

Step 1 - None, One, or Two Inner Lines:

Like the book says, determine if your stamp has two, one or no inner lines. If it has two inner lines, you have just narrowed your stamps to consider to nine plates or 1,800 stamps; if it has one inner line, you are looking at four plates, or 800 stamps; and, if it has no inner lines, you are looking at six plates or 1,200 stamps. Refer to the Recuts section to see more specifics about the primary inner lines for the 2,600 stamps. But, this is clearly too many stamps to evaluate, so once you know the answer to step 1, go on to step 2.

Step 2 - Color - Orange-Brown or NOT (Dull Red):

All scanning for this website was done on an Epson Perfection V600 Flatbed Photo Scanner at resolutions of 1200 dpi or higher.

Color is extremely important to plating. However, for Plating, the goal regarding Color is to determine whether your stamp is Orange Brown or NOT. If it is Orange Brown, then, with rare exceptions, you know you are looking at the five early Orange Brown plates (1E, 1i, 2E, 5E, 0). If it is NOT Orange Brown, you are looking at the eight later Dull Red plates (1L, 2L, 3, 4, 5L, 6, 7, 8).

Color is difficult to determine. Some people have an eye for color; most don't. Color is most readily determined by comparing known plated stamps with other stamps. It is interesting that with all of the visual appeal of the Web, the one thing the Web does not do a great job of representing accurately are stamp colors. In reviewing much material available on the web, the same colors can be seen in a wide variety of apparent color. For in-depth exploration of all the colors of the 3¢ stamp refer to the Resources section, where there are a couple of excellent articles on color; and, also to the Chase-Color section where Dr Chase's Color study is presented. A 2002 article in Linns discusses this issue in detail.

To illustrate this difficulty, three color profiles are presented for this stamp. The first color profile is a small educational excerpt scanned from my copy of the Scott Specialized Color Guide for United States Stamps:

The second color profile is scanned from my copy of Encyclopedia of Colors of United States Postage Stamps by R.H.White. I am told this very expensive book does not do a very good job of showing accurate colors for the 3 Cent Stamp. However, it is useful to show another point of view:

The third color profile is taken from a variety of web images with their labeled colors. Please understand the colors shown are LIKELY NOT accurate representations due to monitor, scanner, and rendering differences between computers, web sites, and browsers.


If your stamp is Orange-Brown, then you are looking at Plates 1E, 1i, 2E, 5E and 0. If your stamp is NOT Orange-Brown, you are looking Plates 1L, 2L, 3, 4, 5L, 6, 7, and 8.

The table below presents ten stamps from each plate to help you compare and evaluate Orange-Brown versus NOT Orange-Brown stamps. Of course, there are 2,470 more stamps you can also look at in the Complete Plating:

Plate 1E 1E    
Plate 1i 1i
Plate 5E 5E
Plate 2E 2E
Plate 0 0
Plate 1L 1L
Plate 2L 2L
Plate 3 3
Plate 5L 5L
Plate 4 4
Plate 6 6
Plate 7 7
Plate 8 8

Step 3 - Impressions - Recut Existence, Lightness, Heaviness, Strength and Clarity:

With your results from the first two steps, you are now examining between 1 and 5 plates. If your first two steps have lead you to plates 1E and 1i (i.e., No Inner Lines & Orange-Brown), then you should just move on to the Plating Wizard to include all of the other plating characteristics in your search. If you are lucky enough to have a stamp with One Inner Line, and you know its color, with only 92 Orange-Browns and 23 Dull-Reds to consider, you should also go to the Plating Wizard to include the other plating characteristics. Otherwise, you should compare the stamp recuts and impressions with the plated stamps in this study as well as the descriptions above; and, with practice you will soon become able to narrow down your plates to only one or two.

The plates vary greatly in clarity of impression and quality and heaviness of recuts. Learning to recognize the various impression characteristics of each plate is important. Beyond the general impression characteristices of a particular plate are the even more variable impressions of a particular stamp. Two stamps in the same position may show very different impressions due to wear, dry printing, differences in plate wiping, deterioration over the years, exposure to the elements, and so on. There are good summaries of the impression characteristics of each plate, but it really comes down to practice and experience and lots of attempts at plating.

The tables below presents three stamps from each plate to help you compare and evaluate the plates based upon Dr. Chase's descriptions relating to recut clarity, heaviness, lightness and existence, with the goal of narrowing down your choice to one or two plates. Of course, there are 2,561 more stamps you can also look at in the Complete Plating:

Plate 1E - Orange-Brown / No, One, or Two Inner Lines: (Positions 13L1E, 18L1E, 20L1E)


Plate 1i - Orange-Brown / No, One, or Two Inner Lines: (Positions 13L1i, 18L1i, 20L1i)


Plate 5E - Orange-Brown / One or Two Inner Lines: (Positions 6L5E, 7L5E, 8L5E)


Plate 2E - Orange-Brown / Two Inner Lines: (Positions 1L2E, 2L2E, 3L2E)


Plate 0 - Orange-Brown / Two Inner Lines: (Positions 1L0, 2L0, 3L0)


Plate 1L - Dull Red / Two Inner Lines: (Positions 13L1L, 18L1L, 20L1L)


Plate 2L - Dull Red / Two Inner Lines: (Positions 1L2L, 2L2L, 3L2L)


Plate 3 - Dull Red / One (after McDaniel changes) or Two Inner Lines: (Positions 1L3, 2L3, 3L3)


Plate 5L - Dull Red / One or Two Inner Lines: (Positions 6L5L, 7L5L, 8L5L)


Plate 4 - Dull Red / NO Inner Lines: (Positions 1L4, 2L4, 3L4)


Plate 6 - Dull Red / NO Inner Lines: (Positions 1L6, 2L6, 3L6)


Plate 7 - Dull Red / NO Inner Lines: (Positions 1L7, 2L7, 3L7)


Plate 8 - Dull Red / NO Inner Lines: (Positions 1L8, 2L8, 3L8)


Step 4 - The Plating Wizard:

At this point, you have hopefully narrowed your choice down to one or two plates, meaning you have between 200 and 400 stamps to consider. It is time to move on to the Plating Wizard to reduce that number significantly by looking at Reliefs, Guide Dots, Recut Combinations, and other plating characteristics.