Republic of the Philippines - Stamps and Postal History

Philippine Philatelic Library




Originally published in the January 1996 issue of the Journal of Philippine Philatelic Society (England).








By Dr. Ngo Tiong Tak


Starting the second quarter of 1989, Amstar Company Inc. became the sole security printer of Philpost, and has been printing every single postage stamp and souvenir sheet of the Philippines since then. Before this, Amstar got a contract in 1987 to print the P1 Wenceslao Vinzons definitive. At that time, ,they did not possess a perforating machine yet, so part of what was printed had to be perforated by the Government Printing Office while the rest, by APO­NEDA. 

Amstar has remained the exclusive security printer because of its track record of strict security and supervised revisions that resulted in zero major errors reaching the philatelic market. Of course the occasional offset, shifted colors, foldovers and paper creases, shifted perforations and double perforations are still found, but no major errors whatsoever. We have not heard of a single missing color or imperforate error on stamps printed by Amstar. 

But recently, a major error had been discovered and this was probably caused by a mix-up or the ignorance of some employees of Amstar. 

As we now know, Amstar is allowed a spoilage rate of 10% for stamps and 30% for souvenir sheets. This means that when they receive an order for 1,000,000 stamps, they are given enough security paper to print 1,100,000 stamps, and they are expected to deliver the ordered quantity. If the spoilage exceeds the allowed percentage and they have to use more security paper to fill the order, then they have to pay 0.5% of the contract price as penalty. Before, the printer delivers only the ordered quantity, and all remainders, whether spoiled or not, are destroyed. However, since 1989, the Post Office has been accepting more good stamps found among those from the overrun to take care of possible spoilages, and they pay only 50% of the original cost for these stamps. 

These additional quantities are termed “renegotiated quantities”, and most of these are being used for postage, because more often than not, these renegotiated stamps are delivered long after the six-month sales period for commemorative and special stamps had elapsed. Amstar accumulates different issues and delivers them altogether only 2-4 times in a year. 

Obviously, the renegotiated quantities vary from stamp to stamp, and sometimes there are none at all. Amstar delivers only in amounts of thousands, and rarely, with additional hundreds. Occasionally, souvenir sheets are included in the renegotiations. As we know, the first 25,000 souvenir sheets that accompany an issue are printed free of charge. Any additional order or renegotiated quantities have to be paid for. Since renegotiated quantities for souvenir sheets are small, they are usually in hundreds only, many do not have such additional quantities because more are spoiled due to the relative difficulty in perforating them. 

Amstar always submits 3 sheets of proofs of every stamp and souvenir sheet (all with violet handstamped "PROOF" in big letters on the gum side), which differ in the shade of colors for selection and approval before the actual printing is undertaken. Unfortunately, more often than not, the designs are submitted too late such that the issue date is already nearing. Amstar requests for at least 15 days lead time, but approved designs are often submitted only 5 days or even less, before issue date. So unless there are major or unacceptable mistakes, Amstar refuses to make corrections and alterations, and Philpost usually has to accept what is already on the plates if it wants the stamps to come out as scheduled.

For the Chinese New Year issue of the Year of the Pig, scheduled for issuance on December 5, 1994, 400,000 sets of the 2 stamps (P2 and P6), plus 25,000 perforated and 25,000 imperforate souvenir sheets were ordered. Amstar sent proofs of the stamps and souvenir sheet only before noon of December 1 (Thursday). The designer noticed that the salakot (hat) of the pig on the label on the upper right of the souvenir sheet was in sky blue instead of green as in his design, but thought it will still do, so the printing officer called up Amstar and instructed them to proceed with the printing, because they were afraid the souvenir sheets would not be delivered on time for issuance the following Monday if he will still wait for the approval by the Chief of the Finance Division, Mrs. Maog, who was then at a meeting. Later, when Mrs. Maog was shown the proofs, she noticed that the inscriptions on the bottom margin of the souvenir sheet were too small and of a different font (sans serif) from the 2 previous ones in the series, (Year of the Cock and Year of the Dog), and that the silhouettes of the pigs on the top margin were too big and part of the 2 pigs at the sides will be cut by the vertical perforations in the perforated version. So she called up Amstar and requested them to correct these. She was informed that they had already started the printing and that it will take a few days to make the corrections on the "pigs" on the top margin. So Mrs. Maog had to settle for a correction of the inscriptions on the bottom margin only, in order to have the souvenir sheets delivered on December 3 (Saturday) for sale on December 5 (Monday). Since they are making some changes, Amstar was instructed to also change the color of the salakot to green as the designer wanted; and all the souvenir sheets that were already printed were to be destroyed. 

Amstar was able to meet the deadline, and delivered 2,500 sets of souvenir sheets an December 3. By December 14, the 25,000 sets of souvenir sheets were completely delivered, and about 2 months later, they were all sold out. There was strong demand for this issue, maybe because of the cute designs and attractive colors, so there were many unfilled orders for the souvenir sheets. To satisfy the demand, Amstar was requested to send the renegotiated quantities for the 2 souvenir sheets as soon as possible, even before the New Year stamps and other issues. 

Amstar delivered 700 perforated and 2,500 imperforate souvenir sheets on March 31, 1995. The 700 sets were sold out soon after. There were 1,800 imperforate Souvenir sheets left, but since some collectors are satisfied with the imperforate only, they are all sold out by now also. Now, it is among these renegotiated imperforate souvenir sheets that the first Amstar-printed major error was discovered. 

Twenty-four imperforate souvenir sheets with the small bottom inscriptions and sky blue salakot were found included in 3 bundles of 100. And upon examination, they were found to be without the “PPC" phosphorescent security mark. 

These souvenir sheets were printed in bigger sheets of 6 before perforating and guillotining, so the findings corresponds to 4 printed sheets from the initial printing that was supposed to have been destroyed. How they got there and how many more were mixed in with the regularly issued souvenir sheets remains to be seen. But one thing is clear, they were from the printing done before the requested corrections were made, and they never went through the final printing run to receive the “PPC” security mark which occurs on all Amstar-printed stamps and souvenir-sheets since June of 1992. They were set aside for subsequent destruction as spoiled stamps. 

Maybe these 4 large sheets were mixed up with the regularly issued ones and guillotined together, but it's possible some employees at Amstar were ignorant and thought they were just the same, so when they could not come up with the round figure of 2,500, they simply included these so as not to let the extra 76 go to waste! Whatever happened or caused this error we don't care, as this gave us a really good major error, the first from Amstar!

Special printing of the Year of the Pig souvenir sheet in blue, with the erroneous plate used.  (Souvenir Sheets in blue were printed as an exclusive gift to buyers of the 1994 Year Albums.  A special practice  that was also done with 1993 and 1995 year albums;  only 2,000 were printed.)





Articles by Dr. Ngo Tiong Tak

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