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Canadian Stamp Tips: #3 of a series
Last Updated May 7, 2007 by Robin Harris

First published in the November-December 1995 Buffalo, the monthly publication of The Winnipeg Philatelic Society.


As noted in the first column of this series, I enjoy the hunt for constant plate varieties - particularly on used stamps. The main purpose of this series of tips is to show just how much fun one can have combing through very inexpensive stamps - those common used specimens every collector seem to have too many of.

8c QE Centennial (17k)When searching for plate varieties, you can never have enough copies of the same stamp to study. Back in 1989 I heard of a spectacular constant plate variety on the 8c Centennial sheet stamp (called the Extra Spire). This was illustrated in the April 1989 Buffalo. Well, the search was on to find this variety.

Due to the elusive nature of this variety, thousands of stamps are required to find just one example! Every Canadian collector has many used copies of the 8c Centennial stamp lying around. In fact, I would venture to guess that most collectors have thrown away more copies than they have kept!

Study Tip #5: Never throw away perfectly sound stamps.

I had at my disposal just over 15,000 used copies of the 8c Centennial with which to search for the Extra Spire variety. It took a few hours over a few nights to check all 15,000+ copies - one stamp at a time. Fortunately, the Extra variety is very noticeable and does not require a magnifying glass to spot. Once you've seen one you will never forget it either. How many varieties did I find? Only three. That is a 1 in 5,000 ratio (I have since found a fourth in another 3,000+ copies).

Study Tip #6: You must have patience when searching for a variety.

Patience is very important when studying stamps. That elusive find could be the next stamp you turn over. Also, make sure you are relatively alert and not being rushed. You would hate to blink or look away just as the variety you are searching for passes through your hands.

8c Centennial Extra Spire (42k)The Extra Spire variety comes from the top row of the pane (100 stamps per pane, 10 columns by 10 rows). The exact position is still unknown. By the varieties that have been found, it is thought that it comes from plate 4, issued in July 1972 (there were 7 plates used for this stamp. I believe no mint copies have been reported. A used copy sold in the Centennial Definitive Study Group auction of May 1992 for $41 (a very low price for such an elusive, yet prominent variety). The search for this variety is well worth it!

By the way, the Extra Spire was first reported in the Jan-Feb 1989 issue of BNA Topics, the journal of the British North America Philatelic Society. This is some 17 years after the stamp was issued! One other note, the Extra Spire has never been listed in either of Canada's two "specialized catalogues". [The Unitrade 2006 catalogue now lists this variety.]

Once again, never throw away perfectly sound used stamps - you never know when you may need them to search for a new-found variety.


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