Chalky Paper

I recently scanned in and cataloged a number of early Austrian stamps that were printed on both regular paper and chalky paper. So I needed to make sure how to tell the difference. A quick search of past threads had one useful one pop up. The only problem was the advice given to determine the difference between regular paper and chalky paper didn't seem help me.

One person on the previous thread suggested touching the surface of the paper with a silver object to see if a dark mark is left; if so, then it is chalky paper. Sorry, but I just don't have silver objects laying around to deface my stamps with, so this suggestion was a no go.

Another person stated that the surface of the chalky paper will have the appearance of numerous bubbles when looked at with 10-power magnifying device. Again, the chalky paper on these Austrian stamps did not show this.

But what I did notice when using a higher power magnifying device (about 70X) is that the surface of the paper appeared smooth with just a hint of paper fibers visible here and there. Under this magnification all of the individual fibers can be seen on the surface of normal paper. I assume that the chalky material was applied as a slurry to the top of the paper and then wiped off, with only the fibers rising the highest from the surface of the paper being slightly visible once the slurry had dried. So the chalky covering appears almost like a stucco on the surface of the paper. On the tips of the perforation teeth, the individual paper fibers could be seen; this was the only place they were visible on the front of the stamps. Also, the chalky coating usually stopped a very short distance from the very tip of the perforation teeth, with the part of the coating immediately adjacent to the perforation tip slightly broken up into tiny pieces still adhering to the paper; it looked just like a stucco coating of a building surface that had started to break down and flake off.

I tried using my scanner to get a picture of the perforation tips to show what I am describing, but the scanner just didn't have sufficient magnification power. So hopefully my description above will be sufficient. If not, let me know what you are confused about and I will try to describe what I am seeing in more detail.

This morning I was scanning in and cataloging a few Cayman Islands stamps. Again, I came across some issues that were printed on just chalky paper. I saw the same thing that I did with Austrian stamps. Then I came across one stamp that was printed on both chalky paper and on surface-colored paper. I had previously identified this stamp as the surface-colored paper version. But a close look with my 70X magnification device showed that very distinctive stucco-like coating, no visible paper fibers on the front surface of the paper other than at the very tips of the perforation teeth and the broken pieces of coating still adhering to the paper surface at the tips of the perforation teeth.

I had been waiting to post this until after I had found another example other than just those Austrian stamps. These Cayman Islands issues sealed it for me.

Richard Pauls (okstamps)


  • 2 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Now this is a bit of info I can really use!
  • After starting this thread, I received a direct email from an individual who stated that the introduction by Stanley Gibbons in their catalogs gives a good description of chalky papers and how to accurately detect them. This individual also stated that Stanley Gibbons states that magnification doesn't always work and that the silver method is what they use for all the stamps in their catalogs. I do have a 2016 edition of the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue of Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps 1840-1970, so I figured I would check this out to see what they actually state. The following paragraphs are a direct quote from this catalog under the heading "Paper" and the subheading " "Ordinary" and "Chalk-surfaced" papers":

    Start quote:

    The "traditional" method of indentifying chalk-surface papers has been that, when touched with a silver wire, a black mark is left on the paper, and the listings in this catalogue are based on that test. However, the test itself is now largely discredited, for, although the mark can be removed by a soft rubber, some damage to the stamp will result from its use.

    The difference between chalk-surfaced and prewar ordinary papers is fairly clear: chalk-surfaced papers being smoother to the touch and showing a characteristic sheen when light is reflected off their surface. Under good magnification tiny bubbles or pock marks can be seen on the surface of the stamp and at the tips of the perforations the surfacing appears "broken". Traces of paper fibres are evident on the surface of ordinary paper and ink shows a degree of absorption into it.

    Initial chalk-surfaced paper printings by De La Rue had a thinner coating than subsequently became the norm. The characteristics described above are less pronounced in these printings.

    End quote.

    So I think I will stick by my magnification method. I sure wish I could find an example of the pitting or bubbles described both in the above quote and also by another individual on this site. I have some Bahamas, Barbados and Bermuda stamps that I will be working on over the next several months. If I can find an example of the bubbling or pitting, I will post my observations as an addition to this thread.
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