1881 1¢ - #206
Printed by the American Bank Note Company
PRINTED BY THE AMERICAN BANK NOTE COMPANY
LARGE BANKNOTE ISSUE
1¢ - Gray blue
Re-engraved - Upper background appears solid.
Lines of shading added to the upper arabesques
Color can vary from almost blue to almost gray
3,400,000,000 - Scott #206 - 1881
No postmark with gum (MH): $12-$20
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $50-$100
WHY IS THIS STAMP CALLED A LARGE BANKNOTE?
This stamp is part of what is known as the 1870-1888 'Large Banknote' issues. Large because a smaller size issue followed
these in 1890. Banknote because the stamps during this period were printed by companies whose primary business was
printing banknotes, a function now taken over by the Federal Government.
WHO WERE THE BANKNOTE COMPANIES?
There were three banknote companies who consecutively printed the large banknote series. The first was the
National Bank Note company and this stamp was printed by them. The second was the Continental Bank Note
Company, and third was the American Bank Note Company. This last company was acquired by the Federal
Government and using their machines took over the job of printing US postage stamps.
HOW DO I KNOW IF THIS STAMP WAS PRINTED BY THE
AMERCIAN BANK NOTE COMPANY?
SOFT POROUS PAPER
Catalogs refer to the paper of the American Bank Note Company as being soft porous paper. This is misleading, although the
paper will not pass the snap test detailed below the paper is medium to thick mottled paper with a yellowish hue or caste to it.
THE "SNAP" TEST
The most accurate way to differentiate Continental Bank Note company stamps is by sound. Hold the stamp between the thumb and
forefinger and "snap" it close to your ear. A high pitched reply is hard paper. A dull thud, "flop", or no sound, is soft paper.
THE HISTORY OF THE PAPER CHOICES
The 1873-1879 period was a period of intensive experimentation in the papers used to fulfill the tenets of the contract to print U.S. stamps.
Charles Steele, the inventor of the grilling apparatus used to "grill" the 1869-1876 issues, was the superintendent of printing for the Continental
Bank Note Companny. He had hoped to reduce the labor costs involved with the printing and grilling processes, by employing the first steam
powered printing press to print stamps, replace the grilling operation with a stamp washing proof paper, and by reducing the cost of the
paper used to print stamps.
The hardwhite wove paper used on the labor intensive hand operated presses proved too brittle to withstand the rigors of the
steam press process. To solve the problem, Steele tried using a machine made, continuous web, soft paper that was "porous"
because it lacked "seizing", the "filler" (usually starch), used to harden the paper and provide a smooth surface to print on. This resulted in the
introduction of thick to medium soft porous paper in the printing of U.S. stamps. *2 The resultant printings were unsatisfactory as the porous
paper sucked up the ink and distributed it through capillary action to make a "fuzzy" image. This low cost paper was also made
from cotton rags and old paper, with sometimes a little straw added. This extremely calendered paper, looks "mottled" (like modern newsprint) when held to the light.
He began to add his own starch in an attempt to produce a printing surface which would produce an acceptable image; while trying
to maintain enough flexibility to withstand the rigors of the steam press. The resultant paper is called "Continental Intermediate paper". This paper
is a hard paper with the mottled pattern of the soft papers. This paper is identified by holding the stamp up to the light and seeing a
"mottled" pattern in the paper similar to what you see when you hold newsprint up to the light, yet retains the high pitched "ping" response characteristic of the
hard papers when subjected to the "snap test" (see above).