United States #1

Much has been written on the first United States Postage Stamp. Most of the important modern information has been posted by Scott Trepel of the Siegal Auction Galleries and it makes great reading.  While research on use of this stamp has been intense, what hasn’t seen much print (pixels?) is the history of the collecting of the 5c 1847.

Scott number one has never been a rare stamp. Like the Penny Black of Great Britain (which actually is a fairly common stamp), its high price (about $200 for VF) relates more to its popularity and cachet as America’s first postal issue than to intrinsic scarcity. Brookman states that 3,700,000 were issued and sent to post offices for sale. Published estimates put surviving copies at about 100,000. I typically use the 1% rule for stamp survival in the prephilatelic period (that is stamps issued before stamp collecting became mainstream with dealers and literature- say about 1880-1890). So, I make the total in collectors’ hands about 30-50 thousand decent collectible stamps. This makes enough supply for every member of the APS to have a copy with a considerable supply left over. Obviously many people have more than one and many collectors outside the US specialty orbit must own them.

There have been numerous attempts to corner the market on this stamp. Herman Herst, Jr recounts one such attempt about 1910 when dealer buy prices of a dollar apiece were published. The speculators ran out of money before the suppliers ran out of stamps. In 100 years the price of a #1 has gone from $1 to $200 which is 20000% or about twenty times the rate of inflation. If that continues then the price of a #1 in 2110 should be $40,000. Stamps do perform well. You just need a long time frame.

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