Sale 967 — Important and Superb United States Stamps

Sale Date — Tuesday-Friday, 16-19 December, 2008

Category — 1867-68 Grilled Issue (Scott 79-101), including the 10c Z Grill

Cat./Est. Value
Sale 967, Lot 4190, 1867-68 Grilled Issue (Scott 79-101), including the 10c Z Grill10c Green, Z. Grill (85D). Target cancel, deep shade, strong grill impression, centered to upper left but perfs clear at top and just barely in at left


Our census of the 10c Z Grill is shown on the opposite page and is also available at

We record just six examples of Scott 85D, including one stamp contained in the Miller collection at The New York Public Library (85D-CAN-06) and another stamp (85D-CAN-01) which has not been seen since it last appeared in a Laurence & Stryker auction in November 1958. Until the status of 85D-CAN-01 can be verified, it is possible that only four examples of the 10c Z Grill remain available to collectors, three of which are sound.

For reasons explained in detail in our introductions to the 1867-68 Grilled Issue and Z Grill rarities (both available on our website), there were probably two grilling machines running concurrently when regular grill production started in January 1868, following the experimental grilling period from August to December 1867. In our hypothetical grilling operation at the National Bank Note Company in New York City, one machine (#1) was equipped with the Z Grill roller, and the other (#2) with the D Grill roller. After sheets of the 1c, 2c, 3c, 10c, 12c and 15c were embossed with the Z Grill on machine #1, it was eventually refitted with the F Grill roller and used to grill all values through the 90c. The #2 machine was used to grill a small quantity of 2c and 3c sheets only (the highest-volume values) before the D Grill roller was replaced with the E Grill, which was then used to grill large quantities of 1c, 2c, 3c, 10c, 12c and 15c values (there are no 24c, 30c or 90c values with the E Grill). When the 1869 Pictorial Issue went into production, the F and E Grill rollers were replaced with the smaller G Grill.

Exactly when was the 10c Z Grill produced and issued? The answer can only be deduced, because production records were not kept specifically for grill types, which are a philatelic classification and not something the stamp manufacturers identified at the time. By our estimate, it took approximately ten days from the time a sheet was printed and gummed for that sheet to be grilled, perforated and delivered to the post office. Therefore, the Earliest Documented Use (EDU) dates for stamps listed in the Scott Catalogue can be used to approximate the production date for each grill type and value. Using this dating methodology and working on the assumption that the 10c Z Grill and E Grill sheets were produced in close proximity to each other, the 10c Z Grill stamps would have been run through machine #1 on or about February 11, 1868, ten days prior to the 10c E Grill (Scott 89) EDU of February 21, 1868.

What do the EDU dates for the different 1868 grill types and values tell us? Let us first start with the grill types. The earliest date for any regular-production grill is January 17, 1868, evidenced by a piece with a 2c Z Grill (Scott 85B). This is followed by a 3c D Grill (Scott 85, EDU Feb. 2). Thus, we have evidence that the Z and D Grills were the earliest regular-production grills to be manufactured. The earliest date for any E Grill, which indicates the point of conversion for machine #2 from the D to E roller, is February 12, 1868 (3c Scott 88), which also happens to be the EDU for the 3c Z Grill (Scott 85C) and 12c Z Grill (Scott 85E). The earliest date for any F Grill, which indicates the point of conversion for machine #1 from the Z to F roller, is March 21, 1868 (3c Scott 94). The EDU for the F Grill, which is 37 days later than the E Grill EDU, suggests that machine #1 was still equipped with the Z Grill roller while machine #2 was producing sheets with the E Grill. However, that does not reconcile with the relative rarity of Z Grills. Another possibility is that machine #1 was taken out of use, but that does not reconcile with the quantities of grilled stamps produced (at the rate of 6,700 sheets per day). A third possibility is that machine #1 was refitted in February 1868 with a grill that matches the dimensions of the E Grill, but philatelists have not yet identified two different types of E Grills. In this scenario, machine #1 would have been refitted a second time with the smaller F Grill, sometime before the March 21, 1868 EDU. If philatelists were able to verify that there are indeed two types of E Grills, perhaps by studying the grills on multiples, then the "dual E Grill machine" theory could be proved. This theory also explains why the high-volume 3c is so rare with the Z Grill. Only a small quantity of 3c sheets were grilled on machine #1 before the Z Grill roller was removed. It also explains the coinciding EDU's for the 3c Z and E Grills. They were grilled concurrently on both machines.

The EDU data also tells us when different denominations were first grilled. The 2c and 3c high-production values were the first to be grilled (Jan. 17 and Feb. 2). The 12c value was next (Feb. 12). We do not have dated examples of the 1c, 10c and 15c Z Grills, but all three were almost certainly produced prior to the 10c E Grill EDU of February 21, 1868. The 5c was not grilled until August (F Grill, Scott 95, EDU Aug. 19), followed by the 24c, 30c and 90c values.

The F Grill first appears on a 3c value (Scott 94, EDU March 21, 1868), followed by the 2c (Scott 93, EDU March 27, 1868), which indicates that the newly-equipped machine #1 was used to grill high-volume 2c and 3c stamps after the F Grill was installed. 10c F Grill production, using new sheets printed on much thinner paper, occurred two months later, in May 1868 (EDU May 28, 1868). In the same month we have the first 12c F Grill (Scott 97, EDU May 27, 1868) and 15c F Grill (Scott 98, May 4, 1868).

The great Z Grill rarities are probably the products of a short-lived chance encounter between sheets of 1c, 10c and 15c stamps and the Z Grill roller on machine #1, just before the device was refitted with another grill type. The craftsmen at the National Bank Note Company could never have foreseen a future in which these embossed stamps would represent the keys to completing a United States stamp collection. If they had, perhaps they would have left records to tell us exactly what happened in those early months of 1868.

Ex Ishikawa. With 1975, 1992 and 2005 P.F. certificates

Sale 967, Lot 4190, 1867-68 Grilled Issue (Scott 79-101), including the 10c Z Grill
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