Errors and Unusual

Federal waterfowl errors, freaks and oddities (EFOs) are very popular with collectors of all levels. There are many to choose from in all price ranges. While these pieces often have tremendous eye appeal and "buy me" written all over them, one has to be somewhat cautious.

Unfortunately, there are numerous pictorial federal and state waterfowl "errors" that are not what they seem to be. You have to be careful who you purchase them from and make certain you get it in writing that you are allowed to return them for a full refund should they be proven to be altered or fraudulent for a period of time that extends well after the purchase date. 

The best you can do is submit the items for certification. However, be aware that in this area – not even a certificate is a foolproof guarantee of authenticity. To the best of my knowledge, everything in the gallery following this introduction is 100% genuine and as described.

I do not want to dwell on the negative here, as we have selected some truly spectacular legitimate pieces for your enjoyment and I do no want to take anything away from the experience. I will, however, go into detail concerning the most famous and valuable federal "errors" – those which have been recorded for RW1 (1934-35).

It turns out these are not so much errors as printer's waste. Since at least as far back as the 1950s, when my father acquired a vertical strip of three that was completely imperforate, there has existed in the philatelic marketplace two different "major errors".

On what I shall refer to as Type I, vertical pairs, strips and blocks exist that are perforated vertically but imperforate horizontally. In addition, there exist vertical pairs and strips, only, that are completely imperforate. I shall refer to these as Type II (see Figures 1 and 2).



Figure 1. RW1 (1934-35) pair, imperforate horizontally. Type I


Figure 2. RW1 (1934-35) pair, completely imperforate. Type II



For decades I had heard that all of the "errors" were from the same pane of 28 stamps that was fished out of the trash by an employee at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and later sold to a stamp dealer "way back when".

As I started to analyze the errors I noticed that virtually every piece was faulty, with creases or thins or both – consistent with the trash can rumors. Then I began to notice that all of the pieces that retained vertical perforations had relatively small margins between the perforations and the designs.

Further, there were no blocks that were completely imperforate – or even any horizontal pairs. To top it all off, some pieces had gum on the face which is easily seen on the largest surviving multiple (see Figure 3).



Figure 3. RW1 (1934-35) block of eight, imperforate horizontally with gum on the face (Type I).



This led me to conclude all of the RW1 "errors" were indeed printers waste and originally they were all Type I. Someone (a long time ago) had taken the pairs and strips with the widest margins and trimmed them to create a second variety (Type II), perhaps to sell to their customers. This explains why there are no completely imperforate blocks have been recorded.

At this point I had a cautionary statement printed in the Scott Specialized Catalogue. Having done that, guess what? Collectors and dealers don't seem to care they are printers waste – because everyone agrees they are among the best philatelic eye candy ever!

These imperforate varieties of Ding Darling's iconic stamp are so ridiculously popular with collectors that demand and values have actually increased since the notice was published in Scott. I suppose that as long as you know exactly what you are buying – everything is cool.


Fortunately, there are many legitimate federal errors and other unusual printing varieties to satisfy collector demand. The RW2 misperforated block of 12 is a really neat item that was originally in the Jeanette C. Rudy collection. The piece was auctioned by Sam Houston Philatelics in 2006 and the image here is taken from their advertising brochure (see Figure 4).



Figure 4. RW2 (1935-36) block of 12, mispeforated vertically.




If you like philatelic eye candy (and what collector doesn't?), then perhaps this specialized area is worth a closer look. Throughout this field we find several common themes, including federal stamps gummed on the obverse and reverse (RW11, 14 and 17 – see Figure 5), paper fold errors (RW11, 13, 20, 34 and 41 – see Figure 6), minor "gutter snipes" (stamps with fully perforated selvage attached – RW15, 17, 18 and 22), dramatic shifts (RW19, 21, 38, 42, 43, 48, 49 and 52 – see Figure 7), reverse inscriptions inverted (RW24, 25 and 26), reverse inscriptions missing (RW46 and 70), colors missing (RW52, 53 and 58 – see Figure 8) and legitimately imperforate (RW72b – see Figure 9).



Figure 5. RW11 (1944-45) bottom plate number single, gummed on the obverse and reverse.



Figure 6. RW34 (1967-68) with major paper fold!



Figure 7. RW48 (1981-82) with major color shift.



Figure 8. RW52 (1985-86) paste-up block of 20, missing light blue at top.



Figure 9. RW72b (2005-06) souvenir sheet, imperforate at bottom of stamp.



While there is always stiff competition for the some of the more dramatic pieces among advanced collectors and exhibitors, many of the minor varieties remain an affordable way to spice up a collection and add interest – especially for your non-collector friends. Lots of fun and pretty stuff, so please – enjoy this gallery!