Marginal Markings are any intentional marking found on a printing plate except for the stamp itself. Such markings will also appear on the printed sheet. Examples of marginal markings include Plate Finisher’s initials, Siderographer’s initials, plate numbers, BEP or Printer’s Logo Imprint, copyright notices and Mr. Zip logos. Other plate marginal marking may not appear on the perforated and trimmed sheet, such as guide lines, arrows, printer’s initials, electric-eye dashes or slugs and ink color markers.
Detailed information is available on the following marking Groups:
Imprints: The design containing the name of the producer of the stamps (Bank Note Engraver or Bureau of Engraving and Printing), which appears on the sheet margin, usually near the plate number.
Siderographer’s initials: Sideographers, employees of the BEP, created engraved printing plates from a transfer roll. To see the list, type Sideographers in the Search box below
Plate Finisher’s initals: Plate Finishers, employees of the BEP, removed extraneous lines or dots from the engraved plate created by the siderographer. To see the list, type Plate Finisher in the Search box below
Marking information is searchable by Group , Topic, Mark (initials or type) or Name. Clicking on “More” will produce illustrations and text.
From 1906 through 1928, the selvage of United States postage stamps contained the initials of employees of the Bureau of Engraving (BEP), probably for reasons of quality control. Typically, the first, middle, and last initial was used, each followed by a period
The siderographer’s initials were placed in the lower left (LL) margin of a plate using a transfer roll, with the initials oriented upwards. However, initials may appear in the bottom margin or the upper left (UL) margin. Orientation of the initials was also sometimes reversed (reading downward, rather than upward).
In 1908, when plate finishers began adding their initials to the plate, they were instructed to punch their initials in the lower right (LR) margin of the plate, with the initials oriented downwards. However, plate finishers initials were also punched in the bottom margin, the LL margin, or the orientation of the initials was reversed.
For each plate of 400 stamps, normally just the LL and LR stamps on the plate will show initials in the selvage.
The Third Bureau Issue, or Washington Franklins, were produced from 1908 through 1922. Siderographer and plate finisher initials can be found on those stamps produced by Flat Plate printing, on both sheet and coil stamps. The Rotary press Washington Franklin stamps do not contain either siderographer or plate finisher initials. Offset press Washington Franklin stamps may contain printer’s initials in the margin.
This presentation uses the Washington Franklin stamps to illustrate the initials of many of the Siderographers and Plate Finishers who worked to produce the Third Bureau Issue. Each one of these stamps, in essence, carries the autograph of the individual(s) who produced it. Those that served in both capacities are cross-referenced. Where multiple initials appear on a stamp, a cross-reference is also provided.