The 5-cent Franklin stamp exists in a vast number of shades. There are more than twenty-five major shade classifications for the stamp, and there are almost a hundred more varieties listed under those. Consequently, these shades are a truly fascinating part of 1847 collecting. Some shades are very hard to find; others are quite common.
The plate was put to press five times, and the stamps from each printing are distinguishable by the characteristics of their impressions. Brown inks, which contained oxides of various metals, eroded the engraved plate's fine lines through the several thousand impressions. Repeated, inconsistent wiping of the plate after each impression also eroded the engraving. After the third printing, the plate was virtually useless. The plate was then acid-etched before the fourth printing, cleaning the plate, deepening its lines, and thereby enhancing the impression. However, in the process the lines of the engraved plate were widened twice as much as they were deepened, the acid eating away at the left and right sides simultaneously. It also ate away at the bottom. While this helped strengthen medium-to-deep lines, it gave them a soft or fuzzy appearance. Many of the extremely fine lines completely disappeared from the stamps of the fourth and fifth printing. A few positions on the plate might have been re-entered after the fourth and/or fifth printing.
Plate varieties included six so-called double-transfers, a "T" Crack, the dot in "S," and a few others. Cancellations are usually a red grid, town, or manuscript. Any other well-defined strikes are sought after.