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US Classic Stamps

General Issues of

US Classic Stamps underwent a major transformation during early 1890.  US stamps continued to be manufactured, under government contract, by the American Banknote Company, however these new definitive letter postage stamps were a complete departure from the earlier US stamp issues of 1851-1888.

These new stamps were made smaller in size, more squarish looking, and they were printed in panes of 100.  The central vignettes of the new stamps, for those that were not alive during the advent of the age of photography, continue to show portrait busts, sometimes sitting on top of a column, as did the stamps issued from 1870-1888.  The new 4 Cent through the 15 Cent denominations all show portraits from contemporary photographs.

This new size for definitive letter postage stamps of the United States, as well as those of most of the other countries of the world, would continue to be used into the 21st Century.

All of the US classic stamps shown above (Sc. #219-29) were issued in February of 1890, except for the 8 Cent denomination.

The 8 Cent denomination, picturing General Sherman, was issued March 21, 1893 to pay the new 8 Cent registry fee, which had been reduced from 10 Cents, as of January 1, 1893.  This must have been thrilling to the residents of the southern states.  A mere 25 years earlier, General Sherman and his army were largely responsible for crushing their short lived republic and leaving paths of devastation throughout the southern states.

The designs of these new stamps feature:

  • 1 Cent - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) - Author, printer, politician, scientist, statesman, diplomat, and the first Postmaster General.
  • 2 Cent - George Washington (1732-1799) - Farmer, military commander, statesman, and the 1st President of the United States.
  • 3 Cent - Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) - American military commander and the 7th President of the United States.
  • 4 Cent - Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) - Lawyer, politician, and the 16th President of the United States, during the American Civil War.
  • 5 Cent - Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) - Commanding General of the Union Armies during the American Civil War and the 18th President of the United States.
  • 6 Cent - James A. Garfield (1831-1881) - 20th President of the United States.
  • 8 Cent - William T. Sherman (1820-1891) - American soldier, businessman, educator, and author.  He was a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
  • 10 Cent - Daniel Webster (1782-1852) - Lawyer, statesman, Representative from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Senator from Massachusetts, and Secretary of State under Presidents Fillmore, Harrison, and Tyler.
  • 15 Cent - Henry Clay (1777-1852) - Farmer, statesman, orator, Senator from Kentucky, Representative from Kentucky, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Secretary of State under President Adams.
  • 30 Cent - Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) - Farmer, politician, Governor of Virginia, author of the Declaration of Independence, Secretary of State under President Washington, Vice President of the United States under President Adams, and the 4th President of the United States.
  • 90 Cent - Oliver H. Perry (1785-1819) - American naval commander, hero of the War of 1812.

The 2 Cent denomination was printed in two distinct shades, lake and carmine.  The stamps in the lake shade (Sc. #219D) were those first issued on February 22, 1890.  The stamps in the carmine shade (Sc. #220) were first put into use in about 1892.

The other denominations from this set also come in a number of different shades.  These shades are all worth about the same, as far as the catalog listings go though.

The 2 Cent denomination also comes with two different "constant" plate faults.  The first one has a cap on the left numeral "2" (Sc. #220a).  The second one comes with a cap on both of the numerals "2" (Sc. #220c).

All of these US classic stamps exist in plate number - inscription strips and blocks.  Considering that these multiples contain between 5 and 14 mint never hinged condition stamps, the prices of the higher denominations are astronomical.  For one wishing to have an example of the marginal markings on these US classic stamps, examples of the 1 Cent and 2 Cent carmine denominations may be acquired for just a few hundred dollars.

These new US classic stamps were replaced by similar designs in 1894, with the addition of "triangles" in the upper corners.

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General Issues of 1890-1893