Guatemala 1886 Quetzal & Train : Litho and Recess-engraved issues


The short-lived, but complex, provisional surcharges on rail-bond stamps, issued in March 1886, were replaced in June of the same year by an attractive definitive issue of the Quetzal-bird coat-of-arms, a design which features a steam train and a steamship in the upper corners.

The June printing was done by Lithography and the high values only exist printed in this format. However, in December 1886, a further printing, of values up to 25c, was produced by the recess-engraved process. Much later, in 1900, values up to 25c were again produced by the recess method, but in entirely new colours.

Distinguishing the 1886 litho from the 1886 recess printings can sometimes be done by shade, but this is not always reliable. The entry lines at the top of the stamp are, however, a reasonable guide. In the Litho printing, the first few horizontal lines of shading at the top of the stamp are almost of the same intensity as the other lines of shading. In the same horzontal lines on the recess-enraved stamps, the first 3 or 4 lines at left and the first 5 or 6 lines at right are distinctly heavier than the lines below them. The difference is shown below, Litho on the Top, Recess-engraved on the Bottom:

1886 Litho printing
1886 recess-engraved printing

The distinction is by no means always as clear as in the examples shown, but, fortunately, some values have other useful distinguishing features, so that the entry-line test is only necessary for the 1c an 2c, although the figure ' 2 ' in the 2c is a little narrower and thinner in the Litho printing, but this is not an easy test with a single stammp to hand !

Illustrated below are some distinguishing features:

1886 5c Litho and 2 x Recess 1886 10c Litho and Recess

5c : Figure of Value : The figures of value are different. The left-hand 5c is Litho, the last two are recess-engraved. The Deep Lilac 5c, the middle of the three 5c shown, is a very scarce stamp in mint condition.
10c : Figures of Value : Again, the figures of value are different. The Litho stamp ( left ) has figures of value much closer together than the engraved stamp ( right ).

1886 20c 25c Litho 1886 20c 25c Recess

20c and 25c : The difference shown above on the 25c also applies to the 20c. To the right of the word ' CENTAVOS ', the Litho stamps have either no outer frame-line or only a very faint outer frame-line. On the recess-engraved stamps, there is a clear outer frame line, or lines, to the right of the letter ' S '.

If you want to look for further identifying features, try your own collection. All values above 25c are always Litho, whereas the 1886 ( in fact, 1895 ) new value, 6c bright reddish-purple, is always recess, as are all the 1900 colours.

Major Varieties:
Whilst errors and varieties abound on the surcharges of this design, they are less common on the original stamps. The figures of value may be found in varying positions, and there are shades, but only two major flaws exist, illustrated below, the 50c with a large blemish across the ' TE ' of ' GUATEMALA ', which occurs in Position 99 ( sheets / 100 , 10 x 10 ), and which may or may not have been corrected during the printing, and a flaw on the ' 200 ', which gives the appearace of a face value of ' 207 '. This occurs in Position 29, but not on all sheets, indicating either that the flaw was found and corrected or that damage occurred during printing. These two varieties exist on the surcharged stamps as well.

1886 50c Flaw 1886 207c Flaw

Stamp Listing:

July 1886 : LITHO : ( SG 31 - 41 )
1c Blue
2c Deep yellow-brown
5c Deep bright violet
10c Vermilion-red ( shades )
20c Pale bluish-green
25c Bright orange
50c Olive-green
. . . Variety ' TE ' of ' GUATEMALA ' flaw
75c Bright deep rose
100c Chocolate
150c Deep dark blue
200c Orange-yellow
. . . Variety ' 207 '

December 1886 - 1895 : RECESS-ENGRAVED : ( SG 43 - 50 )
1c Deep bright-blue to blue
2c Yellow-brown ( shades )
5c Deep lilac
5c Violet to violet-blue ( 1888 )
6c Bright reddish-purple ( 1895 )
10c Deep red ( shades ) ( 1890 )
20c Deep bluish-green ( 1893)
25c Reddish-orange ( 1893 )

1900 - 1902 : Recess-engraved, colours changed : ( SG 101 - 109 )
1c Deep green
2c Deep bright rose
5c Deep blue
6c Bright yellowish-green
10c Pale bistre-brown
20c Purple
20c Deep brown ( 1902 )
25c Yellow
25c Deep blue-green ( 1902 )

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