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f article plate2

The marginal marking “F” is found on many flat press printing plates certified after 1917. Usually entered just to the left of the right top plate number, it signified that the plate was finished or about to be finished. However, there are exceptions to that location. After Wallace Cleland finished his extensive examination of plate proofs at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, he published two articles (Ref. 1, 2) describing how some “F”s could be found located by the left side, right side, bottom, or left top plate numbers. He listed plates where this was true and called them misplaced “F” plates.

Plates 14058, 14060, and 18892 are found in Cleland’s list and they will be used to demonstrate side and bottom misplaced “F”s. This article will not evaluate the left top Misplaced “F” plates.

A study (Ref. 3) of the eleven-cent Hayes stamp illustrated that side and top “F” positions can be found on plate 14058 output. It demonstrated that when the plate had gone to press by itself on the same day it was certified, it had a misplaced right side “F” (Figure 1) and that at some time later, that side “F” was removed from the plate and replaced with an “F” at the normal right top position. Flat press plates normally went to press in groups of four, but in this case the other three plates were not certified until four days later. One of those, plate 14060, also received a side “F” which was eventually replaced by a right top “F”, but not until after it had gone to press (Figure 2).

hayes f article5

Gilbert Peakes (Ref. 4) did an extensive study of the “F” on plate number blocks of Scott C9, the twenty-cent Map air post stamp. He found for plate 18892 that both bottom and right top position “F”s exist (Figure 3), much like the story for plate 14058. However, he reached the conclusion that for plate 18890, the misplaced bottom “F” shown on its plate proof was never replaced with a right top position “F”. These two plates, along with plates 18891 and 18893, went to press one day after the four plates were certified. The latter two plates never received misplaced “F”s.

hayes f art c9
This leads us to conclude that the status of the misplaced “F” on a plate proof can be identified by four situations:

  1. The misplaced “F” was replaced after its plate went to press. (Two different “F” position outputs exist)
  2. The misplaced “F” was never replaced. (Only misplaced “F” output exist)
  3. The misplaced “F” was replaced before its plate went to press. (No misplaced “F” output exists)
  4. A misplaced “F” was added to a plate after its proof was pulled. (Result could be the same as 1, 2, or 3).

Some misplaced “F”s are not standing upright, but are leaning, on their side, or inverted when compared to the accompanying plate number. The “F” may even follow rather than be before the plate number.

Click on Table I to find a list of Cleland plate proofs where misplaced “F”s are found at side or bottom plate number positions. Added to the listing are plates that have been discovered where side or bottom misplaced “F”s were added after their plate proofs were pulled. The plate numbers are sequenced by Scott number.

The table contains 26 plate numbers (highlighted in red) where displaced “F” output has been identified, but where a corresponding top right “F” output has yet to be discovered. There are 7 plate numbers where both displaced “F” and top right “F” outputs have been identified (blue).There are no plate numbers in the table for which only a top right “F” output is known. I have never seen them, but G. William Patten (Ref. 5) mentioned that plate 13201 is found with displaced “F” and top right “F” outputs.

If you own a “F” output that has not been reported, please send a scan of it to the web address: Also, please send a scan if you believe your example is more appropriate than the current example. The table will be updated to reflect your input.

The table will be used to update, where necessary, United States Specialist Society plate number records.

Why do misplaced “F”s exist?

Possibly by error. The workman mistook which side was the top on the plate and punched the “F” in what he thought was the normal position. Or maybe a substitute workman may not have been as exacting as the person he was replacing. There could be many reasons in this category.

Possibly by design. Scott 563, 557 and 570 were the first three new issues of the Fourth Bureau Issue. All three have at least one side “F’ somewhere on their first four plates. In the rush to make stamps available in a timely manner, the displaced “F” may have been used as an indicator that a plate still required some finishing. This kind of action could have been true for other plates in Cleland’s list as well.


  1. Wallace Cleland, “The Position of the “F” marking on Flat Plates Up to 20,000, Part I”, The United States Specialist, Vol. 61, No. 4 (April 1990), pp. 217-224.
  2. Wallace Cleland, “The Position of the “F” Marking on Flat Plates Up to 20,000, Part II”, The United States Specialist, Vol. 61, No.6 (June 1990), pp. 321-328.
  3. Jerry A. Katz, “Plates 14058 and 14060 of the Eleven-Cent Hayes of 1922”, The United States Specialist, Vol. 64, No. 3 (March 1993), pp. 113-118.
  4. Gilbert L. Peakes, “A Study of the Inverted “F” on 20c Air Mail Plates 18890 and 18892”, The United States Specialist, Vol. 43, No. 3 (March 1972), pp. 104-114.
  5. G. William Patten, “Article F – In Fact and Fancy”, The United States Specialist, Vol. 22, No. 5, (May, 1951), pp. 87-88.