Stamps with different colors were used to indicate different denominations until multicolored stamps appeared along with the development of color printing techniques. The majority of modern stamps are still of a single color design. In the early days of printing stamps, inks were made up in batches as needed and the colors were inconsistent. In such cases, the shade provided information about when and where the stamps were made and possibly might identify particular printings. However, we have very little information on North Korean stamps with different shades of color.
There are many possibilities. The printer may have used different inks due to the lack of adequate ink supplies, or the ink may also have been diluted or applied thinly. Sometimes variations occurred when printing plates were accidentally under-inked. Extreme variations may be considered color errors and may not even be released to the public. Examples are:
Also, color variations may occur as a result of chemical reactions like oxidation. A reaction involving lead may turn a blue or green stamp to black. The possibilities are endless when there is no information available.
However, when we understand the economic situation in North Korea, we can conclude that variations of color often occur due to a lack of adequate ink supply, just like printing different quality stamps for domestic and international use in order to conserve paper supplies.
In addition, color variation may also result from counterfeit printing plates and inks. It is very hard to distinguish between genuine stamps and forgeries if the stamps are unused. The techniques used in making the stamps are identical.
For example, 1996, Scott A1617, Kim Jung Il Appointment as Supreme Commander stamps: when you look at the stamps closely with a magnifying glass, you can see that there are many different characteristics as if they came from 2 different printing plates:
- Color shade: the genuine stamp is darker than the other;
- Year: the genuine one has finer and clearer numbering than the other;
- In the English-written KOREA, the E is written slightly differently.
- In the Korean text, 조선우표, the 우 has a rectangular ㅜ in the genuine stamp and the other has a more pointed ㅜ; also in the character 표 the genuine stamp has space between the top of the character ㅍ and the bottom ㅛ while in the other they are completely touching each other.
The two stamps: