12¢ Black, F. Grill (97), unused horizontal strip of four (no gum) with "ENGRAVED BY THE NATIONAL BANK NOTE COMPANY CITY OF NEW YORK" imprint and "No. 16 Plate." plate number at bottom, crisp shade and impression, nearly perfect centering
"Country Gentleman," Siegel Auction Galleries, 11/29-30/1972, Sale 422, lot 239
John C. Chapin (collection sold privately to Shreves and then to William H. Gross, 2002)
CENSUS, LITERATURE AND EXHIBITION REFERENCES
John C. Chapin, A Census of United States Classic Plate Blocks 1851-1882, census no. 310
The Philatelic Foundation (1983)
Extremely Fine; a few negligible perf separations noted on certificate
SCOTT CATALOGUE VALUE (2019)
$50,000.00 for this strip, which is the only one recorded, but it has not sold publicly for decades
HISTORY AND COMMENTARY
The Unique 12¢ 1861-68 Full Imprint and Plate Number
When the National Bank Note Co. won the contract to print stamps, they had already designed the 1861 Issue, engraved the dies and made eight plates for each denomination, and printed sheets of "sample labels" to submit as part of the competitive bidding process. The differences between the 12¢ First and Second Designs are significant. The First Design die was used to make Plate 5, and that plate was only used for the trial printing. The Second Design stamps issued from 1861 through 1868 were printed from one plate, Plate 16. Another plate, Plate 60, was made for the 1875 Re-Issue (Scott 107). Beginning in January 1868, the 12¢ stamps were grilled, using the machines patented by Charles F. Steel and starting with the Z Grill (Scott 85E), followed by the E and F Grills (Scott 90 and 97).
12¢ stamp multiples with the plate number are extremely rare, and the Chapin census is probably inaccurate. Our records show three examples (all bottom positions):
1) Scott 69, Chapin no. 249, pair, o.g., part imprint and number, ex dos Passos (Robbins 9/22/1981, lot 751)
2) Scott 69, Chapin no. 250, pair, o.g., part imprint and number, ex Lilly, Frelinghuysen (Sale 1021, lot 216; we wrongly said it was an addition to the record)
3) Scott 97, Chapin no. 310, strip of 4, no gum, full imprint and plate number, offered in this sale
The Chapin no. 251 entry lists a Scott 69 strip of four in the Hind sale (Phillips-Kennett, 11/20/1933, lot 266), but the description for that strip reads "part imprint and plate No., perfs close at bottom." In our opinion, that strip was reduced to the pair listed in Chapin as no. 250 (#2 in the list above). A plate block of eight with "Specimen" overprint was altered prior to 1940 by removing the overprint. According to Ashbrook's indexed notes, it was offered by Klemann to Moody, but Colson determined it had the overprint removed--its current whereabouts is not known.
Therefore, based on the above careful analysis, this strip of four is the only known 12¢ 1861-68 stamp multiple with the full imprint and plate number. It was part of the Chapin collection, which Mr. Gross acquired in 2002 in a private transaction.