Thursday, July 30, 2009

My First Issue of the United States!

Finally I got my hands on the 1847 10¢ George Washington postage stamp! I have been eyeing this stamp for quite some time and finally decided to pluck up the courage to go for it (which by the way put a big hole in my pocket... Ouch!! I must admit that eBay is highly addictive!). Together with my 5¢ Benjamin Franklin, they completed my first stamp issue of the U.S.! Before 1847, only privately-produced postage stamps were available in the United States. Issued by postmasters in cities such as New York and Providence, Rhode Island, these stamps are known today as "postmaster provisionals." Following the precedent set in England in 1840, Congress approved the Post Office Act of March 3, 1847. This authorized the U.S. Postmaster General "to prepare postage stamps, which, when attached to any letter or packet, shall be evidence of the payment of postage chargeable on such letter."

The first stamp issue of the U.S. was offered for sale on July 1, 1847, in NYC, with Boston receiving stamps the following day and other cities thereafter. They consisted of an engraved 5¢ red brown stamp depicting Benjamin Franklin, and a 10¢ value in black with George Washington. As for all U.S. stamps until 1857, they were imperforate.The 5¢ stamp paid for a letter weighing less than 1 oz and travelling less than 300 miles, the 10¢ stamp for deliveries to locations greater than 300 miles, or, twice the weight deliverable for the 5¢ stamp.

The stamps were an immediate success; about 3,700,000 of the 5¢ and about 865,000 of the 10¢ were sold, and enough of those have survived to ensure a ready supply for collectors, although the demand is such that a very fine 5¢ sells for around US$500, and the 10¢ in very fine condition sells for around $1,400 in used form. Unused stamps are much scarcer, fetching around $6,000 and $28,000 respectively, if in very fine condition. One can pay as little as 5 to 10% of these figures if the stamps are in poor condition.

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