Plate blocks, also known as plate-number blocks, refer to stamps that are still attached to their original sheet and including the serial number of the printing plate in the sheet’s margin or selvage. The format of the plate-block numbers depends on when the stamps were printed, and who did the printing. Prior to 1894, when the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) began printing stamps, private companies were contracted for this task. These included Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson of New York and Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co. of Philadelphia, both of whom joined other printers in 1879 to form the American Bank Note Company, which also printed U.S. postage stamps.

When it came to numbering their plates, each printer did things a bit differently. Rawdon, which printed the 5-cent Franklin (Scott #1) and 10-cent Washington (Scott #2) between 1847 and 1851 did not use plate-block numbers at all. Toppan, which produced stamps from 1851 to 1861, took a straightforward approach, numbering the first plate used to produce each run of stamps in a particular denomination as “1,” the second as “2,” etc. The National Bank Note Company, which operated from 1861 to 1872, numbered its plates sequentially regardless of denomination. National began the plate count anew for its two-color Pictorial stamps of 1869 and 1870, as well as for its Bank Note issues of 1870 and 1871.

While the National Pictorials used the same numbers for each of the plates needed to produce each color on its stamps, subsequent printers sometimes gave their plates different numbers to differentiate the source plate for each color. In 1883, the American Bank Note Company added letter prefixes to its plate numbers, while BEP plates were given a different number for each color beginning in 1901 with its Pan American issues, one for the stamp’s frame and another for its vignette.

Prefixes on plate numbers served a different purpose after 1980, when they were used to identify the various private printers contracted to produce U.S. postage stamps. For example, plate numbers preceded by the letter “A” identified the printer as American Bank Note Company, “G” stands for Guilford Gravure, and “V” is for Avery Dennison.

An important exception to the use of numbers and letters on plate blocks is the Overrun Countries Series, which honored 13 countries occupied by Axis powers during World War II. Printed by American Bank Note, these 5-cent stamps were all printed in 1943, with the exception of the Korea stamp, which was printed in 1944. Each stamp featured a full-color engraving of the country’s flag, and instead of plate-block numbers in their margins, the stamps featured the name of the overrun country itself.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

1847USA

1847USA

Bob Allen's beautiful and well organized catalog of US stamps from 1847 to 1970 is a fantastic resource for all US … [read review or visit site]

The Stamp Collecting Round-up

The Stamp Collecting Round-up

Don Schilling's long-running, in-depth blog on stamp collecting and postal operations. Schilling stays up on all th… [read review or visit site]

National Postal Museum

National Postal Museum

If you're into postal history or collectibles, check out the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. This extensive s… [read review or visit site]

R. A. Siegel Auction Galleries

R. A. Siegel Auction Galleries

This auction house site offers an extensive online database of US stamp information. Includes PDF catalogs of past … [read review or visit site]

Post Office in Paradise

Post Office in Paradise

Post Office in Paradise showcases Hawaiian postal history from the years before Hawaii became a part of the United … [read review or visit site]

Private Die Proprietary Stamps

Private Die Proprietary Stamps

Bob Hohertz's impressive database of U.S. Private Die Proprietary stamps from the Civil War and Spanish American Wa… [read review or visit site]

Alphabetilately

Alphabetilately

First shown in 2008 to celebrate the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's 15th anniversary, Alphabetilately is esse… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Buffalo Stamps, Scott #834 Prexie Plate Block Of 4, Mnh Og & F/vf, Cv = $390Noblespirit~no Reserve~ Excellent Us 1930's Plate Block Album High Cv!Ckstamps: Large Mint Us Airmail Plate Blocks Stamps Collection ( Face Value $95Harris Us Plate Block Album-1901-1963!U.s. #c18 Mint Plate Block - 1933 50c Zeppelin ($500)1960-1974 Old Us Block Collection - Liberty Album. Blocks/singles. No Reserve!Us Large Lot Mint Nh Plate Blocks Old Stamps Collection All 100% Mint Og !!Buffalo Stamps, Scott #832 Prexie Plate Block Of 20, Mnh Og & Xf, Cv = $175Ckstamps Ebay : Large Mint Us Plate Blocks Stamps Collection ( Face Value $95.00Sb1 Stamps - Pretty Linder Album W/207 Different Mnh 20th Century Plate BlocksDr Jim Stamps Us Plate Block Album Loaded Including Better Must See No ReserveNystamps Us Plate Block Stamp # 832 Mint Og Nh / Mint H (2) $35Us Huge Air Mail Plate Block Collection Mint Nh Lot 4Old Large Lot Of Mint Nh Us Plate Blocks Vintage Stamps Collection !!Nystamps Us Block Stamp # 833 Mint Og Nh $95Ckstamps: Large Mint Us Sheets & Plate Blocks Stamp Collection ( Face Value $185Large Old Lot Of Mint Nh Us Plate Blocks Vintage Stamps Collection !!180 Mint U.s. Plate Blocks Below Face ValueLarge Old Lot Mint Us Plate Blocks Stamps Vintage Collection. Mnh, Og. #pb144.Buffalo Stamps, Scott #c23 Plate Block Of 10 W/ Markings, Mnh/og & Xf, Cv= $20Mint Nh Large Lot Us Plate Blocks Old Stamps Collection All 100% Mnh Og !!1933 .50 Zeppelin Pb6. Mnh. Scotts C-18Nystamps Us Plate Block Stamp # 833 Mint Og $95 P#4Ckstamps: Us Stamps Collection Scott#803/832 (29) Most Plate Blocks Mint Nh Og1867c Mint Nh Large Block Tagging Plate Block Of 20Nystamps S Mint Old Us President Stamp & Plate Block Collection With NhBuffalo Stamps, Scott #c23 Plate Block Of 10 W/ Markings, Mnh/og & Xf, Cv= $20Buffalo Stamps, Scott #c23 Plate Block Of 10 W/ Markings, Mnh/og & Xf, Cv= $20U.s. Old 3c. Era Plate Blocks - See Scan Group KNystamps Us Plate Block Stamp # 698 Mint Og $38 P#4Dr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott 610 2c Harding Block Og Hinged Initials No ReserveU.s. Plate Block Collection In Harris Album, #1242-1727 Nearly Complete $155+ Fv1901-1963 Old Us Plate Block Collection In A Liberty Album. All Mint.no Reserve!Ckstamps : Large Mint Most Nh Us Plate Blocks Stamps Collection ( Face Value$70+Buffalo Stamps, Scott #c21 Airmail Plate Block Of 6, Mnh Og & Vf/xf, Cv = $120Us $40.00 M/nh Face Postage Lot Of 20Ckstamps: Large Mint Mixed Us Single, Blocks Stamps Collection ( Face Value $125Buffalo Stamps, Scott #c22 Airmail Plate Block Of 6, Mnh Og & Xf, Cv = $100Nystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C11 Mint Og $40 P#6Buffalo Stamps, Scott #c23 Plate Block Of 10 W/ Markings, Mnh/og & Xf, Cv= $20Us 1935 Mnh Issued No Gum 7c National Park Imperf Plate Block Sc# 762Nystamps Us Plate Block Stamp # 745 Mint Og Nh $23 P #6 Margin Hinge696 Statue Of Liberty 15 Cent Plate Block Mnh Cv $52.50Buffalo Stamps, Scott #c21 Airmail Plate Block Of 6, Mnh Og & Vf/xf, Cv = $100Buffalo Stamps, Scott #756-765 Nat'l Parks Imperfs, Mngai (nh) & Xf, Cv = $280Noblespirit~no Reserve~desirable Us Block Stamp Commemorative Shee CollectionBuffalo Stamps, Scott #832 Prexie Plate Block Of 20, Mnh Og & F/vf, Cv = $175Old Large Lot Of Mint Nh Us Plate Blocks Vintage Stamps Collection !!Buffalo Stamps, Scott #c9 Airmail Plate Block Of 6, Mnh Og & Vf/xf, Cv = $105Nystamps Us Plate Block Air Mail Stamp # C31 Mint Og Nh $50 P#4Ckstamps : Lovely Mint Us Large Plate Blocks Stamps Collection ( Face Value $110Mint Nh Group Of 25 Different Plate Blocks - 20ct To 52ct Values - Face $23.08Us Plate Block Collection Mint Nh Lot 1Nystamps U Many Mint Nh Old Us Stamp & Plate Block CollectionDr Jim Stamps Us Plate Block Collection Unused Stamps Total Face $279 No ReserveBuffalo Stamps, Scott #c20 Airmail Plate Block Of 6, Mnh Og & Vf/xf, Cv = $20Nystamps Us Plate Block Stamp # 696 Mint Og $38 P#4Nystamps Us Plate Block Stamp # 651 Mint Og Nh $20 P#6Mint Nh Large Lot Us Plate Blocks Old Stamps Collection All 100% Mnh Og !!Nystamps Us Plate Block Stamp # 719 Mint Og Nh / Mint H (4) $71 P#20