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The Ray Flaw

Rays is the term used in reference to the lines which emanate from the center of two top corner designs which appear on the Penny Black.  These designs are also referred to as  stars.  In describing which location is under discussion, the two top star corners may be referred to as the north-west and north-east stars.  Figure 1 shows the normal star corners without any specific type of ray flaw.


North-west Star                                                North-east Star
Figure 1.

The "rays" are the lines which emanate from the center of the "stars" similar to wheel spokes

Figure 2.
The North-west star viewed as a "clock face"


These rays can be compared to the units of measurement on a clock face as in figure 2. Some Penny Blacks can be readily identified by the structure of the stars and their rays.  These ray flaws can be broken down into two major groups:  The North -west Rays and The North-east Rays shown below in figures 3 and 4:


The North-west Ray Flaws


10 O'clock Ray Flaw
Plates 1a and 1b

7 O'clock Ray Flaw
Plate 1b

5 O'clock Ray Flaw
Plate 1b

Figure 3.

The North-east Ray Flaws


White Ray Stage I
Plates 8, 9, 10

White Raw Stage II
Plates 8, 9, 10

7 O'clock Ray Flaw

Figure 4.


These flaws appeared on the plates during the process when the Transfer Roller applied the impressions on the plates.  The Die impression on the roller was apparently weak, and as the roller applied the impression onto the plate the design eroded and the flaw was repeated on many or all of the plates positions.  In some cases, as in the case of the "White Ray Flaw," the design deteriorated further as it was applied to the plates, growing larger and producing stages I and II.  This is not an entirely fool proof means for determining the Plate the stamps originate from as sometimes the flaw may appear to be present due to under inking or other causes.  This can be remedied by the fact that there are other characteristics often appearing on the stamps to help confirm the identification of the stamp.  However, these flaws are very helpful and often succeed in helping the Plater arrive at the appropriate conclusion.  These flaws, taken in conjunction with other characteristics such as guide lines or double letters, etc. allow one to be certain of proper identification.

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