The Shift Hunter Letters are available now on USSS Resources.
Looking for some philatelic fun, or perhaps a challenge? The United States Stamp Society continues to upgrade our website with additional resources. Just added to widen your knowledge of United States stamps are the “Shift-Hunter Letters.”
Your Society is happy to bring you the SHIFT-HUNTER LETTERS, now posted on the USSS website. Check your stamp collection to see how much fun there can be in spotting the printing shifts on your US stamps!
How did this all get started? Clayton W. Bedford (1885-1933), one of the original members of the Bureau Issues Association, now the United States Stamp Society, was a very active philatelist living in Akron OH. He organized the “The ‘Shift Hunters,” a group of collectors interested in examining early U.S. stamps for printing plate flaws, scratches, dents, extra speck of metal, and shifts of the impression, etc. which would show up on the postage stamp to make it a collectible “minor variety”. The group began the pioneer publication known as the SHIFT-HUNTER LETTERS
Bedford was the true go-to expert on minor plate varieties and chaired the original Plate Varieties Committee of the newly formed Bureau Issues Association. While the formal name of this passion is “plate varieties” it quickly took on the nickname “flyspeck philately,” as these folks were looking for such tiny marks and deviations, usually not noticed by the average eye. It is certainly a branch of our hobby which epitomizes our catch phrase “the thrill of the hunt.” Part of our colorful US stamp history tells the story of the fly that landed on the plate during the printing process, his splattered blood and body making a great variety on the stamp being printed at the time.
Ninety-one issues were published from August 1929 to February 1936 by an Organization of Students of Plate Research Problems. Originally the letters were published as individual mimeograph and lithographed newsletters, and later incorporated into the pages of the The Bureau Specialist. The image above shows the cover pages of letters # 1 and #91.
The complete run of the 91 letters has been digitized as searchable PDFs for viewing or downloading and are available on Resources section of the USSS website. (https://www.usstamps.org/resources/).
If you are interested in further study of Plate Varieties, our Society has published two excellent books:
1. The Bureau Specialist, Volumes 1-3, 1930-32; 450 pages, volume, contents include early reports on U.S. offset plate varieties and copies of some of the later Shift Hunter Letters. This book is available on the USSS website Store
2. Encyclopedia of Plate Varieties on U.S. Bureau – Printed Postage Stamps, Loran C. French, Bureau Issues Association, Inc., 1979, 338 pages. This, no longer in print, is available from philatelic literature dealers.
Have fun….go through your collection today and get out that fly swatter!