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US Revenue Stamps

Proprietary Stamps of 1871-1881

Proprietary US revenue stamps were first introduced in 1871, when the First Issue of 1862-1871 was retired.

The successors of the First Issue became "U.S. Internal Revenue" stamps, and they would eventually evolve into what would become "Documentary" stamps.  The Documentary stamps were only valid on taxable paper document transactions.

This necessitated the issue of new proprietary US stamps, designed for use on taxable proprietary (consumer) products.  Some of these products, at the time, were matches, playing cards, cosmetics, medicines, liquor, etc.

All of these new proprietary US revenue stamps were printed in green and black, and they all feature the portrait of George Washington.  These new proprietary stamps were only in use for about four years, and as a result, most of them are very scarce.

The nine proprietary stamps shown above were issued between 1871 and 1874.  All of these stamps are engraved and perforated 12.

These stamps were produced with two different paper types:

a.  Violet paper (1871-1873)
b.  Green paper (1874)

The green paper stamps are the scarcer of the two types.

The catalog description details are as follows:

  • 01 C.  (1871 - Sc. #RB1 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 02 C.  (1871 - Sc. #RB2 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 03 C.  (1871 - Sc. #RB3 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 04 C.  (1871 - Sc. #RB4 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 05 C.  (1871 - Sc. #RB5 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 06 C.  (1871 - Sc. #RB6 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 10 C.  (1873 - Sc. #RB7 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 50 C.  (1873 - Sc. #RB8 a,b) - Green & Black.
  • 01 D.  (1873 - Sc. #RB9 a,b) - Green & Black.

The 1 C., 2 C., 3 C., 4 C., and 5 C.,  denominations of these stamps exist with inverted centers.  They are all exceedingly rare, and they are seldom found in the philatelic marketplace, outside of major public auction sales.  There are two known examples of the 2 C. denomination, eight known examples of the 3 C. denomination, seven known examples of the 4 C. denomination, and 1 known example of the 5 C. denomination.

The nine proprietary stamps shown above were issued between 1875 and 1881.  These stamps were produced in different colors, to alleviate the confusion caused by the previous issue being printed with all the denominations having the same color.

These stamps were produced with three different paper / separation types:

a.  Unwatermarked, perforated 12
b.  Watermarked, perforated 12
c.  Watermarked, rouletted 6

The catalog description details are as follows:

  • 01 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB11 a,b,c) - Green.
  • 02 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB12 a,b,c) - Brown.
  • 03 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB13 a,b,c) - Orange.
  • 04 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB14 a,b) - Red Brown.
  • 04 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB15 b,c) - Red.
  • 05 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB16 a,b,c) - Black.
  • 06 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB17 a,b,c) - Violet Blue.
  • 06 C.  (1875 - Sc. #RB18 b) - Violet.
  • 10 C.  (1881 - Sc. #RB19 b) - Blue.

During the 1875-1881 period these proprietary US revenue stamps were engraved and produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the National Banknote Co., and the American Banknote Co.  As a result, the appearance and quality of these issues can vary tremendously from stamp to stamp.

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Proprietary Stamps of 1871-1881



"Persian Rug"


Like the two 1871 US Internal Revenue high denomination stamps (Second Issue), the 1871 Proprietary high denomination stamp is also referred to as one of the "Persian Rug" Types, due to its size and ornate design.

The Five Dollar denomination Proprietary stamp shown above (Sc. #RB10a, #RB10b) was issued in 1873.  By size, it is the largest US revenue stamp.

Some 2,850 examples of the stamp were delivered to the US Department of Internal Revenue, but very few of the stamps that were actually used have survived.  About 125 examples exist on violet paper, and only 3 examples exist on green paper

The stamp in the image above is one of the violet paper varieties (Sc. #RB10a).  This example sold for $5,000 in a 2008 Spink auction.