Reissues And Special Printings

Many of the most precious varieties of United States stamps were not regularly issued to the public. In 1875, the United States Postal Department wished to have on sale at the Centennial Post Office, which was to be at the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia, examples of all United States stamps that had been issued to that time. This was a public relations ploy on the part of a department proud of its stamps that also wanted specimens to sell to the public. Anyone who so desired was permitted to buy them, but because stamp collecting was in its infancy, few people availed themselves of this spectacular offer. The stamps were printed on different paper from the originals and in slightly different colors, so that an entire new category of stamps was created. All the reissues are rare and all are expensive.

For years, the controversy has raged over just how valid the reissues are. After all, they were sold more for souvenir than for postal purposes, even though they could be used on letters. But for the last fifty years or so the dispute has died down, and the reissues now grace many fine collections.

The reissues of the first two stamps that were made for the 1875 Centennial are not reissues at all. The Post Office Department believed that the original dies for the first two stamps (#1 and #2) had been destroyed in 1851. New dies were prepared, so these stamps are much more accurately designated as reproductions than reissues. They were printed in sheets of fifty, imperforate and ungummed. Forty-seven hundred of the five-cent reproduction (#3) and 3,800 of the ten-cent reproduction (#4) were printed.

The reissues of the 1857s are great rarities. They one cent#40 is the most common of the set, with 3,846 issued. This stamp is the perfect Type I, with all portions of the design complete. The shades of all of the reissues are quite different from the original stamps though, so there is no danger of collectors being fooled and purchasing a rare reissue as an even rarer mint Type I of 1857. of the balance of the et, #41-47, the largest number of any value printed and sold is under 500, and they all sell for $2,000 each. It is situations like this that attract speculators to stamps. They see a very popular collectable that is extremely rare selling for a comparatively low price—once could control all of he available supply of the reissues for a relatively small amount of money.

For a long time, stamp economists have been attempting to explain the relatively low price of stamps like the 1857 reissue. Several reasons have been put forward. First, they were not new designs, so there is a certain amount of collector resistance to paying large sums of money for a stamp that looks pretty much like one that they already have. Second, most collectors collect in inverse chronological fashion, starting with the present and working their way backward. There are, unfortunately, too few collectors with the means and inclination to work back into the nineteenth century. And if they do, they are most concerned with getting face different specimens. These explanations are fine, but they miss a more poignant aspect of philately and philatelic prices. These stamps, and other reissues like them, are so scarce that no more than a dozen or so of each are traded in any given year. Philatelists base their wants on what they see, and reissues are not offered often enough to whet the palate of most collectors. In fact, some are almost never publicly offered, with prominent dealers having these rarities on innumerable want lists so that they sell as soon as they come to the market. Thus the reissues go to the serious collect with patience and a penchant for completion; but the casual monied collector or investor passes over them, primarily because he never sees them. Accordingly, the upward price pressure is lessened.

Of the 1861 reissue, again the entire set was reissued on a white paper in slightly different colors. Just over 300 complete sets were sold. The 1869 reissues are more common; perhaps the short time they were on sale as regular issues encouraged patrons at the Centennial Exposition to buy examples of an issue that they hardly remembered. Still, only 1,350 sets were sold. The balance of the stamps on sale at the Centennial Exposition are called special printings, as the stamps of which they are examples were currently on sale at the post offices. The special printings are in slightly different shapes from the originals, and slightly fresher in appearance; but, unlike the reissues, they are exceedingly difficult to tell from the original issued stamps.


Share on:
Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top