Washington Franklins

Another area in which the United States outspecializes any other philatelic country is the Washington Franklin series of 1910-1930. The series was in use as the main postage stamps of one of the most populous and commercial nations on earth for a period of years where postal communication was by far the most dominant form of communication. And yet for this entire period the definitive stamps were represented by only two design types with alternating portraits of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin as first President and first postmaster general respectively. The designs are simple but the philately is anything but! There are two different watermarks that were issued during this period as well as an unwatermarked set. The perforations began as perf 12, changed to perf 10 when 12 was thought to separate too easily and was changed to perf 11 when ten proved too difficult to detach. There were coils and flat press and rotary press and coil waste reconfigured as sheet stamps. The Scott catalog numbers between #331/546 are almost entirely taken up with different denomination and printing types of these very unsimple Washington Franklins (with some later numbers as well). All in all there are over 300 major Scott numbers of these two design types. Those of us who have collected stamps all of our lives forget how off putting this can be to newer collectors. Changing printing technology and postal needs made many of these varieties necessary but we should remember that these varieties are rarely face different and such extreme specialization is hardly the norm for other countries.

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