Benjamin Franklin (biography)

1¢ - Dull blue
No Triangles in Corner
Scott #219 - 1890


Used: No value
No postmark with gum (MH): $2-$6
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $11-$40

Scott #219c - 1890
Imperforate, soft porous paper


Issued: 22nd February 1890, earliest recorded example 27th February 1890

Plate Size: Sheets of 400 subjects (4 panes of 100)

Printer: The American Bank Note Company

Watermark: None

Quantity Issued: Two Billion

What you should look for

Without knowing it, the 1890 series was to be the American Bank Note Company's (ABN Co.) last printing of postage stamps. Until the flag overun series of the forties all stamps after this series were to be printed by the Bureau of printing and engraving.

On the left is shown the detail of a stamp from the 1890 series, note the absence of a triangle in the top left hand corner of the design. All the Bureau issues had a triangle cut into the design as shown on the right.

You will also notice the tremendous difference in quality between the two stamps. By 1890 the ABN Co. had perfected the art of printing postage stamps and it shows by the even ink sharp design and clean perforations. Contrast this with the spotty faded ink and uneven perforations on the Bureau's stamp on the right.

An American Bank Note Company's salesman's sample
(used for Latin America)

The Inspiration for the Design

The design was taken from the portrait bust of Benjamin Franklin by Jean Antoine Houdon. Now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Previous versions of Franklins portrait on the 1¢ stamp had Franklin facing to the right. This, along with the pale blue color were the principle reasons that this design was disliked by the general public. The NY Times said that Franklin facing to the left 'entirely altered his expression and making him resemble a putty-faced personification of senility'.

Varieties to look for

The Candle Flame Variety

Mentioned by Brookman but rarely seen is the so-called candle flame variety. To the right hand side of either one of the two numeral ones on the stamp extends a white area, said to resemble the flame of a candle. An example is shown above.

The white area is created by a raised portion of the plate in this area, due to poor workmanship on the plate. When the ink is wiped from the plate this area is wiped of ink, thus causing the absence of ink above the foot of the number one. Due to this the shape and size of the flame can vary, thus this is a printing flaw and not a plate flaw.

The Essay's and Proofs

219 E1
Die essay on ivory paper
engraved frame with blacked out labels

Plate Proof on Card