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US Documentary Stamps


1898-1902

The first US documentary stamps appeared in 1898, during the Spanish American War.  It seems somewhat appropriate that the vignette chosen for the first official US documentary stamps was that of the battleship USS Maine.

Battleship USS Maine in 1897

The USS Maine had been sent to Cuba to provide support for American citizens living there during Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain.  On the evening of February 15, 1898, the USS Maine blew up and sank in Havana Harbor.  On April 25, 1898, the United States declared war on Spain, and afterwards, the rallying cry of the war became "Remember the Maine"!

The short war resulted in United States control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.  By the end of the 19th Century, the countries of Central and South America had all gained their independence from Spain, and with the loss of Spain's existing colonial possessions in the Caribbean and Pacific, the once great Spanish Colonial Empire faded away into obscurity.


The twelve, lower denomination, documentary stamps shown above were issued in 1898.  The stamps are all inscribed Series of 1898, and the vignettes feature the battleship USS Maine.

These stamps were produced with two methods of separationRouletted 5 1/2 and Hyphen Hole Perforated 7.  For details, please refer to the Scott Catalog.  Due to their method of manufacture, well centered examples of these stamps, with all the rouletting intact, are actually very difficult to find.

The catalog attributes are as follows:


  • 005 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R161) - Orange
  • 005 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R162) - Dark Gray
  • 01 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R163) - Pale Blue
  • 02 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R164) - Carmine Rose
  • 03 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R165) - Dark Blue
  • 04 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R166) - Pale Rose
  • 05 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R167) - Lilac
  • 10 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R168) - Dark Brown
  • 25 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R169) - Purple Brown
  • 40 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R170) - Blue Lilac
  • 50 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R171) - Slate Violet
  • 80 C.  (1898 - Sc. #R172) - Bister


The eight, dollar denomination, documentary stamps shown above were issued between 1898 and 1900.  The stamps are all inscribed Series of 1898, and the vignettes feature an allegorical representation of Commerce.

These stamps were also produced with two methods of separationRouletted 5 1/2 and Hyphen Hole Perforated 7.  For details, please refer to the Scott Catalog.  Well centered examples of these stamps, with intact rouletting, are also very difficult to find.

The catalog attributes are as follows:


  • 01 D.  (1898 - Sc. #R173) - Dark Green
  • 01 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R182) - Carmine
  • 03 D.  (1898 - Sc. #R174) - Dark Brown
  • 03 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R183) - Lake (Printed with fugitive ink.)
  • 05 D.  (1898 - Sc. #R175) - Orange Red
  • 10 D.  (1898 - Sc. #R176) - Black
  • 30 D.  (1898 - Sc. #R177) - Red
  • 50 D.  (1898 - Sc. #R178) - Gray Brown


The six dollar denomination documentary stamp types of 1898 shown above were re-issued during 1900.  They are all printed in varying shades of gray, and each of the stamps is surcharged with an open value numeral.

The catalog attributes are as follows:


  • 01 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R184) - Gray
  • 02 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R185) - Gray
  • 03 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R186) - Gray
  • 05 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R187) - Gray
  • 10 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R188) - Gray
  • 50 D.  (1900 - Sc. #R189) - Gray


The five dollar denomination documentary stamp types of 1898 shown above were re-issued during 1902.  They are all printed in varying shades of green, and each of the stamps is surcharged with an ornamental value numeral.

Before the surcharging, soluble varnish was applied to some of the stamps.  Thus, if those stamps are soaked, the central part of the surcharged numeral may wash away.

The catalog attributes are as follows:


  • 01 D.  (1902 - Sc. #R190) - Green
  • 02 D.  (1902 - Sc. #R191) - Green
  • 05 D.  (1902 - Sc. #R192) - Green
  • 10 D.  (1902 - Sc. #R193) - Green
  • 50 D.  (1902 - Sc. #R194) - Green

Some of the two dollar denomination stamps were surcharged with open numerals in error.




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US Documentary Stamps of 1898-1902






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High

Denominations


The three high denomination, documentary stamps shown above were issued in 1899

The stamps are all inscribed Series of 1898.  They were issued in vertical panes of four, without gum, and the stamps are imperforate, with separator lines between each of them.

The
$100 denomination (Sc. #R179) features the portrait of John Marshall (1755-1835), Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1801-1835).

The
$500 denomination (Sc. #R180) features the portrait of Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), first Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795).

The
$1,000 denomination (Sc. #R181) features the portrait of James Madison
(1751-1836), fourth President of the United States (1809-1817).