Paraguay 1886 15c Train Official Stamps : Tren / Ferrocarriles

In 1886, Paraguay issued a set of 7 Offical Stamps imperforate, all with a range of different overprints on the back. One design, the 15c, shows an early steam train. All the imperforate stamps were issued WITHOUT GUM. Despite the lack of gum, these stamps are very prone to some degree of foxing (age toning) and toleration of moderate toning on this issue will open up many more opportunities to the collector than a quest for perfection.

Paraguay 1886 Official Oficial Paraguay 1886 sellos Oficial

Above: The imperforate set/7, fronts (in this case overprinted Specimen) and their backs, with their eccentric range of ornaments. Each group of ornaments is unique to one value in the set.

The same 7 designs, with the same face values and also overprinted OFICIAL, re-appeared a little later in 1886 in new colours, perforated and without ornaments on the back. Gummed mint copies of the perforated stamps are found but the frequency with which they appear without gum suggests that maybe only part of the printing was on gummed paper.

Watermarks and Shades
The maximum size pane found of both the imperf and perf stamps is 25 (5x5), and SG reports a sheet watermark 'J WHATMAN / 1888'. However, as panes/25 generally have no sign of a watermark, this suggests that the stamps were printed in larger sheets and cut into panes/25 prior to issue. Watermarked examples seem to be very scarce; we have not attempted to list all the varieties in this article with and without watermark.

There are only two 15c railway values:

1886 15c Slate-Blue Oficial Imperf (SG O.37)
1886 15c Brown Oficial Perf (SG O.44)

Hidden behind this simple listing is a remarkable amount of philately. This article will examine these stamps under the following headings:

* 1886 15c Slate-Blue Imperf : First Printing (Type I)
* 1886 15c Slate-Blue Imperf : Second Printing (Plates 1 & 2)
* 1886 Proofs of the First Printing (Type I) and Second Printing
* 1886 15c Composite Proofs in First Printing Type II ***
*** Type II of the First Printing is a variant used ONLY for composite proof sheetlets (i.e. sheetlets containing more than one design).

* 1886 15c Brown Perf, First Printing.
* 1886 15c Brown Perf, Second Printing

Status of the Second Printing
Scott states that the stamps of the Second Printing of the imperforate stamps were reprinted from new stones and this is borne out by a study of the differences, some of which apply to every stamp in a pane/25, although the picture is generally much more complex as illustrated a little further down. SG in a footnote also includes the comment that reprints exist with slightly retouched dies. Whilst the Kneitschel Paraguay catalogue also recognizes the two printings, it specifically refers to them as First and Second Printing, and does not use the word 'reimpresión' (reprint). We do not sufficient information to support applying either specific definition to these stamps.

Imperforate & Perforated Stamps: Distinguishing the First and Second Printings (15c train).
Many of the distinguishing features between the two printings are NOT 100% applicable / reliable on every stamp, but a combination of the presence or absence of two or three features described below should establish a stamp's printing. The difficulties in providing certainty by means of a single feature stem from several variables in the printing: the accurate transfer of each image, the degree of wear as printing progressed, probable variations between the different panes in the uncut sheets and, on occasions, inconsistency in printing care and quality.

A significant further difficulty is that, at least for the imperforate stamps, two different plates were used for the Second Printing. Whilst there are numerous and clear differences between the First Printing and the stamps from Plate 1 of the Second Printing, the picture is not so clear when it comes to distinguishing between the First Printing and stamps from Plate 2 of the Second Printing.

Kneitschel list Blue, Slate-Blue & Ultramarine as the three 'blue colours' for the imperforate Proofs in this design but only Slate-Blue for the issued imperforate stamps (in Type I - see below) and we have not seen regular issued stamps in any other major shade.

Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature

The Circle in 'A' Test : This is a test that is about 80%-85% reliable (but a few examples in each printing give rise to doubts):
Above: Left : First Printing : 'A' of 'TAL of 'POSTAL' usually with circle or partial outline of circle.
Above: Right : Second Printing (both plates) : Usually no hint of the circle, but there are exceptions, with part of a circle occasionally present.
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Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature

The broken line over 'CENTAVOS' Test : A test which can be conclusive on its own in identifying some of the Second Printing:
Above: Left : First Printing : Line above 'EN' of centavos nearly always solid, only rarely with a hint of a break.
Above: Right : Second Printing, Plate 1 : The line above 'EN' is broken, usually in at least two places
. . . (no scan) : Second Printing, Plate 2 : Line above 'EN' unbroken as in the First Printing; identify by other features.
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Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature

Ray in bottom margin Test :
Above: Left : First Printing : In margin below locomotive 'cow-catcher', a small line (not constant, perhaps present in 70% of stamps)
Above: Right : Second Printing (both plates) : Small line almost never present.
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Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature

The Telegraph Line Test : This last feature is often partly obscured by the OFICIAL overprint. Note: Our scan of the First Printing is from a proof without overprint, as this provided the best definition for the feature illustrated.

Above: Left : First Printing : The telegraph lines are present in varying degrees, from post to smokestack and also between smokestack (locomotive chimney) and dome, although rarely do they appear as well defined as in this scan.
Above: Right : Second Printing Plate 1: There are often light traces of the telegraph lines on Plate 1 between pole and smokestack, but usually very little trace of lines between smokestack and dome.
. . . (no scan) : Second Printing Plate 2: This can be a less reliable test, with the lines often more evident, closer to the appearance of the First Printing.

From the above, it will be clear that Plate 1 of the Second Printing can always be identified without dificulty, most easily by the break(s) in the frame-line above CENTAVOS.
However, it is best to assess a number of features in trying to distinguish between the First Printing and stamps from Plate 2 of the Second Printing, and we have provided below a scan showing the two together, along with some further pointers.

Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature
We have added a few marginal markings on the scan above near the features described below. Features 1 & 2 are new; features 3 & 4 have already been discussed.
Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature
Top Left corner of the First Printing (detail scan)

1. Top Left Corner : 1st Ptg : Up stroke breaks into 2 thin lines, the left 'branch' not reaching the horizontal line (see detail scan)
. . 2nd Ptg (Pl.2) : Thicker up stroke, joined at top.

2. 1st Ptg.: Lines running north-west from the star are thin and straight.
. . 2nd Ptg (Pl.2) : Lines are thicker and less regular and with a slight angular curve to the right.

3. 'A' with and without circle (as described higher up)

4. The small ray in the bottom line (as described higher up), just visible on left stamp.

The telegraph wires and line above CENTAVOS are not always reliable as a method of distinguishing between First Printing stamps and Second Printing Plate 2 stamps.

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Overprints and Underprints on the 15c Imperforate stamps (all printings except composite sheetlets)
Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature

Above: First Printing with 'OFICIAL' omitted, moiré pattern on front; Second Printing (Pl.1) with no moiré pattern on front; A view of the ornaments on back (normal arrangement) with moiré pattern present.

Normal imperforate stamps display all the above features, overprinted OFICIAL (on the front) and the underprints upright as shown in the right scan above. The moiré pattern can be found on both the front and the back. With so many operations required to produce the stamps, it is not surprising that there are many varieties of all these features and these are examined individually below:

Moiré Pattern : This is a background of thin, wavy brownish lines, nearly always horizontally applied (vertically is an error). The pattern can be found either on the face or on the back of the stamp. In marginal panes, the pattern does not extend to the margins. This pattern may be missing, applied to the back or, occasionally, applied vertically. Based on a smallish sample, we have the impression that the moiré pattern is slightly more common on the front of the First Printing of the imperforate stamps but noticeably more frequent on the back of the Second Printing of the imperforate stamps.

OFICIAL overprint: This may be omitted, inverted, double or 'double, one inverted'.

The Lion on the back: This is found upright or inverted.

The Letter 'F' and the date 1886 on the back: These may be found, in relation to the front of the stamps, upright or inverted and, in the case of '1886' omitted. The letter 'F' was not applied at the same time as the date and can therefore be upright or inverted in relation to the date, providing potentially 4 possible combinations of 'F' and '1886'. We have seen one copy with lion only on the back, viz. 'F' and date omitted, but no example of stamps that have the 1886 but not the 'F'.

We have limited our catalogue-style listings to those combinations known to us or listed in the Kneitschel catalogue, but this listing should not be assumed to be exhaustive. Please let us know if you find others.

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15c Blue Imperf : First Printing:

In the catalogue-style listings, we have mostly listed the abnormal features (varieties) in each case and the rest of the features may be assumed to be 'normal'. For this purpose, contrary to Kneitschel, we have chosen moiré pattern on the front to represent the norm, as this seems more common on the First Printing but perhaps not when the issue is examined overall. The moiré pattern is not always easy to see in the scans, as the lines are quite light and thin.

Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature

Above : Normal Front and two examples of Normal Back, different papers, a variant we do not cover in this article.
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Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature
Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature

The first FIVE catalogue-style listings below refer to the above scans, in order, left-to-right.

Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern. Back : Normal [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern & SPECIMEN. Back : Normal [ . ]
Paragauy 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern & MUESTRA. Back : Not seen by us [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : OFICIAL inverted. Back : Lion inverted, NO Date, F inverted [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern, OFICIAL omitted. Back : Lion, Date and F omitted but with moiré pattern[ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : OFICIAL omitted. Back : Lion inverted, 1886 and F both omitted [ . ]

Further First Printing varieties (issued stamps) reported in the Kneitschel catalogue but not illustrated here:

Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : Normal Back : Lion, 1886 and F all omitted [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : OFICIAL inverted & optd SPECIMEN. Back : Normal [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : Normal. Back : Lion, 1886 & F all inverted [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : OFICIAL inverted. Back : Normal [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : OFICIAL inverted. Back : Lion, 1886 and F all inverted.
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : OFICIAL inverted. Back : Lion and 1886 inverted, F omitted. [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Front : OFICIAL omitted. Back : Lion inverted, 1886 and F both omitted. [ . ]
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15c Blue Imperf : Second Printing:

Repeated from above: In the catalogue-style listings, only the abnormal features (varieties) are mentioned in the descriptions. For this purpose, contrary to Kneitschel, we have chosen moiré pattern on the front to represent the norm, as this seems more common on the First stamps printed but perhaps not when the issues are taken overall.

Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature
Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature
The catalogue-style listings below refer to the above scans, in order, left-to-right.

We only provide a single catalogue-style listing for the Second Printing (not one for each of the two Plates)

Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : Normal. Back : Normal [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : OFICIAL Double. Back : Normal [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : Moiré pattern VERTICAL. Back : Moiré pattern on back HORIZONTAL [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : Moiré pattern omitted. Back : Moiré pattern on back [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : OFICIAL Double, one Inverted. Back : Normal [ . ]
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Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature
Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature
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Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : Normal. Back : Lion and 'F' inverted (1886 normal) [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : Normal. Back : 1886 inverted [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern. Back : Moiré on back, Lion 1886 & 'F' all inverted [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : Normal. Back : Lion inverted. {. ]
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Further Second Printing imperforate stamps with different combinations of variety (per Kneitschel), not illustrated.

Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : OFICIAL inverted. Back : Lion, 1886 & 'F' all inverted [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern; OFICIAL inverted. Back : 1886 inverted [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern; OFICIAL double, one inverted. Back : Moiré on back [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Front : No moiré pattern; OFICIAL omitted. Back : Moiré on back; Lion, 1886 & 'F' all omitted [ . ]
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Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature

Above: Second Printing printing error, possibly printer's waste, no moiré pattern, overprint or underprints.
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1886 Proofs (Imperf) : First Printing (Type I) and Second Printing

Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official First Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official Black Print 15c train tren locomotora

First Printing Proofs (in Type I):
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Plate Proof (pair shown) on thin card, no moiré pattern, overprint or underprints [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Plate Proof (block/4 shown) in a paler blue on thin white paper, no moiré, overprint or underprints [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Plate Proof (not shown) in Black & Slate-Blue on Satin Paper, other detail not known.** [ . ]

Apparent Second Printing Proof :
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Plate Proof (block/4+ shown) in Black on thickish Satin Paper***, no moiré, overprint or underprints [ . ]

** Satin Paper is midway between glossy paper and matt paper. We are unsure about Kneitschel's listing of this last item. These stamps are never bi-colour to our knowledge and we assume therefore that the 'black' refers to the colour of the OFICIAL overprint.

*** The Black print scan provided above comes from a block/10 (2x5), from a sheet which was clearly two stamps wide but of unknown height to us. Kneitschel does not list any proofs at all for the Second Printing of the imperforate stamps but the catalogue does list a proof in black on satin paper in Type II. This may be an error, using 'II' to describe the second printing, when 'II' should be reserved for the special printings in composite sheets.

To add further confusion, the next catalogue entry in Kneitschel lists further proofs in Type II in SEVEN different colours. Should this again read as Proofs of the Second Printing, not Type II of the first printing? Further down this article (see under composite proof sheetlets), Kneitschel states that there are at least ten different colours used for Type II proofs, so this leads us to think that he is referring here to seven proofs of the Second Printing, although to date we have not seen any. We are provisionally listing these, immediately below, as further Second Printing proofs, additional to the one in black listed above.

Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Plate Proof on thin paper, no moiré pattern, in Blue [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Plate Proof on thin paper, no moiré pattern, in Ultramarine [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Plate Proof on thin paper, no moiré pattern, in Green [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Plate Proof on thin paper, no moiré pattern, in Yellow-Brown [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Plate Proof on thin paper, no moiré pattern, in Brown-Lilac* [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Plate Proof on thin paper, no moiré pattern, in Violet [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Plate Proof on thin paper, no moiré pattern, in Yellow [ . ]

* In Kneitschel's listing there is no comma betwen 'lila' and 'pardo' in the Spanish and we must therefore assume for the present that 'lila pardo' is one colour, not two separate colours (separate stamps). We would welcome any input from readers which helps to clarify many aspects of the Proof printings of all these stamps. Finding sufficient material on our own to do this is very difficult.

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15c Imperf : Composite Proof Sheets

Normal proofs of the 15c Train are in Type I of the First Printing, but there a number of composite sheetlets containing the 15c train and they display a feature unique to them, described in Kneitscel as First Printing Type II. The difference is in the frame line at the top left-hand corner.

Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature Paraguay 1886 Official Second Printing feature

The left scan is a detail from the Plate Proof pair shown higher up, which comes from a pane/25 15c stamps. The right scan is a detail from a composite sheet containing 2x15c, and one each of the 5c, 15c, 10c and 20c designs. In the left scan, there is a doubling of the left vertical frame-line, which becomes single just before the corner. This double frame-line sometimes appears like a single thick line in later printings of the Type I, due to wear. In the right scan, however, the left vertical frame-line is single and thin throughout.

Note: There is not normally any need to distinguish Type I and Type II proofs of the First Printing, unless someone has cut up one of these composite sheets, which are the only source of the Type II.

For a listing of these scarce composite sheetlets, we are heavily reliant on Kneitschel, which only provides limited information as follows:

The sheetlets contain 2x15c train, 5c, 15c (non-train), 10c and 20c values as shown in the scans below. They are reported to have been printed in various colours, not enumerated by Kneitschel, on four different papers. We have not attempted to provide catalogue-style listing for these composite proofs, due to insufficient information. The reported papers and colours used:

On ordinary carton paper : in FIVE different single colours.
On thin satin-finished card : in TEN different single colours.
On medium white paper : in EIGHT different single colours.
On hard transparent paper : in FOUR different single colours

We have seen the following colours, all illustrated below:

Blue
Pale Ultramarine
Green
Bright Violet
Rose-Red
Yellow-Chestnut
Pale Brown

We have not found it straightforward to distinguish between the last two papers described above, but our best assessment is that those sheetlets shown below are on the following papers:

On Ordinary Carton Paper : Pale Brown
On Thin Satin-finished Paper : Green, Bright Violet, Rose-Red
On Medium White Paper : Pale Ultramarine
On Hard Transparent Paper : Blue, Yellow-Chestnut

Paraguay 1886 Official proof essay sheelets of 6

Paraguay 1886 Official proof essay sheelets of 6

Paraguay 1886 Official proof essay sheelets of 6

Paraguay 1886 Official proof essay sheelets of 6
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Please send us scans of any others you may have, so that we may add them to this article.

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Additional Proof material (all unique items) :

At an early stage of stamp production, printers regularly do trial prints (essays) of images and/or text and/or completed stamps, whether for clients' approval prior to printing or as visual quality checks. The Kneitschel catalogue illustrates several with 1886 15c train interest. We are fortunate in having access to a scan of one of these items and have also reproduced two further scans from the Kneitschel catalogue.

Paraguay 1886 Official stamps printers proof essay

The above item, printed in Black, is unique. A similar item exists, also unique, without the words OFICIAL

Paraguay 1886 Official stamps printers proof essay

The above item, also UNIQUE, is printed in red and black.

Paraguay 1886 Official stamps printers proof essay

The above item, printed in black, is also UNIQUE. Apparently, it is printed on the back of a double 6c Green postal stationery card (i.e. a message card with reply card attached). Interestingly, it includes examples of two cancellations.
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Paraguay 1886 15c Brown Official (Steam Train) : Perforated : First Printing

The differences between the First and Second Printings of the perforated stamp are the same as for the imperforate stamp. There is no moiré pattern on the perforated stamps of either printing, nor any underprints (Lion, 1886 & F).

However, at the time this article is being written, we have found no examples at all of the 15c Brown printed from Plate 1 of the Second Printing, and Kneitschel is not explicit in its description. For the present, we are working on the basis that the 15c Brown only exists as First Printing and Second Printing (Plate 2).

Paraguay 1886 Official stamps Second Printing 15c Train
Paraguay 1886 Official stamps Second Printing 15c Train

The scans above are a mixture of examples of the 15c perforated stamp from both the First & Second Printings. The scans are to show the overprint varieties, rather than the detail differences of the two printings, which were described higher up under the 15c Blue imperforate stamp.

Paraguay 1886 15c Perf 1st Ptg: Optd OFICIAL : Grey-Brown to Chestnut-Brown (shades) [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c Perf 1st Ptg: With OFICIAL opt and SPECIMEN [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: OFICIAL omitted, IMPERF (see Note 1 below) [ . ]

PROOFS of First Printing (15c Perf):
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Proof on Thin Hard Paper, without opt OFICIAL - PERF [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 1st Ptg: Proof on Thin Hard Paper, without opt OFICIAL - IMPERF [ . ]
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Notes :
Note 1 : Scan : Row 1, 3/4 : This pair is neither on the Thin Hard Paper as the proofs, nor in the paper of the issued stamps, but on a reasonably thick, ungummed white paper.

Note 2 : Scan : Row 2,2 : This stamp is on Thin Hard Paper as for the reported proofs in Kneitschel and the shade is darker than the issued stamps.

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Paraguay 1886 15c Brown Official (Steam Train) : Perforated : Second Printing

Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Optd OFICIAL, Perf. in Brown [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: Optd OFICIAL : IMPERF in Brown [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: OFICIAL INVERTED, Perf. [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: OFICIAL INVERTED, Imperf. [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: OFICIAL OMITTED, Perf. [ . ]
Paraguay 1886 15c 2nd Ptg: OFICIAL OMITTED, Imperf. [ . ]
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Paraguay 1886 Official stamps Second Printing 15c Train

The above scan is from the bottom right corner (bottom left corner as seen from the back) of a pane/25 of the 15c Brown locomotive stamp (2nd Ptg). Many stamps are found without gum, especially the varieties it seems, but regular sheets of this issue are numbered in the margins on the gummed side by (or for) the post office. The sheet number appears to be on top of the gum.

The full sheet/25 (numbered 412 on the gummed side) is shown below for those who may wish to study it:
Paraguay 1886 Official stamps Second Printing 15c Train
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Postscript:
Paraguay is not a popular country amongst most philatelists, sometimes because of the ugly (and too numerous) 1960s/70s/80s issues, sometimes because of the difficulties with the very first issues and possibly also because of the very limited access to any good literature on the country.

We think this is a pity, as there is much interesting philately to be enjoyed. There is probably still much to be discovered, but one is not helped by the fact that the availability of study quantities of most of Paraguay's stamps is very limited. These 15c stamps are just one value from a couple of sets, but, even though we have set out looking just for these, we have struggled to find all the material we need to write the article with any great authority. Nevertheless, we hope you find it interesting and that maybe you would like to find out more yourself? We would be surprised if there are not a few more varieties than listed by Kneitschel or described above, particularly for the Imperforate stamps with their myriad additional features.

Article first published, November 2018. Undated (and unannounced) additions and/or amendments may be / may have been made at a later date.

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