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Adhesive Postage Stamps Of The United States Of America

( Originally Published 1893 )

WITH the advent of specialism, there is created a desire for increased knowledge concerning the stamps of the country specialized, and there are no stamps more worthy of the attention bestowed upon them than the adhesive stamps of the United States. They are, in point of beauty of design and coloring, certainly unsurpassed, and in but few instances equalled. Butlittle has been published through the philatelical press regarding these stamps,. therefore I offer no apology in producing this work, which is for the benefit of the specialists of United States stamps. I will endeavour to present this article in as plain a form as possible, that the younger and inexperienced collectors may readily comprehend the terms used, and also, for this purpose, I prefix a series of explanations which will, I believe, be found of service. As each stamp is illustrated, description is unnecessary.


In 1875, there were reprinted officially the general issue of adhesives from 1657 to 1870. including all the issues and values of the 1857, 1861, 1868, 1869, and 1870 series. These stamps were reprinted in 1875, for exhibition at the Centennial Exposition, held in Philadelphia in 1876. The methods of distinguishing the originals from the reprints will be fully noted under the respective issues.


Very few of the United States adhesive stamps occur in one shade of color, and in many cases three or four distinct shades of color may be found. For this there are various reasons. In stamps where there is no variation in color, the different shades are usually produced by the varying quantity of ink on the press or rollers. Thus if freshly-inked, the sheet gets a good supply and a dark shade of color is produced, and if the supply of ink becomes low, the sheet will necessarily get a smaller quantity of ink, thus producing a light shade of color.

Where there is a variation in color, the shades may be caused through the fault of the ink maker, who, when mixing different lots of ink, failed to have them all exactly the same shade. In the stamps printed in aniline inks, which are subject to atmospheric changes, are wide shades of difference. The three cent value of the 1851-1857 series is an example of an atmospheric changeling. In the earlier issues, these shades are more numerous and noticeable, caused probably by less perfect machinery then in use than that which is now employed. Many chemical changelings may be found, but these must not be confounded with the natural shades. They may generally be detected by an acid taste, and the texture of the paper is in most cases changed. They also have a glossy appearance. The principal shades will be noted under the respective stamps on which they occur.


The first two series of adhesives were issued unperforated. The others are generally perforated, but a few copies of nearly every issue occur unperforated through error. However they are very rare. Specimens are offered as unperforated, having part of the next stamp adhering, and many are puzzled as to how this occurs. The stamps were printed in sheets of 20o, and, when perforated, the middle of the sheet was left unperforated. Before the sheets were sent out to the postmaster they were cut into half through the middle margin, and in some cases the row of stamps was cut into from one side or the other.

Again, the perforating machine sometimes failed to do the work properly, but traces may be found by a microscopical examination.

Some of the earlier issues occur with a double and even triple perforation. A pair of stamps, of an issue that occurs perforated, which are in an imperforate state, would not necessarily be from an imperforate sheet, and the only absolute assurance of an imperforate stamp is a block of, at least, nine stamps, all of which should be unperforated.


In embossing or grille is composed of minute indentations, which are formed by a steel die, divided into very fine points, which are impressed on the stamp so as to break the surface of the paper, which then absorbs the ink and renders washing impossible. Embossing occurs on the issues of 1868, 1869 and 187o, and is of rectangular form and of various sizes.


In estimating the present value of the United States adhesives, I have followed no catalogue or auction sale, but have made a careful estimate from various sources and my own knowledge of the value of each stamp. The prices given are for good specimens, perfectly centered, as I think it would be of more value to state prices in this condition. The auction sale figures cannot be depended upon as strictly correct. as the condition of a stamp, and as to whether the sale he public or private, must influence bids to a great extent.


The issue consisted of a five and ten cent value only. This unique issue, aside from the fact of its being the first or original issue, had several peculiar features, not imitated by any of the succeeding emissions of United States stamps. The superior excellence of engraving displayed in these adhesives must commend them especially to the admiration of all lovers of Philately. In this respect it is noteworthy to observe that they certainly have not been excelled by any of our subsequent issues, if indeed they have been equalled.

The bust of Washington in the ten cent stamps, as a specimen of fine engraving. is imitated. Compare it with the government counterfeit, or so called reprint of 1875. In this case the department had, of course, at its command the best talent of the country in the line of engraving, and the attempt was made to produce a perfect fac-simile of the original design, but Philatelists well know the comparative failure that resulted in the imitation presenting a decided contrast to the soft lines and delicate beauty of the original. And the like difference was almost as observable in the case of the five cent value.

The engravers of this issue were Messrs. Rawden, Wright, Hatch and Edson, and their initials may be found in small colored capitals, at the bottom of each stamp, just inside the border line. Another distinguishing feature of this issue, is the dark, sober colors used, only a rich black and varying shades of brown, which were not easily changed by means of chemicals or by fading.

The five cent value may be found in a dozen or more shades, but the principal ones are bronze or pale red brown, red brown, faint dark brown, dark brown, deep brown, and bluish black. The sombre color of the ten cent value does not permit of more than a deep black and grayish black, caused by the varying quantity of ink.

We have no means of determining as to whether different shades of ink were used in printing the five cent value, or whether the shades were caused through the outward surroundings, through action of the gum used, or through natural changes in the course of time.

There has been controversy regarding the color of the paper on which these stamps were printed, hut it is now generally conceded that the entire issue was printed on paper of a bluish cast, but varying somewhat in shade, some sheets being only faintly tinged, and others were of a darker shade of blue. Specimens on white papers are occasionally offered, but they are doubtless bleached by accidental causes or by design. Proofs, however, occur on white paper.

These two stamps are becoming more valuable each year, and within the past two years have advanced from twenty-five cents for the five cent value, and one dollar and twenty-five cents for the ten cent value, to fifty cents and two dollars and twenty-five cents respectivley, and with a prospect for an equally great advance, especially of the ten cent value in the years to come.

Owing to the rapid reduction of the postal rates, these stamps had a comparatively short period of existence, making used specimens somewhat scarce, and as the unused remainders in the manufacturer's possession and the unused stamps sent in from postmasters to be exchanged for the new issue, were all destroyed, very few stamps of this series exist in an unused state, and they are much more scarce than is generally supposed.

These so-called reprints, issued in 1875, are not from the original plates, which were destroyed, nor even from the original dies, but from newly engraved plates. They are merely imitations. The imitations are both wider and shorter than the originals, and the leaf ornaments of the outer frame are much more conspicuous than in the originals. The small initials, R. W. H. & E., in the margins are very indistinct and almost illegible in the reprints. The paper on which they are printed is of a darker shade of blue than that of the original issue. The gum of the originals is thin and brownish, while in the reprints the gum is white and crackly. The mouth is smaller in the reprints than in the originals, and the colors are brighter, the stamps having a new appearance. These are the principal general differences.


In the original the eyes are clear and distinct, with too much white in the right one, while in the imitation they are weak and undecided. The white cravat, in the reprint. ends in a point on the left end of the " F" in "Five," while in the original, it ends sharply on the right corner of the " F." The hair on the right of the head is too light and open in the reprint. In the original it is in heavy, dark masses.


The imitation lacks the delicate shading of the original; the lines are too rigid and lack the boldness of touch and freedom of movement shown in the original. The " 0 " of " Post " is flattened at the top in the reprint and the leaf ornaments encroach on the colorless line, inside the colored border line, in two places, at the lower right corner of the stamp. At the right of " Office " inside the leaf ornament, are shown in the original a number of short, curved dashes, which are so shaded as to resemble a coiled rope, or a chain. In the reprint or imitation, this is shown as separate dots or colored pearls In the original, the white cravat is separated from the inner colored line, bounding the oval by a colorless line, above which is the colored line bounding the cravat. The lips are larger in the original and the lower lip is shaded by three unbroken, vertical lines, and the remainder by dots or points. In the reprint the lower lip is shaded throughout by unbroken, vertical lines.

The expression of the eyes are different and a slight cast is shown in the right eye of the reprint. In the original there is always a small, white square in the top of the S " of " Post," which is entirely absent in the imitation. In the hair on the right of the head

just above the ear. is a small, distinct circle, with a colored centre in the reprint which does not exist in the original, and the tie which passes around the neck, which in the original is very distinct, can hardly be distinguished from the coat in the reprint.

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