ABOUT THIS WEBSITE
I started this website to introduce other stamp collectors to proof collecting and to make my collection and other collections available online for others to enjoy. The reception from visitors has been favorable though, as with almost all specialized philatelic websites, it is targeted at a niche market.
I designed the layout of the site to focus on the different colors used to print the proofs. Therefore, the central (stamp) portion of each artist's proof is shown so that different colors of the same issue can be viewed together and the colors compared, something that is difficult to do with the actual proofs. A number of visitors requested images of the entire proof, and to accomodate this request I have begun adding these at the bottom of the gallery pages.
A second major feature of the site is the quality of the images. I doubled the linear resolution of the images (which is four times the number of pixels since the area is squared if each side is doubled) compared to the original site to make them sharp on high-resolution screens and mobile devices. This slows the loading slightly but will hopefully not be an issue for visitors with reasonably fast internet connections.
Being able to view images of the proofs in which the lettering and lines are clear and the images appear almost as sharp as the actual stamp is a major aid to appreciating and enjoying the images. It is possible to expand the images slightly before they become blurry. At some point in the future, when high-speed internet is universal, I hope to further increase the resolution of the images so that they can be enlarged sufficiently to examine the engraving in detail. As an interim step, I may show close-up or higher resolution images of selected proofs.
A more general aim of the website is to show how beautiful engraved stamps can be. I am a big fan of anything engraved, from stationary to wedding invitations to currency. That being said, there is a wide variation in the quality of the design and engraving of the proofs shown on this site. Each viewer may have his or her own view on what stamps he likes and which are the most skillfully designed and engraved, but a recognition of this difference in quality can help a collector appreciate the beauty of engraved stamps. In future updates of this website I may try to add more material on the artistic aspects of engraved stamps.
I have also included the results of my research on quantities printed, ink colors, paper, watermarks, and other aspects of proofs. Some of this research required comparison of a large number of proofs and is incomplete. The full answer to some of the technical details of the production of these proofs lies with the collections in Musée de la Poste in Paris and perhaps these will become public in the future.
I have been steadily adding images to the website since it was started in 2011. The galleries now have over 5,000 images on over 600 pages. These include over 900 images of FSAT artist's proofs, over 600 images of St. Pierre artist's proofs, almost 1,000 images of FSAT trial color proofs, and almost 500 images of St. Pierre trial color proofs. The number of images of my favorite topics, including Europa, art, ships, trains, has also been expanded.
I designed and built this website myself because having a website of this size professionally designed and built would have been very expensive, likely costing well over $10,000. I started with no knowledge of how to build a website but, after several months, eventually managed to pick up enough to build a website with text and galleries of images. There were, however, quite a few times when some small error prevented a page from looking the way I wanted it to and it did not seem possible to overcome the problem. The original website was produced on Adobe Dreamweaver. Later modifications of the site were done on Adobe Brackets. The site was built exclusively with HTML and CSS.
Most images were photographed on a Nikon APS-C format DSLR camera (first a D80 and then a D5500) using raw images converted to JPG. I used a Nikon 60mm macro lens and a single Nikon or Dynalite flash positioned off the camera at a roughly 40% angle to the proof in order to cast a shadow that makes the embossed seals visible. Separate images were made of the entire proof and the central (stamp) portion. A separate close-up image of the central stamp portion of the proof allows viewing it at magnifications of up to about 25 times, which reveals the engraved lines in great detail. More recently, I have been using a Sony a7r4 full-frame 35mm mirrorless camera with a 61 MP sensor and either a Sony 90mm macro lense or a Voigtländer 65mm macro lens. The camera was mounted on a copy stand to prevent movement that might have blurred the image.
Black art cardboard was used as the background. No glass or mount was placed over the proofs during photography. This slightly improved sharpness and contrast and prevented reflections, but a few proofs did not lie flat and one can see in some images that the sides of the proof are not perfectly parallel. The best solution would have been to use a vacuum stand, but these are quite expensive to buy or require a fair amount of work and skill to build.
For the images of the central (stamp) portion of the proof, I found camera images much sharper than scanner images. Scanner images of the entire proof seemed sharp, but my scanner did not properly show the embossed seals since the light comes from directly below the proof and does not cast enough of a shadow to make the embossed seal clearly visible. (I have seen images that appear to be from other brands of scanners that render the embossed seals satisfactorily.) Another problem I had using a scanner was that certain colors, especially reds, were too saturated.
Post-capture processing of the raw images was done in Adobe Lightroom or, for the montage on the home page, Adobe Photoshop. Each image has twice as many linear pixels as its website container so that it renders in high-resolution on high-resolution monitors and most mobile devices. For example, the close-ups of most central portions of artist's proofs are 200 pixels wide on the screen but the image is 400 pixels wide. Post processing involved mainly cropping and a slight increase in contrast and decrease (darkening) in black level. However, color adjustments were necessary to the images from the D80 because the colors were too saturated. The graduated linear filter in Lightroom was used in some images to correct for light fall-off that resulted from using a single flash positioned on one side of the proof.
Feel free to e-mail me if you have questions, if there are proofs you want to trade or sell, or of if you want to provide information to help complete the catalogs on this site. Suggestions for improving the website are always welcome.
You can reach me at "info" (without the quotation marks) followed by the @ symbol and the website address, "stampproofs.com".