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5c notes of the Estado de Sonora

(This section is the result of research by Robert Perigoe. The information originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of the U. S. Mexican Numismatic Association).

Est Sonora 5c 21321

Est Sonora 5c 21321 reverse

This is the first of the three issues that used the red state seals, bearing a hand holding a torch, usually referred to as hand seals or torch seals. My study group was meager. It included 36 examples, of which 17 are actual notes. Nineteen are reproductions, albeit four different types, but most of them (11) represent identical print runs and positions.

Apparently there were 25 print runs of 1,000 sheets.

The Randall signature is positioned differently relative to the corner on each of the four print positions. Examination of the space between the signature and the two frame lines is the key. My rule of thumb is to say the signature clears the frame line if the space between the two would accommodate another line of the same thickness. I say the signature almost touches the frame line when it may be too close to call, but there is certainly not enough room to squeeze in another line between them. In Position A (the Top), the signature clears both frames. In Position B (the Upper Middle) it almost touches both frames. In Position C (the Lower Middle), it almost touches the right frame, but clears the bottom. In Position C (the Bottom), it clears the right frame but almost touches the bottom.

5cposA   5cposB
Position A   Position B
5cposC   5cposD
Position C   Position D


Another foolproof way to identify the four positions is to examine the background printing. For decades these peculiar cross patterns have enabled (or plagued) any detailed study of the many issues of typeset Sonoran postal stamps or fiscal stamps of the revolution. The pattern of the crosses is clearly set out in Follansbee’s workNicholas Follansbee, The stamps of the Mexican Revolution 1913-1916, Collectors Club of Chicago, Chicago, 1996 “The type elements composing the background show an X surrounded by four little circles, one of which is further from the centre than the other three. In the settings given below, each type element is referred to by its orientation.”

crossT   crossL   crossB   crossR
Type T   Type L   Type B   Type R


These crosses are found in the background of the reverse sides of these notes. (These types should not be confused with print positions, although B does appear in both.) In all four positions, every cross is typically type B. In Position A, there is no exception to the pattern.

However, in the next three positions, there is one exception each time. In Position B, in the third row from the top, second column from the right, the cross is is type L.

 In Position C, in the top row, second column from the left, the cross is type R.


In Position D, in the bottom row, seventh column from the right, the cross is type R.


Hand seals


The five different hand seals are shown above. The images on the stamps are considerably clearer than those that appear on the currency, which tend to be too heavily inked to show detail. (It is interesting to note that there were also some large swaths of over-inking on the red mountain seals in series 4 of the five peso notes printed later on.) It is not unusual to be satisfied with identifying the outer shape of the seal, if there is a bump or a notch. Some other differences that may be discernible include the shape of the shadow of the fingers on the hand, the shading on the ribbon at thebottom, or the shape of the leaves on the laurel branch at the left.

Type 1   ‘LIBERTAD’ on Liberty Cap resembles ‘####TAD’
Below hand, left stalk has two rectangular shading marks of roughly equal size
Below hand, right stalk has almost no shading
Rightmost ear of corn in middle group is thick and colourless on underside
Type 2 Hand2 ‘LIBERTAD’ on Liberty Cap resembles ‘LIDENTAL’
Slight dent in outer edge at 11 o'clock
Slight notch in outer edge between 5 and 6 o'clock
Ear of corn to left of hand is thick, straight and colourless on upper side
Type 3 Hand3 ‘LIBERTAD’ on Liberty Cap resembles ‘LIGEGTA’
Prominent notch in outer edge between 12 and 1 o'clock
Ear of corn to left of hand is thick and solid
Type 4 Hand4 ‘LIBERTAD’ on Liberty Cap resembles ‘1196D##’
Two thicker diagonal lines from bottom of upper corn ears to left of Liberty Cap
Two more from bottom of major ray left of hand to middle of next ray
Type 5   LIBERTAD’ on Liberty Cap resembles ‘UGTATH’
Ear of corn is colourless on upper side not lower side


Hand seal type 2 is found in Position A, type 3 in Position B, type 4 in Position C, and type 5 in position D. However, they are typically far too hard to distinguish to be of much use in determining the print position.

In summary, the four positions can be distinguished thus:

Position Hand
Randall Signature Type B Background
crosses on reverse
A 2 Easily clears both frames No exception
B 3 Almost touches both frames One exception, 3rd row from top, 2nd from right is Type L
C 4 Almost touches right frame One exception, top row, 2nd from left is Type R
D 5 Almost touches bottom frame One exception, bottom row, 7th from right is Type R