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”)

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    

Us, 4000+ Stamps(singles, Plate Blocks) & Sheets In 3 Albums/binder/pagesUs, Excellent Mint Plate Block Stamp Collection Mounted In A 2 Volume Harris AlbU.s. #834 Mint Vf Nh Plate Block - 1932 $5 Coolidge ($350)Us(-1974), Excellent Mint Commemorative Plate Block Stamp Collection Mounted In Nystamps E Investment Mint Old Us Stamp & Plate Block Collection With NhNystamps W Much Mint Nh Old Us Stamp Plate Block Collection White Ace AlbumU.s. #c1 Mint Nh Plate Block - 1918 6c Jenny ($1,000)Nystamps W Mint Old Us && Bob Stamp & Plate Block Collection White Ace Album NhNystamps E Many Mint Nh Old Us Bob Air Mail Sd Stamp & Plate Block Collection(396) U.s. Mint Plate Blocks In A Harris Album Total Face Value $148.30Ckstamps : Large Mint Most Nh Us Pb Stamps Collection 2( Face Value $90.00Nystamps W Many Mint Nh Us Coil Stamp & Plate Block Collection White Ace AlbumScott 297 Mint Pan-american Plate Number Strip 3 (1140/1141) Nh Og, Fresh! $625Ckstamps : Fascinating Mint Many Nh Us Plate Blocks & Blocks Stamps CollectionStamps, Plate Blocks #692, 693, 694, 695, 696, 697, 698, 699, 700 & 701Scott United Nations 38, Mint Souvenir Sheet Of 3, Nh Og, Choice Gem! $85U.s. #367 Mint Vf Plate Block - 1909 2c Lincoln ($200)Ckstamps: Us Stamp Collection Scott#c11 Mint Nh OgU.s. #1053 Mint Nh Plate Block - 1956 $5 Hamilton ($240)Nystamps W Mint Nh Old Us Stamp Plate Block Collection White Ace Album !Ckstamps : Large Mint Us Plate Blocks Stamps Collection ( Face Value $75.00U.s. #rw57 Nh Plate Block - 1990 $12.50 Whistling Duck ($85)$280.52 Face Value Us Mint Stamps Discount Postage Partial Sheets & Plate BlocksUsa : Clean Mint Never Hinged Plate Block Collection In Harris Album.Us(1950-1964), Pristine Mint Nh Plate Block, Block, & Single Stamps Mounted In ANystamps W Mint Nh Us Stamp Plate Block Collection White Ace Album Face $111Old Large Lot Of Mint Nh Us Plate Blocks Vintage Stamps Collection !!Large Lot Of Mint Nh Old Us Plate Blocks Vintage Stamps Collection !!U.s. #rw62 Nh Plate Block - 1995 $15 Mallards ($135)Ckstamps: Us Stamp Collection Scott#426 Mint H Og60+ Us Air Mail Plate Blocks Old Stamp Collection- Mnh Og !! (dd556)Large Old Lot Mint Nh Us Plate Blocks Stamps Vintage Collection Mnh !Nystamps S Many Mint Nh Old Us Stamp Booklet Pane CollectionCkstamps: Us Stamp Collection Scott#279b Mint Nh OgCkstamps: Us Stamp Collection Scott#2216-2219 (4) Mint Nh OgNystamps Us Air Mail Plate Block Stamp # C46 Mint Og Nh $20 P#4Nystamps S Large Mint Used Old Us Stamp & Plate Block Collection Stock PageHuge Lot Pb's-zips-blks Part Sheets Fv $225 99% Mnh Please See All 50 Pics! Mnh Us Postage Stamp Group - Large Plate Blocks + Strips - Face $229.60$250.45 Face Value Us Mint Stamps Discount Postage Partial Sheets & Plate BlocksWholesale Plate Blocks Nm-mint Og Nh Americana Issue #1612 #1611 #1610 ZipCkstamps Ny Ebay : Exciting Mint & Used Mixed Us Stamps Collection In Binder U.s. #372 Mint Nh Plate Block - 1909 2c Hudson-fulton ($425)87 Different Five (5) Cent Plate Blocks Mnh + Extras Free ShipU.s. #rw54 Mint Xf Nh Plate Block - 1987 $10 Redheads ($70)78 All Different Us Mint 3c # Plate Block Collection Mnh, PbsCkstamps : Impressive Mint Most Nh Us Airmail Pb & Blocks Stamps Collection Philippine C59-c62 Mint Airmail Plate Blocks 4 5e22 12Us Usa Plate # Blocks Stamp Coll In 3 Albums Mint 1972-1978 Plus Air Very CleanUs, Assortment Of Modern Mint(many Nh) Stamps( In Multiples) & SheetsNystamps W Large Much Mint Nh Us Stamp Plate Block Collection White Ace Album !U.s. #833 Mint Vf Nh Plate Block - 1932 $2 Harding ($100)Ckstamps: Us Stamp Collection Scott#300 Mint 4nh 2lh OgCkstamps: Us Stamp Collection Scott#c22 Mint Nh OgNystamps G Many Mint Nh Old Us Booklet Pane CollectionScott C24, Mint Plate Block Of 6 (22381 Bottom) H Og, 4-margins! $120Uncle Shelby's Really Old Stamps Lot #47921Usa Priority Mail Scott # 2394 $8.75 Eagle Mnh Plate Block.Us #715 Mint/f-vf/nh Plate Block Of Four; Scv $120.00Ckstamps: Us Stamp Collection Scott#528b Mint Nh Og