See below for details
Detail shown below
The grill seen on the reverse of some stamps
Partial grills will always be considered to be H grills.
If your stamp has the a grill on the reverse you have quickly identified the stamp. It is the first printing of this stamp from the National Bank Note company and is #141
There are two types of grills, the H grill and the I grill, the I grill being far less common, and as a result has a higher value. The H Grill is #141 and the I grill is #141a.
Look for the bottom of the left top triangle. If you see that the triangle has been strengthened at the inside bottom it is the 'secret mark' that shows you have a copy of #163.
A NOTE ABOUT THE 15¢ SECRET MARK
The secret mark on #163 is almost always absent, making it difficult to tell the difference between the National printings of #152 and the Continental printings of #163. The best way of telling the two apart is by the shade of orange (see above). The gum on #152 is usually darker and more uneven than the white smooth gum of #163.
Hard paper was used by the National Bank Note Company and the Continental Bank Note Company. Soft paper was used by the American Bank Note Company.
The hard paper of the Bank Note issues is fairly white, perhaps it might better be called grayish white or sometimes a somewhat bluish white, while the soft paper seems slightly yellowish when compared with the hard paper.
Soft paper has a looser weave and more porous paper than hard paper, so it feels softer, displays a mesh or weave when viewed by holding the stamp between your eyes and light so that you are looking “through” the stamp.
Some people can also ID hard paper be “flicking” the edges and thereby “feeling” the stiffness of the paper versus the feel of soft paper if flicked in the same way. There's more of a snap to the hard paper.
On high magnification the perforation tips on soft paper will have more strands of paper sticking out than hard paper.
Soft paper is fairly dead looking under a long wave UV light ( (briefly and from a reasonable distance in a darkened room) while hard paper reflects more light. If reference copies of stamp designs known only on hard paper or soft paper are viewed under UV light, the difference in paper brightness should be apparent.
For a reference stamp obtain the inexpensive 1861 3¢ (#65), it is only available in hard paper.
A simple test is to hold a stamp to a lamp, you will see the hard paper is more translucent.