Franklin-Washington - Taming the Beast Part 4: Perforations (Or Not)

The perforation is an excellent way to narrow down your selection in just what is it you have with the Franklin-Washington.
While most of you are familiar with perforation gauge, some are not. And those that are, may not be familiar with the specialty gauge.
While the specialty gauge has many purposes, it is the FW's that it is used most often with in US philatelics, particularly because not only does it cover the "usual suspects" of perforation, it enables precision measurement of perforations (which is extremely valuable for fake detection). It also covers private perforations - The "Vending and Affixing" machine perfs, and in addition is invaluable in determining coil authenticity.


A quick rundown on the gauge above:
At far right, the gauge which ranges from perf 16 to 8, with diagonal lines linking from high to low, a stamp can be moved along the diagonals to give you exact measurement of perfs.

PrecisionMulti-Gauge - Perf

At the risk of being parochial, I will explain how to use a perf gauge correctly. I have seen many people use a standard pocket gauge by "aligning" the perf tip to the tip of the gauge. This does NOT give you an accurate measure of the perf. The proper way is to align the bottom of the perforation with the perforation well. The following image illustrates this point.

Perf Gauge Usage1

In the image above, we're checking the perforation on a coil stamp. This coil is 8.5 perforation... or is it?

Perf Gauge Usage2

Note that close examination in the first image 8.5 doesn't quite line up. As we push the stamp up the gauge in this case, we see that it aligns more accurately to 8.35 perf. This is a DIFINITIVE clue that this perforation is not genuine. It's close, but close, but close doesn't count especially in Coil validation.

At this stage I want to introduce why you need the precision gauge as opposed to typical "pocket" gauges.

Perf Gauge - Standard

Above is an example pocket gauge. For many issues, this gauge is fine. But if you have concern about fakery, then this gauge isn't accurate enough. This image demonstrates why:

Perf Gauge Usage - Standard1

Note that the non-specialized gauge could construe that the perf is ok. This is because these gauges are designed for "short edge" which is fine when you're not dealing with fraudulently applied perforation. It's even worse when used in appropriatly:

Perf Gauge Usage - Standard2

Don't use this gauge this way. The problem is perforations "separate" at different points, and it's not possible to predict where/how. Perf is defined at the bottom of the perf, not from perf tips. I'm demonstrating this to show how inaccurate this method is, and why you should never use any gauge this way. These examples are all the SAME stamp. Not how much more specific the specialist gauge provides clarity. Use the pocket gauge when you're at a stamp show for most issues, but not for validation of FWs.

This demonstrates why and how you want to use the specialist gauge for standard perf. I'll now go into the other parts of the specialty gauge for IDing FWs.

As we look at the specialist gauge looking to the left, past the "Target" and vignette of the 10c, you will encounter the "Private perforation" gauge area. This area indicates the measures for private perf:

PrecisionMulti-Gauge - Private Perf

Used in the same way as the perforation gauge, you align the private perforation with the specialty gauge. One advantage of this transparent gauge, is that the stamp may be positioned on top of the gauge, or UNDER the gauge. For private perfs this can be particularly useful.

The following are Private Perforation. One of these if fraudulent, can you tell which one?
US Autovend

Brinkerhoff I
Brinkerhoff I

Brinkerhoff II
Brinkerhoff II

Shermack III
Shermack III

The last area of specific use for coil validation (though I'll do another detailed posting on this), is the upper left. This block is useful for the "parallel lines check". When imperf sheets or perforated pairs are cut by hand, they are not accurately parallel. Using this section, you can align one side to the bottom line, and check that the upper line is perfectly parallel. When it is not, it is highly suspect that it is not a genuine coil. Also, height (or width if turned 90 degrees) can be determined. An authentic coil should be 25.5mm tall (for horizontal coils) or 21mm wide (for vertical coils). It is possible to be slightly less than this (about 1/2 mm) but anything more than that is disqualified as a coil stamp.

Lines Check


  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I want to thank and curse Scott for these articles.
    Thank him for these easy to read informative articles,
    curse him because he's forcing me to go back and double
    check all my Washington/ Franklin's.

    I have an old metal pref gauge, but not that nice one Scott is showing.
    I see it for sale on that other auction site, and rocket man's site,
    but not on Hipstamp.

    Is there a supplies dealer that wants to list one here?
  • Alan, I once cursed this issue myself (yeah, only once, let's go with that).
    I remember being a young dealer and just avoiding these for about 2- 3 years. Then they REALLY pilled up and I was looking for other issues to "mine" out of the collections I had massed, and so I crossed the "last frontier" of the beast that is FW. These articles and the FW Matrix that I created are the result of that process, and it really tames the beast. I forgot to note as I usually do in my other FW articles, the matrix is free, I'm happy to email it to anyone who wants it. Just contact me at and I'll send it to you. The one requirement is that you have Excel, as the functionality of this only works with Excel. If you have any additions/suggestions improvements for the matrix, I would love to hear those.

    BTW, I'll be adding the K1 - K18 to this matrix as well, as someone pointed out to me recently that they too, are technically FW and there is plenty of room for abuse and fakery, so I'll be adding it in the next version.
  • A pair a Washington/Franklin's just came in the mail.
    The wife said " WTF you're buying stamps from Japan now?"

    I think I feel safe and not having to double verify them.
  • Scott, I have one of those Precision Multi-Gauge devices from Sonic Imagery Labs, but yours has more information than mine. Mine came out in 2002. What is the date of yours?
  • Mine is revision 5.1 from 2008. I have seen various specialty gauges that do differ. I prefer this one.
  • Alan,
    Haha, that's spectacular. We try very hard. I did find one that was listed in our store recently that wasn't accurate. I've since discussed with our stamp listers how to look more closely at these. It really was a very minor point that I found, but it was definitive that it had been faked. But we do take great care and effort to ensure they are accurate.

    Once you know you have an accurate pair, you can then compare other pairs to the outside edges. When you get very proficient in this, you'll start to notice exactly how the edges are cut, and you'll start to notice things that don't look right. This should be done under high magnification minimum 15x I would recommend up to 30x. You'll start to pick up on details about how the coil stripper worked, and how other methods (scissor, wheel cuts, razorblade cuts) look different. It's mostly about the movement. In the stripper, the paper moves through the stripper. With all other cutting methods, the cutting edge moves across the paper. These leave distinctive fingerprints. And when you stare at 1000's of them long enough, it starts to become "obvious". :)
  • "Once you know you have an accurate pair, you can then compare other pairs to the outside edges. "

    Good point. I have a couple W/F place holders that are regumed.
    The dealer listed and priced them as regumed.
    I got them just to see what regumed looked like.
  • It's great to have references like that. Regumming is different on lots of different stamps, and it's important to know as well what the "real gum" should look like. This gets very tricky in the earlier issues prior to 300. Far more stamps from that era are regummed than having OG.
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