The 1893 Columbians
5¢ - Chocolate, pale brown, dark chocolate of yellow brown
No postmark with gum (MH): $8-$20
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $25-$90
Issued: The 5¢ was officially issued on January, 1st 1893, a Sunday, and at Post Offices the following day. There are a couple of examples postmarked in New York, N.Y., on January 1st, 1893.
Plate Size: Sheets of 200 subjects (2 panes of 100)
PLarge die essay die sunk on card
Printer: The American Bank Note Company, thereafter, with one exception of the Overun stamps of 1943 all stamps have since been printed by the Bureau of Engraving
Quantity Issued: 35,248,250
Usage: The 5¢ Colombian paid the ½oz UPU international postal rate, which was the lowest and most used international postal rate, hence this stamp is quite common.
Color: Chocolate, pale brown, dark chocolate of yellow brown.
What you should look for
As with all the values of this issue, look for Columbian Expo cancels, they increase the value of the stamp or cover. There was no postal rate for the 3¢ stamp, it was printed for use as a make up stamp for other postal rates so it is a less commonly found than the 1¢ and 2¢ values.
Although January 2nd was the official release date, there are a very few covers with a January 1st postmark. This set of six, known as the 'Burger Covers' is a full set of the six values that had the January 2nd strike.
How come Jan 1st is so rare? Jan 1st, 1893 was a Sunday and at that time the Post Office had only one branch open on a Sunday, this was located in New York City. Hence the origination of these covers.
Occasionally postmarks from states that had tiny amounts of mail in this year can add to the value. This is particularly true of Alaska and the Territories. For a list of the number of stamps issued by each state in the year ending 30th June 1894 click here.
The Inspiration for the Design
The design was created by Alfred S. Major. The frame was engraved by Douglas P. Ronaldson, the image is from a painting by the Czech painter Václav Brožík. The engraving of the picture (or vignette) was created by Charles Skinner. Interestingly this is the only Columbian stamp issued whilst the artist was still alive. The painting was created in 1884 and is now located in the dining room of the Hotel Manoir Richelieu in Quebec, Canada.
Douglas S. Ronaldson was born in 1825 in England, died in 1902. He came in 1840 to Philadelphia and worked there until 1858 as an engraver. From the ABNC, he was employed in 1860 and remained even after the merger there until 1897. At that time he joined the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and worked there until his death.
Charles Skinner, was born in 1841 and died on 14th March 1932. In the early 60s he worked as a book illustrator in New York City. He joined the ABNC in 1864 and then moved in 1874 to the Continental BNCo and stayed there until retirement in June 1911.
The original painting by Václav Broží
Varieties to look for
The Essay's and Proofs
The opulant interior of the Worlds Fair Hotel
The owner built it for the Expo and for his own evil deeds (watch video below)
Has some interesting archival footage on the construction of the Expo