New Aerogramme Discoveries - Ghana, 1972

by Jerome V. V. Kasper

Published in The AerogrammeR, February, 1997.

Often new discoveries are the finding of previously unknown aerogrammes or varieties. Sometimes, they are simply the recognition of details or differences in items long known. In this issue, we report on two such observations in the aerogrammes of Ghana.

The first aerogrammes of Ghana were Gold Coast issues with various "GHANA" overprints that were produced beginning on March 6, 1957. The first issue with imprinted "GHANA" (HIRES) was released on October 5, 1959. The 6d stamp pictures a fire-crowned bishop bird printed in black, yellow, red, brown and green. The tablet at the upper left, the address and folding lines and the admonition are printed in black. The border on all four sides consists of ornaments in the colors of the Ghana flag. Starting at the upper left, the colors alternate clockwise around the front panel: red-green-yellow-red-etc. The paper is watermarked "Imperial Air Mail" with the letter 'L'. When properly folded (HIRES), the aerogramme measures 148 x 88 mm.

6d Reissue
Figure 1

Revised 6d
Figure 2

First 9p Chameleon
Figure 3

The 6d reissue of February 1, 1961 is nearly identical and is shown in Figure 1 (HIRES). The watermarked paper is slightly lighter in color and has the letter 'O' (indicating a later year of manufacture). The major difference is the printing of a white space on which the stamp is then printed giving the appearance of simulated perforations surrounding the stamp. The stamp stands out significantly better against the white background. It has long been known that the issue was printed on watermarked paper with several different letters with the major letters being 'O', 'P', 'S', 'T' and 'V' ('Y' and 'Z' have been reported).

One difficulty with this issue was that the top address line (intended for the name of the addressee) is only 3.5 mm from the perforations below the stamp, thus reducing the useful length of the line. The lengths and positions (measured from the folding line at the bottom of the front panel) of the four address lines are as follows:

It has not been previously recognized that a new black plate was used for the later printings of this issue. Figure 2 (HIRES) shows the revised plate with the top 86-mm address line omitted and a new 67-mm bottom line added just 8 mm above the folding line. The 13-mm space between the new top line and the bottom of the stamp is sufficient for the entire line to be comfortably used for the name.

The earliest usage identified to date for this issue is a letter written August 16, 1963 and postmarked Accra, September 7. This copy is also the only one reported on paper watermarked with the letter 'P'. Of the copies with letter 'S', approximately 2/3 are with the earlier plate and 1/3 with the revised plate. No copies of the later watermarks 'T' and 'V' have been found printed with the earlier plate. Please check your copies of these issues and let us know what you find.

On December 1, 1965, the revalued 6p on 6d issue (HIRES) was released. Watermarks with letters 'V', 'Y' and 'Z' were used for this issue. No copies have yet been recorded with the earlier "close-spacing" plate.

The next chapter in Ghana's aerogrammes covers the 9np multicolored chameleon issues. The first issue, November 15, 1967, is the same size and format as the bishop bird issues and has the same pattern of colors in the border ornaments. Oddly, the earlier "close-spacing" black plate was used as can be seen in Figure 3 (HIRES).

Second 9p Chameleon
Figure 4

Revised 6d
Figure 5
The second chameleon issue was released on April 29, 1970. This represented a major change from previous issues, all of which had used the same basic 4-panel format. The new format consisted of three panels arranged vertically with the folded size being increased to 150 x 108 mm. The order of the alternating colors was changed to red-yellow-green clockwise across the top and bottom (Figure 4 (HIRES)); the sides have the same order as the previous issue. Since the spacing of the border ornaments was kept the same, the larger size required an additional ornament on each of the four sides thus breaking the pattern at each corner.

In 1975, a Christmas issue was issued showing two children playing with blocks in the lower left of the front panel. In 1977, a second Christmas issue was released with a boxed greeting also in the lower left. Both of these are on the basic 1970 form.

Numerous missing colors and color shifts are known on the chameleon issues. Although printed by the security printers Harrison and Sons LTD, the complexity of printing the several required colors made it easy for errors to occur and to reach the Ghana postal agency.

Note carefully the aerogramme shown in Figure 5 (HIRES). In 1972, there was a short-lived printing which appears to have escaped recognition until now. Once pointed out, the difference is readily apparent. The order of the border ornaments on the top and bottom was changed back to the red-green-yellow of the earlier issues and the sides are now red-yellow-green! To date, four used copies of this normal aerogramme have been recorded. The copy shown was postmarked November 3, 1972 with the other copies also postmarked late 1972.

Firts 9p Chameleon
Figure 6

Firts 9p Chameleon
Figure 7

Interestingly, numerous copies of this issue are known with missing colors or color shifts making the errors more common than the normal aerogramme. Several collectors have checked their collections and have found that for a long time they in fact have had errors of both types! The existence of these errors is important since they clearly show that the different order of colors is due to revised plates and not use of incorrect inks. Figure 6 (HIRES) shows a copy of the common printing missing all green printing. Figure 7 (HIRES) is of the short-lived issue missing all green and black printing (although not visible in the figure, this copy has a setoff of the black printing on the reverse). Although the same green parts of the chameleon have been omitted, the border ornaments are in different positions.

To date, thousands of copies have been checked and only the four used ones have been found. Since this issue appears not to have been recognized by the dealers who were active in 1972, mint copies of the normal aerogramme may not have been set aside, even though the errors were! Normal mint copies may prove to be the rarest of the early Ghana aerogrammes. Please check your copies and let us know if you find any of these.

*** The May 1997 issue of AerogrammeR has Part 2 of this story ***

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