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US Stamps

General Issues of 1938-1954


By 1938, the definitive US Stamps of the Fourth Bureau Issue of 1922 had pretty much run its course.  Besides the multiple sheet-format, coil-format, and booklet-format issues, the early trial and emergency printings of these stamps resulted in some of the rarest (and unobtainable) of 20th Century definitive postage stamps.

In 1938, a brand new, more modern-looking series of definitive postage stamps were introduced, with most of them depicting former Presidents of the United States.  This new series of definitive US stamps is known by philatelists today as the Presidential Series, sometimes referred to as the PREXIES

These new definitive US stamps were produced between 1938 and 1954, in standard sheet, coil, and booklet format, with no major design or manufacturing modifications, as had been the case with the previous definitive postage stamp series.  Of course, there are some production errors and a couple of scarce shades within these new stamp issues, but they are very few in number, and most of them are not  terribly rare or unreasonably expensive.


The thirty-two sheet-format definitive US stamps shown above were all issued in 1938, with a few printings continuing through 1954. 

The cent denominations were all printed on a rotary press, utilizing unwatermarked paper, and they are all perforated 11 x 10 1/2.

The dollar denominations were all printed on a flat plate press, utilizing unwatermared paper (with one exception), and they are all perforated 11.

Their designs and catalog attributes, including varieties that may not be shown above, are as follows:


  • 1/2 C.  (1938 - Sc. #803) - Benjamin Franklin (Lived: 1706-1790, U.S. Postmaster General: 1775-1776) - Deep Orange.
  • 01 C.  (1938 - Sc. #804) - George Washington (Lived: 1732-1799, President: 1789-1797) - Green.
  • 01 1/2 C.  (1938 - Sc. #805) - Martha Washington (Lived: 1731-1802, First Lady: 1789-1797) - Bister Brown
  • 02 C.  (1938 - Sc. #806) - John Adams (Lived: 1735-1826, President: 1797-1801) - Rose Carmine.
  • 03 C.  (1938 - Sc. #807) - Thomas Jefferson (Lived: 1743-1826, President: 1801-1809) - Deep Violet
  • 04 C.  (1938 - Sc. #808) - James Madison (Lived: 1751-1836, President: 1809-1817) - Red Violet.
  • 04 C.  (1943 - Sc. #808) - James Madison (Lived: 1751-1836, President: 1809-1817) - Rose Violet.
  • 04 1/2 C.  (1938 - Sc. #809) - The White House (Constructed: 1792-1800) - Dark Gray.
  • 04 1/2 C.  (1943 - Sc. #809) - The White House (Constructed: 1792-1800) - Gray.
  • 05 C.  (1938 - Sc. #810) - James Monroe (Lived: 1758-1831, President: 1817-1825) - Bright Blue, Light Blue.
  • 06 C.  (1938 - Sc. #811) - John Quincy Adams (Lived: 1767-1848, President: 1825-1829) - Red Orange.
  • 07 C.  (1938 - Sc. #812) - Andrew Jackson (Lived: 1767-1845, President: 1829-1837) - Sepia.
  • 08 C.  (1938 - Sc. #813) - Martin Van Buren (Lived: 1782-1862, President: 1837-1841) - Olive Green.
  • 08 C.  (1943 - Sc. #813) - Martin Van Buren (Lived: 1782-1862, President: 1837-1841) - Light Olive Green.
  • 09 C.  (1938 - Sc. #814) - William H. Harrison (Lived: 1773-1841, President: 1841) - Rose Pink.
  • 09 C.  (1943 - Sc. #814) - William H. Harrison (Lived: 1773-1841, President: 1841) - Pink.
  • 10 C.  (1938 - Sc. #815) - John Tyler (Lived: 1790-1862, President: 1841-1845) - Brown Red.
  • 10 C.  (1943 - Sc. #815) - John Tyler (Lived: 1790-1862, President: 1841-1845) - Pale Brown Red.
  • 11 C. (1938 - Sc. #816) - James K. Polk (Lived: 1795-1849, President: 1845-1849) - Ultramarine, Bright Ultramarine.
  • 12 C.  (1938 - Sc. #817) - Zachary Taylor (Lived: 1784-1850, President: 1849-1850) - Bright Violet.
  • 13 C.  (1938 - Sc. #818) - Millard Fillmore (Lived: 1800-1874, President: 1850-1853) - Blue Green, Deep Blue Green.
  • 14 C.  (1938 - Sc. #819) - Franklin Pierce (Lived: 1804-1869, President: 1853-1857) - Blue.
  • 15 C.  (1938 - Sc. #820) - James Buchanan (Lived: 1791-1868, President: 1857-1861) - Blue Gray.
  • 16 C.  (1938 - Sc. #821) - Abraham Lincoln (Lived: 1809-1865, President: 1861-1865) - Black.
  • 17 C.  (1938 - Sc. #822) - Andrew Johnson (Lived: 1808-1875, President: 1865-1869) - Rose Red, Deep Rose Red.
  • 18 C.  (1938 - Sc. #823) - Ulysses S. Grant (Lived: 1822-1885, President: 1869-1877) - Brown Carmine.
  • 18 C.  (1943 - Sc. #823) - Ulysses S. Grant (Lived: 1822-1885, President: 1869-1877) - Rose Brown.
  • 19 C.  (1938 - Sc. #824) - Rutherford B. Hayes (Lived: 1822-1893, President: 1877-1881) - Bright Violet.
  • 20 C.  (1938 - Sc. #825) - James A. Garfield (Lived: 1831-1881, President: 1881) - Bright Blue Green.
  • 20 C.  (1943 - Sc. #825) - James A. Garfield (Lived: 1831-1881, President: 1881) - Deep Blue Green.
  • 21 C.  (1938 - Sc. #826) - Chester A. Arthur (Lived: 1829-1886, President: 1881-1885) - Dull Blue.
  • 22 C.  (1938 - Sc. #827) - Grover Cleveland (Lived: 1837-1908, President: 1885-1889, 1893-1897) - Vermilion.
  • 24 C.  (1938 - Sc. #828) - Benjamin Harrison (Lived: 1833-1901, President: 1889-1893) - Gray Black.
  • 25 C.  (1938 - Sc. #829) - William McKinley (Lived: 1843-1901, President: 1897-1901) - Deep Red Lilac.
  • 25 C.  (1943 - Sc. #829) - William McKinley (Lived: 1843-1901, President: 1897-1901) - Rose Lilac.
  • 30 C.  (1938 - Sc. #830) - Theodore Roosevelt (Lived: 1858-1919, President: 1901-1909) - Deep Ultramarine, Blue, Deep Blue.
  • 50 C.  (1938 - Sc. #831) - William Howard Taft (Lived: 1857-1930, President: 1909-1913) - Light Red Violet.
  • 01 D.  (1938 - Sc. #832) - Woodrow Wilson (Lived: 1856-1924, President: 1913-1921) - Purple and Black.
  • 01 D.  (1951 - Sc. #832b) - Woodrow Wilson (Lived: 1856-1924, President: 1913-1921) - Purple and Black - Error: Watermarked USIR.
  • 01 D.  (1954 - Sc. #832c) - Woodrow Wilson (Lived: 1856-1924, President: 1913-1921) - Red Violet and Black.
  • 02 D.  (1938 - Sc. #833) - Warren G. Harding (Lived: 1865-1923, President: 1921-1923) - Yellow Green and Black.
  • 02 D.  (1943 - Sc. #833) - Warren G. Harding (Lived: 1865-1923, President: 1921-1923) - Green and Black
  • 05 D.  (1938 - Sc. #834) - Calvin Coolidge (Lived: 1872-1933, President: 1923-1929) - Carmine and Black, Red Brown and Black (Rare).

Some of the Presidential Series sheet-format stamps exist in horizontal gutter pairs.  These are all very scarce.

The very rare Five Dollar denomination stamp, in the Red Brown and Black shade, can be easily forged by chemical treatment.  These stamps are only collectible, when they have been validated by a certificate of authenticity.


The 1 C., 2 C., and 3 C. denominations of the Presidential Series of defintitive US stamps were also issued in booklet-format.  These were used throughout the life of the series.  Greatly reduced-size images of the three booklet panes are shown above.

Their catalog attributes are as follows:


  • 01 C.  (1938 - Bklt. Pane - Sc. #804b)
  • 02 C.  (1938 - Bklt. Pane - Sc. #806b)
  • 03 C.  (1938 - Bklt. Pane - Sc. #807a)

Off-center examples are occasionally found, showing portions of the plate numbers from the outer margins of the panes from which the booklet stamps were printed.


During 1939, the 1 C., 1 1/2 C., 2 C., 3 C., 4 C., 4 1/2 C., 5 C., 6 C., and 10 C. denominations of the Presidential Series of defintitive US stamps were also issued in coil-format.  Pairs of all of them are shown above.  These coil-format US stamps were also used throughout the life of the series.

Here are the catalog attributes of the horizontal coil stamps.  They are all perforated 10 vertically.


  • 01 C.  (1939 - Sc. #839) - Green, Light Green.
  • 01 1/2 C.  (1939 - Sc. #840) - Bister Brown, Buff.
  • 02 C.  (1939 - Sc. #841) - Rose Carmine.
  • 03 C.  (1939 - Normal Paper - Sc. #842) - Deep Violet, Violet.
  • 03 C.  (1939 - Thin Paper - Sc. #842) - Deep Violet, Violet.
  • 04 C.  (1939 - Sc. #843) - Red Violet.
  • 04 1/2 C.  (1939 - Sc. #844) - Dark Gray.
  • 05 C.  (1939 - Sc. #845) - Bright Blue.
  • 06 C.  (1939 - Sc. #846) - Red Orange.
  • 10 C.  (1939 - Sc. #847) - Brown Red.

Here are the catalog attributes of the vertical coil stamps.  They are all perforated 10 horizontally.


  • 01 C.  (1939 - Sc. #848) - Green.
  • 01 1/2 C.  (1939 - Sc. #849) - Bister Brown.
  • 02 C.  (1939 - Sc. #850) - Rose Carmine.
  • 03 C.  (1939 - Sc. #851) - Deep Violet.

All of these coil-format US stamps are still very common, even today, however, well centered examples are difficult to obtain, and they may cost quite a bit more than the catalog prices for stamps with average centering.


Off-center examples are occasionally found, showing portions of the plate numbers from the outer margins of the sheets from which the coil stamps were printed.  An example is shown above.



All of the definitive US stamps of 1938-1954 were in use during both World War II and the Korean War, when millions of US military letters and soldiers letters were being mailed around the World, on a daily basis.  These stamps, on cover, can offer a tremendous opportunity to the philatelist that enjoys studying and collecting military postal history.




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Return to Modern US Stamps from
General Issues of 1938-1954






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Here is a well known Presidential Series error that just about every US stamp collector can own!

This 1 1/2 C. denomination stamp is listed in the Scott catalog as horizontal pair, imperforate between (Sc. #805b).  They were produced in sufficient enough quantities that they are readily available and very affordable, over 70 years after their first appearance.

The so-called "used" imperforate-between horizontal pairs are all Bureau precanceled "ST. LOUIS / MO".  The prices in the catalog are for examples with original gum!


The 3 C. denomination Presidential Series stamp is also known in horizontal pairs that are imperforate in the middleThese errors, however, are very scarce, and, unfortunately, expensive.