Plate varieties of the 500 ruble stamp of the First Essayan issue

Some of the stamps of the first pictorial issue spot some very distinctive plate varieties. So far not much is described in the literature in detail. Only the “old” Zakiyan/Saltikov book lists some varieties. Included are the basic variations like more or less pronounced “secret marks” as well as several minor abnormalities (small spots etc.) and some of the striking “specialties”. While checking my material I found several small abnormalities as well as one new large and striking example and some candidates or in between types. Since the small variations are not so interesting, quite common and sometimes hard to distinguish from random printing side effects I will present only the ones listed by Zakiyan and the “large” ones I found additionally.

One of the basic variations Zakiyan lists – I do not consider them plate varieties – correlate to the four different types of the top left corner. As there are:

  1. clean and closed frame corner
  2. corner prolonged to the left
  3. small gap in corner
  4. large gap in corner

Here some examples. You can find all these variations together with different characteristics of the remaining stamp. Also in between sizes of the gap.

And a “perfect” corner.

The second basic variation Zakiyan deals with the lower left corner where often a line protrudes downwards. Here an example of both cases.

Now on to the real plate varieties.

Plate Variety No 1 :  Extra strikes on left border

This is a nice and easy to spot variety. Zakiyan only shows the top most prolongation of the corner but I found they always come with the additional strikes below.

Plate Variety No 2 :  Broken “5”

The top of the digit “5” is damaged and shows a typical scraggy look.

Plate Variety No 3:  Protrusions at the value tablet

Two distinct protrusions at the left border of the value tablet and a characteristic damage to the “5” are the signature of this variety.

Plate Variety No 4:  Square blob left of value tablet

There is a blob in the shape of a square to the left of the value tablet, together with a frame gap. Additionally another gap on the top frame and a blob above the ornament complete this type. Zakiyan describes the top blob above the ornament as a gap (also has a picture of this) but all my examples show the blob.

Plate Variety No 5:  Protrusion at top, above the ornament

I found that one only on the other shade/color of the stamp. There is also a gap in the frame, just below the value tablet at the left side. But since I could not find more examples it is not clear if this is random or if it belongs to this variety.

Plate Variety No 6:  Gap in frame left of value tablet

With typical break to the outside (like to be seen on the Zakiyan image) but open corner gap – Zakiyan describes this with closed corner.

Plate Variety No 7:  Antenna left of value tablet

Some blobs or “antenna” just below the corner gap.

Plate Variety No 8:  Bull horns break through pillar

Typical blob at the bottom left corner looking a bit like the bull went thought the pillars with its horn.

Plate Variety No 9:  Lightning strikes

A strong line goes though the major part of the right part of the picture. I consider this a major variation type because it very eye-catching and also large.

This is what a whole stamp looks like.

Plate Variety No 10:  Boulder on right peak

A large boulder resides on top of the right mountain peak. Also quite striking and the second major variety in my opinion. The arrows point to typical blobs of ink that are always present together with the boulder.

Plate Variety No 11:  “Missing boulder” on right peak

The same as before with all three typical blobs, just the boulder has rolled down and is no longer resting on the top of the peak. Like a sub-variety of the one before.

Plate Variety No 12:  Comet over mountain

A comet shows over the right slope of the mountain. There are also two characteristic blobs on the left border coming along. This one is not listed in Zakiyan.

Possible Plate Variety No 12:  Tree at left mountain side

There is also damage to the “5” which looks exactly like the variety described earlier. I am not sure yet if this is a real variety. I need to see more material of this.

Possible Plate Variety No 13:  Tree before the middle of the mountain

Another striking variant. Again this is something I need to see more material in order to be sure to list this as plate variety.


The stamps of the first pictorial issue offer a lot of interesting detail and there are yet many things to discover and check. Happy hunting for those big and nice varieties.

Also some questions remain as how often do those variants occur? At which position in the sheet?

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