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Fractional notes of the Estado de Sonora issue

(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).

Perigoe writes
“I have to point out at the outset that the following analysis is based on a very small sample of centavo notes. Therefore, I can only present a reasonable hypothesis as to how these were printed. However, I have made important basic assumptions on the basis of my previous comprehensive work on the peso issues, and the fact that the printers were the same people at the same time and place. While I am embarrassed by my paltry holdings, I am heartened by the fact that I was nonetheless able to spot vital patterns. My hypothesis is based only on consistencies in the sample, and the assumption that they prevailed in the total population.

I also must issue a warning that I was able to, and had to, rely on my research on the contemporary Sonoran revenue stamps in consolidating my theories. Insights stemming from this background rear their heads before I conclude.

The centavo notes were printed on letter size paper, using four print positions. Watermarks show that the 25 and 50 centavos notes were oriented vertically on the sheet (as were the peso notes), and that the 5 and 10 centavos notes were printed horizontally on each sheet, so that a single sheet of paper could accommodate eight notes. As was the case with each peso series, for each print position, one of five different state seals was printed in the same color as the serial number, and if the seal can be identified, the print position can be determined.

Generally, the numbering system can also provide another method of determining the position, although the systems sometimes shift. If the peso print runs are any indication, the top position normally has the lowest quarter of the serial numbers, followed sequentially by the upper middle, lower middle, and bottom positions.

Typically, a straight-forward method of identifying the print positions utilizes the distinctions in the large eagle seals on notes large enough to accommodate them. This is not the case with either low value centavos notes. That pretty much leaves the colored state seals or underlying printing quirks in the background design as the last remaining option for determining position.

I will refer to the four series as first, second, third and fourth; the five colored seals as 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; and the four printing type varieties (or print positions) as A (top ), B (upper middle), C (lower middle), and D (bottom). I had to follow this regimen during my research to avoid making mistakes because of confusion.

To put this whole exercise in perspective, I have compiled a chart that summarizes the conclusions I reached in regard to identifying the seals used in these printings. I wanted to make clear the assumptions I made along the way, while also displaying the patterns that emerged and guided how I filled in the blanks. I always opted for the simplest explanation I could find. The seals are not only numbered, but were colour coded so that patterns and repetitions emerged.

In any event, the foregoing framework formed the basis for identifying the collectible varieties in the centavos series as summarized below.

After performing the above analysis of the centavos, I am now in a position to combine the centavos and pesos data to see the whole story. There is a clear chronology, although undated as far as I know, where the plate positions for the large, coloured, mountain seals and hand seals shifted print positions on Sonoran revenue stamps. I have identified five separate periods of revenue stamp production. In each period, the hand seals and mountain seals maintained one order, beginning with the order 12345 that I have used to identify them in my analysis of the contemporary currency.
For some reason, the order of the mountain seals changed after each interruption. A better question is why the order of the hand seals remained constant, and I have to assume that their print blocks were designed only to fit the stamp printing mechanism in one specific configuration.

The logical explanation for the interruptions is that the seals were needed for the four separate episodes of currency production. The back-and-forth fits neatly, and comports with the printing consignment dates that are known for the currency. By the same token, every return to revenue stamp production meant starting afresh in mounting the seals on the currency. While the consignment data provides valuable knowledge of the delivery dates of completed currency, the shifting seals provide insights into the actual production schedule.