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Adhesive Postage Stamps Of The United States Of America

( Originally Published 1893 )


BY an Act of Congress, approved March 3rd, 1851, the rates of postage were reduced, necessitating the issuance of a new series of postage stamps. Messrs. Toppan, Carpenter, Cassilar & Co., of Philadelphia, secured the contract. There were issued stamps of the denominations of one, three and twelve cents.


The one-cent value was intended for the prepayment of newspapers and other printed matter. And strips may be found of three prepaying the letter rate of three cents. As the stamps are only A- mm. between the nearest points of the tops and bottoms, and 1 mm. between the nearest points of the sides, specimens with good margins all around are quite difficult to secure.

There is no noticeable difference in the stamps of a sheet, except in the thickness of the lines bordering or shading the ornaments. In many cases the stamps have a blurred appearance, caused through the imperfect wiping of the plates.

There is no variation in color, the stamps showing only a light and a dark shade of indigo blue, with intermediate shades, due to the varying quantity of ink in printing.. The paper is white, but tinted more or less with the color of the stamp.

The ornaments below the bottom label of the one cent value are usually worn off, and the stamp with these intact are quite scarce.

What is generally known as the " variety " of this stamp, has the fine outer line above " U. S. Postage " removed.

It is not possible to determine as to whether this is due to the worn condition of the plate of the original imperforate type, whether the plate of the imperforate issue was altered intentionally, or as to whether it was from the plate of the 1857 issue, in which the outside lines of the labels were removed, and, through error, were not perforated.

If it is the former it is not a variety, but an oddity. If caused by the intentional altering of the original imperforate plate at the time the value was issued imperforate, it is a variety ; and through reason of the latter, it is an error.

The three cents.—The three-cent value was issued to cover the regular rate of letter postage, and the stamps may sometimes be found in pairs, strips, and blocks, prepaying postage of double, triple, etc., the regular rates. The distance between the stamps varies with the different plates, from 7-10 mm. to mm. at the top, and from 9-10 mm. to 12-10 mm. at the sides.

In the process of making the plate was marked off into spaces for each stamp and the body of the design was put in by impressing on the plate the design of the stamp, which was engraved on a soft steel die and then hardened. The die was not always placed in the proper position, and the design occurs in some cases too near or too far from the side lines, though always at about the same distance from the top and bottom lines.

There are many marked varieties of this stamp and numberless points of difference. Mr. John K. Tiffany, in his valuable work, " The History of the Postage Stamps of the United States," gives quite an extended description of the principal varieties of this stamp, which is very interesting.

The color of this stamp varies from a deep red to a carmine shade, this being due to the aniline ink employed in printing the stamps being subject to atmospheric changes. The most noticeable shades are pink, pale red, carmine, yellow-vermillion, vermillion, red, dark red, brown red, brownish black, and an almost jet black.

The following variations may be noticed :

The top label encroaching upon the two corner rosettes.

The bottom label encroaching upon the two rosettes in the lower corners.

The rosettes, especially the lower right one, extending to or into the outer line at the side, and sometimes only to the inside line bounding the body of the design.

Two or even three outer lines may be noticed at the sides, either extending the entire length of the stamp, or only a part of the distance, sometimes ending abruptly and sometimes merging into one line. There are numerous other differences to he noticed, presenting an interesting field for study and arrangement.

The twelve cents.--Why such a value was issued is a mystery. As California was over 3,000 miles from the Eastern States, letters were subjected to the double rate of six cents, and a stamp of this value would appear to have been more necessary than a twelve-cent value. Usually two three-cent stamps were used to prepay postage of double rates, but occasionally one-half of a twelve-cent stamp, cut diagonally from corner to corner, was used.

However, the twelve-cent value appears to have been used quite extensively, judging from the many used copies to be met with. Possibly many were used to prepay the double rate to California. Pairs are sometimes met with, but blocks are quite scarce.

As the stamps are only 1 mm. apart each way, copies having good margins all around are difficult to secure. A black and a grayish black shade only are noted, the color being quite uniform.

In May, 1855, the rate of postage for any distance in the United States, exceeding 3,000 miles, was increased to ten cents, and a stamp of this value was issued to

Was it not issued to prepay letters to Great Britain and other countries? We are of the opinion that it was provide for the single rate to California. Specimens with good margins are quite common, as the stamps are 2 1/2 mm. apart each way.

A vertical line is shown on some specimens at 3 mm. from the sides of the stamps. These come from the outer row of a sheet.

The same may be said of this stamp regarding the ornaments below the bottom label, as is stated in the description of the one cent value.

There are a few shades, light green, yellow green, and dark green, the dark green being the most noticeable.

A five-cent value was issued January 5th, 1856, to prepay the registration fee, which was the charge at that time. It also is found in a strip of three, prepaying both the postage and registration fee to California. The stamps are 1 1/2 mm. apart each way. They occur in a number of shades; light brown, yellow brown, reddish brown, chestnut brown, and dark brown.

A stamp of the value of twenty-four cents was approved April 24th, 1856. Although quite a number of sheets of this value were finished and ready for distribution, they seem to have been withheld from circulation. However, a sheet or two seem to have been sent to the post-offices, in the imperforate condition, as a number of copies are known in collections, though it is improbable that many were used.

The stamps are 2 mm. apart, and are of a reddish lilac shade. This is the rarest stamp of the general issue of adhesives, and as the demand is much greater than the supply, it always commands a good price.

A 30 and Soc. value are sometimes catalogued, but they are generally regarded as proofs. Copies offered at auction bring good prices, and are in many cases believed to be authentic, though not guaranteed. There is no proof that they ever existed in the imperforate state. The value of these stamps as given is based on the recent auction sales.

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