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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 40, pp4-5 (Nov 1994).

Copyright notice

The Unissued 20c Green of 1948 - Fact or Fiction?

by E. J. Jewell

One of the recent souvenirs for the 20th anniversary of the founding of APSC featured an unissued 20c green in the Councillor design of the 1948 issue of the Spanish post offices. The souvenir was an artifact created by using colour filter techniques when reproducing the issued stamp. It may be worthwhile to examine the evidence for the existence of such a stamp in green.

In 1946-47 Spain issued three stamps, 75c, 90c and 1p35 in a recess-printed General Franco portrait design previously used for a 40c in 1942. Many years ago I acquired from a Spanish dealer two of these stamps, the 75c blue and 90c green. These are unusual in having on the back offsets of Andorran stamps.

Front of 75c blue Back of 75c blue

The 75c is from the bottom right corner of the sheet. On the back is a clear offset of the bottom quarter of the 75c blue of Andorra in the Meritxell design. As seen from the back of the stamp, it is centred slightly left and well up, the bottom of the offset being 9mm above the perforation. The remainder of the back of the stamp is free from blemish.

The 90c green is without margin so the sheet position is unknown. On the back of this is a complete offset of a green stamp in the Councillor design of Andorra, well centred. The offset is indistinct and not clear enough for the denomination to be certain. Indistinct offsets akin to this can often be created accidentally when mint recess-printed stamps are stored in slightly moist conditions. The ink of one stamp can adhere to the gum of another stored on top of it and partially come away on the back of the upper stamp when they are carefully separated. Such stamps are generally worthless. In the present case, such an explanation in untenable because the offset is of a stamp which was never issued and is otherwise unknown.

Back of 90c green Front of 90c green

In both cases, the colour of the offset is identical to that of the Spanish stamp on which it is found. One can only guess at how such anomalies arose. The small quantities required to be printed for Andorra (initially 200,000 of each value were authorised but this was later increased) may well not have been a full day's work for a printing press. For convenience, the printers may have printed the Andorran stamps first. Then they would have changed the the plate and continued to print Spanish stamps in the same colour. This would have obviated the need to clean and re-ink the press. My surmise is that, when the change was made, an impression of the Andorra stamp was accidentally left on the bed of the press and transferred to the back of the first sheet of the Spanish stamp to be printed. As the offsets are on top of the gum we must conclude that pre-gummed paper was used.

The existence of offsets has recently been reported by Devarennes.(1) He cites a 90c olive Franco with offset 20c green Councillor on the back and a 75c blue Meritxell with a partial offset of the 75c blue Franco on the back. These are similar to those described here except that he states that the 75c is a Spanish stamp on the back of Andorran one rather than vice-versa. Verification of this statement would be desirable.

We have, therefore, evidence that an Andorran stamp of the Councillor design in green was prepared and proceeded as far as being printed although such a stamp was never released. Whether it was a 20c is less certain. Three possibilities may be considered, all of them conjectural.

The 1948 issue of Andorra had a long gestation. The official announcement authorising the issue was made on 1st November 1945. By the time the stamps appeared, some of the values envisaged had been made obsolete by changes in the postage rates. Values of 15c, 40c and 80c were announced but did not appear; 30c and 90c values were added to those authorised. We do not know how far the preparation of the 15c, 40c and 80c progressed before they were abandoned. It may be possible that one or more of them got as far as printing and that it was a green stamp in the Councillor design.

As the 75c blue offset is on the back of a 75c blue, one might argue by analogy that the green stamp should be a 90c as the corresponding Spanish stamp is green. In the case of the 75c and 1p35 values the colour of the Andorran stamp mimics that of the equivalent Spanish stamp. We have no comparison for the 40c as it was not issued for Andorra. Whether there was any intention to achieve conformity of colour between Spanish and Andorran stamps can only be guessed. If we follow this line of argument we have to postulate that for some unknown reason the Councillor design was rejected in favour of Ordino in another colour.

The case for the green stamp being a 20c is based on the fact that the issued stamp in the Councillor design was a 20c (the 25c followed later). To support this assumption we must presume that the green colour was, for some reason, considered unsuitable. Close examination of the offset shows the shape of the first digit of the value to be consistent with a figure 2 although it is not possible to be certain. The second digit is too indistinct to even make a guess.

In summary, we have evidence that a green stamp in the Councillor design was prepared but not issued. Whether it was a 20c is less certain. The APSC souvenir may well be putting on record an interesting event which almost happened. It is just possible, however, that we may have created a red herring. Unless the Spanish postal administration opens up its archives we may never know.


1. Devarennes, Robert, "Poste Espagnole en Andorre - La Serie de 1948 à 1953", Philandorre, no 34, 16-20, May 1994 (ISSN 0181 8155)

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