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
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:
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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