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Most older Stamps & Banknotes are printed on paper which is watermarked (A design which seems to be inside the paper). This is impressed by  a "DANDY" roller during the very early stages in the manufacture of  paper.  The Dandy Roller has the watermark design on it.

Look through a banknote. Most have an image of a person which seems to be inside the paper.


Why do I need to know about these watermarks? During the life that stamps are on sale, many different watermarks could have been used during the manufacture of the paper. The same stamp could catalogue at 10p or 1,100 all depending on the WATERMARK. Also stamps sometimes come with the watermark sideways or inverted on the same type of  stamp. When the stamps come from booklets and coils the watermark is different way round. These are all listed in most stamp catalogues. 

TIP: Some very profitable finds can be made by checking  watermarks!

How do I see the watermarks? The most important first step is to know what the watermark looks like, so consult your stamp catalogue. Catalogues describe watermarks differently. Some list them by viewing from front of the stamp and some are listed viewed from the back. CHECK WHICH YOU WAY THEY ILLUSTRATE THEM


TRY THIS FIRST: If you place the stamp face down on a black sheet you can sometimes see the watermark. Cost nil. Be patient.  If you do not see the watermark you can try one of the following methods.

FLUID METHOD: One of the oldest methods of seeing watermarks on stamps, is to place your stamp face down in a tray. Then place a special liquid on the back of the stamp. Hopefully the watermark can be seen clearly. The fluid then evaporates off, leaving your stamp unharmed,  I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE OLD PRACTICE OF USING LIGHTER FUEL,  PLEASE  use one of the new SAFER non flammable liquids on the market specially designed for this purpose.                  Cost about 5-10.

INK PAD IMPRESSION SYSTEM: (Morley Bright). This requires you to place your stamp underneath a sealed ink pad, when pressure is applied, either by thumb or roller (depending on type used) this should leave a clear impression of the watermark on the ink pad. This method is sometimes useful for seeing watermarks of stamps while they are still on covers. Cost about 15-20.

PRESSURE & LIGHT SYSTEM: SAFE ALBUMS  & STANLEY GIBBONS Both Companies now produce this type of machine. You place your stamp under a clear block and apply pressure. Shining a light through the block shows any "valleys" (watermarks) clearly. The larger SAFE model is the one I have used very effectively for many years, the only draw back is it cost, about 150 at present. This system has the added advantage of  detecting even slight variations in the thickness of the paper, making it very effective at spotting repairs and forgeries. If a stamp hinge has ever been on the back of the stamp, these machines will expose it. Cost 80-160.
Vera Trinder of London has all these machines in stock
IMPORTANT NOTE: You will need to clearly see the back of the stamp. So you will have to clean any paper or old hinges from the stamp first to see any watermarks. See soaking stamps.


Imperial Crown 

Multiple crown 

Crown CA 

Multiple crown CA

Multiple Script CA









Difficult  last Crown CA

Early Germany

GB & Commonwealth





Want to know more about watermarks, with a Library?



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