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Modern-day Canadian Postage Stamp Paper
Updated Feb 17/08

This discussion is limited to the "modern-day" paper used for Canadian stamps - that is, during the Elizabethan era (1952-present).

There are three areas of discussion:

 paper texture (ribbed)
 paper surface (coated)
 paper supplier

Paper Texture:

Most of the stamp paper used to print Canadian stamps has a "smooth" appearance. There are, however, some issues that exist with a "ribbed-effect" paper. This paper has the distinct appearance of horizontal (or vertical) "lines" across the paper (visible from either the front, back, or both sides of the stamp).

The Wilding-era stamps include a half-dozen stamps that come on both horizontal and vertical ribbed paper (this is due to a rotation of the printing plates part way through the life span of the stamps).

There are also a number of stamps in the Caricature & Landscape series that come with ribbed-effect paper varieties. As well, there are a couple of issues in the Environment series that have this ribbed paper as well.


Paper Surface:

Until the 1980's, most of Canada's stamps were printed on an uncoated paper. This paper appears rough and dull. As printing techniques evolved from single-colour, engraved stamps to multi-coloured stamps printed by lithography or photogravure, new paper coatings were required to aid in the application of the ink to the paper surface. The result was coated paper. This paper has a shiny, glossy/glazed appearance.

A few Canadian definitive stamps exist on both uncoated and coated paper.

The term "coated", as used here, should not be confused with the paper manufacturer, Coated Papers, which began supplying paper for Canadian postage stamps in late 1990 (see discussion below).


Paper Supplier:

From 1972 to early 1983, Abitibi-Price was the sole supplier of paper for Canadian postage stamps. At that time, they decided on short notice to discontinue producing this paper. For a period of time, Canada Post was forced to use paper from non-Canadian paper mills.

Paper Codes (30k) 1177 (21k)Quite a few definitive stamps printed since 1983 have been reprinted on different paper stock. For collectors, the need to identify the different paper supplier is an important requirement (in one instance, the 74c Wapiti stamp issued is 1988, it could mean the difference between the common $2.50 stamp vs. a very rare $900.00 stamp!). In an effort to satisfy collector's needs, Canada Post has included a single-letter code as part of the plate inscription found on the imprint of each of the four corners of philatelic stock ("field" stock, or panes send to most post offices, has the plate inscriptions either trimmed off, or not printed at all).

The table that follows provides some general guidelines on identifying the different paper stock for both mint and used stamps. Note, however, that two different paper stocks may appear very similar, particularly for a single specimen.

  Mint (gum) Used (back of stamp) 1st seen Inscription "code"
Abitibi-Price clear (creamy look on the Artifact-series stamps) smooth   none
Harrison blue-green tinge; curls back of stamp has horizontal "lines" when viewed against a darker background (looks textured, almost like ribbed paper Aug 83 H
Clark clear; Artifact-series stamps may curl smooth Dec 83 none
Rolland slight curl; mildly flrsc (some issues) smooth Aug 85 R
Slater light cream-coloured gum looks like a mixture of "pulp" and has a darker tone (beige).

Slater is slightly darker than Coated.

Feb 88 to Jan 92 S
(name changed to Tullis Russell Coatings, Jan 98)
slight blue-green tinge (sometimes it is pale) Dec 90 C
Peterborough greyish very smooth, white, crispy Feb 88 P
Fasson (self-adhesive) very smooth, in comparison to Coated   F
Spicer (self-adhesive)   Dec 07 S


  • there is no noticeable difference between Abitibi-Price and Clark papers, particularly on used copies.
  • for used singles, Slater and Coated papers are almost identical.

Here is an image (exaggerated a bit to show details) of TRC (Coated) paper (on the front of the 49c QEII definitive, Sc. 2011):


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