An Essay is a mock up or model of a proposed stamp design.
It may or may not ever end up being used.
It is often prepared by altering an existing stamp design.

The following Essay was prepared by applying white paint to an existing 2c Carmine stamp.


The printing technology of the early twentieth century required a metal plate with the image of the desired material engraved on it. It was not practical to produce a single stamp with each printing nor was it reasonable to engrave hundreds of similar designs on a large piece of metal. All the stamps of a typical 'plate' of 100 to 400 images were supposed to be same so a common image that could be transferred to the large plate was needed. This master image was created by engraving lines into soft metal to produce the desired image. This piece of metal called a DIE was then hardened so that it could be used to transfer the image multiple times to a large plate for printing.


It is common practise in the printing industry for the printer to produce a sample or 'proof' of the material that a customer has requested. This sample may pass back and forth between printer and customer several times undergoing modifications until it meets the customers needs. This process usually ends when the customer approves the design and often signs off on a final copy of the material. In the case of the Admiral issue the printer was the American Bank Note Co. and the customer was the Canadian Post Office. The ABN was in charge of manufacturing(engraving) the dies used to produce Canadian stamps; and the Post Office officials, some members of the Canadian government, and to a limted extent King George V were required to approve the final design of the stamps.


The process of sending samples or proofs back and forth between the ABN and the Post Office did really take place. Copies of these proofs with notations and approvals do exist, unfortunately mostly in the hands of the Postal Archives.

An example of what I like to call a 'real' proof.


Most of the "proofs' available were not really part of the design process. Many of them were given out by the ABN Co. as souvenirs or as 'trade samples' to demonstrate the quality of their work. It should be remembered that the ABN Co. was a private company interested in generating sales and so it would only have been natural for their salesmen to pass out samples. The main philatelic significance of most of the so called 'proofs' is that they show the state of the dies in use at a particular point in time.

The following letter from the ABN Co. confirms the process of giving out 'proofs' as souvenirs or favours.


Progressive Proofs are those that show only a part of the stamp design. They were used by the engravers to check their work as the developement of the design progressed.

The following example shows that part of the Admiral design that was common to all values. This would have been developed first and the numeral boxes and values added later.


The metal used to create dies must of necessity be relatively soft so that the lines of the design can be engraved into it. This soft metal would not be very durable and so once the Die was approved the metal was hardened . It was the practise of the ABN Co. to enscribe ony their own name on the unhardened Die and to add a Die number after it was approved and hardened. This practise seems to only have been used for the first values produced in 1912-13. Uhardened proofs without Die numbers only exist for the so called 'original' values, 1c, 2c, 5c, 7c, 10c, 20c, 50c. Perhaps metalworking techniques improved over the next few years and this process was not necessary.


The Proofs were normally printed on India paper. This is a stiff, thin, white paper. Normally the proofs are found mounted on a stiff cardstock. There is a myth that this cardstock somehow is in itself of some philatelic significance. Obviously if there is writing on the cardstock such as a Post Office approval then it is of great value. However it is difficult to see what value a blank expanse of cardstock supplies. It is normal practise for so called 'large' Die Proofs to cost much more than those in which the cardstock has been cut down. I would advise any collector to save money and buy the 'small' ones.


The basic Die used for all values of the Admiral issue comes in three types; Original, Retouched, and Redrawn. The Original Die is the state of the master die at the beginning of the issue in late 1911. The die was modified(retouched) late in 1912. The die was modified again(redrawn) late in 1924.

The Die types can be distinguished by the state of the outer vertical line in the upper right spandrel. The line is weak to non existent for the Origianl Die. The line has been strengened but it still irregular and does not reach the top for the Retouched Die. The line is much thicker and goes right to the top for the Redrawn Die.

Original Die
Retouched Die
Redrawn Die


The actual number of proofs in existence will never be known for certain. There are no records from the ABN Co. showing the number printed and new items keep appearing from time to time. The only certainty is the number that were available at the 1991 auction of the ABN archive material.
The number in existence prior to this auction is unknown; however it is possible to make a few assumptions.

There seem to be more proofs of the original values(1,2,5,7,10,20,50) than of the later issues. It appears that these were the main 'souvenirs' given out by the ABN Co. I feel that it is reasonable to assume that there were about 7 sets of these given out.
The black proofs on card that appearred about 1930 seem to exist in sets and a number of four sets would seem reasonable.
It seems reasonable to assume the existence of about four copies of each of the later values.

This table shows all of the known proofs and essays for the Admiral issue.

TYPES are as follows:

E Essay
RP Proof signed by officials from the Post Office
PP Progressive Proof
SP Souvenir Proof
TC Trial Color Proof
These may have been used to show possible colors but it cannot be proven
EP Engravers Proof
These may possibly have been used as part of the Die development process.
I have included the 'unhardened' proofs in this category

Grey Brown PP Original None 0 1
1c Green EP Original Die I None 0 4
Green SP Original Die I F 212 1 8
Green EP Redrawn Die I F 212 0 1
Black SP Redrawn Die I F 212 0 4
Yellow SP Redrawn Die II X G 86 12 12
Black SP Redrawn Die II X G 86 0 4
2c Carmine EP Original None 0 4
Carmine SP Original F 211 4 11
Green TC Original None 1 1
Carmine PP Original None 0 1
Black EP Original None 0 4
Carmine EP Retouched F 211 0 1
Green SP Redrawn F 211 11 11
Black SP Redrawn F 211 0 4
3c Brown E Original Die I O G 266 0 1
Brown RP Original Die I O G 266 0 1
Black SP Redrawn Die I O G 266 0 4
Carmine TC Redrawn Die II X G 87 1 1
Black SP Redrawn Die II X G 87 0 4
4c Bistre SP Redrawn O G 426 14 18
Yellow Brown SP Redrawn O G 426 0 1
Black SP Redrawn O G 426 0 4
5c Blue EP Original None 0 4
Blue SP Original F 213 4 11
Green TC Original F 213 1 1
Black SP Redrawn F 213 0 4
Violet SP Redrawn F 213 12 12
6c Carmine SP Redrawn O G 421 11 11
Black SP Redrawn O G 421 0 4
7c Bistre EP Original None 0 4
Bistre SP Original F 214 0 7
Brown TC Original F 214 1 1
Orange TC Original F 214 2 2
Violet TC Original F 214 0 1
Black SP Original F 214 12 16
Red Brown TC Original F 214 12 19
8c Blue SP Redrawn X G 91 12 19
Black SP Redrawn X G 91 0 4
10c Plum EP Original None 0 4
Plum SP Original F 218 1 8
Black SP Original F 218 0 4
Brown RP Original None 0 1
Brown SP Original F 218 12 19
20c Olive EP Original None 0 4
Olive SP Original F 217 14 21
Black SP Original F 217 0 4
50c Black EP Original None 0 1
Grey Black EP Original None 0 4
Grey Black SP Original F 219 0 7
Blue TC Original F 219 4 4
Black SP Redrawn F 219 0 4
Grey SP Redrawn F 219 12 19
1$ Orange SP Redrawn X G 8 10 17
Black SP Redrawn X G 8 0 4
1c WT Green SP Redrawn O G 66 0 7
Black SP Redrawn O G 66 0 4
2c WT Carmine SP Redrawn O G 67 0 7
Black SP Redrawn O G 67 0 4
2+1c WT Carmine E on 2c Carmine 0 1
Carmine E on 2c Carmine 0 1
Carmine RP Redrawn Die I O G 100 0 2
Carmine SP Redrawn Die I O G 100 0 7
Black SP Redrawn Die I O G 100 0 4
Brown RP Redrawn Die I O G 100 0 1
Carmine SP Redrawn Die II O G 106 0 7
Carmine Lake SP Redrawn Die II O G 106 0 1
Brown SP Redrawn Die II O G 1061/2 0 7
Black SP Redrawn Die II O G 1061/2 0 4

NOTE: There are also several sets, possibly four, of small(stamp size) proofs in Black.
I have not included these in the above numbers.