The 1893 Columbians
$5 - Black or grayish black
No postmark with gum (MH): $750-$1,250
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $1,800-$3,250
A quote from "The Stamp Collector" magazine in 1920
"That the Postal Department made a great profit from this issue is more than probable. The stamps were bought in huge numbers by speculators and held for a rise which did not mature. Consequently, the various values, especially the high ones, are frequently offered for sale in a mint condition under face value. As an investment, none should be considered when unused."
Issued: The $5 Columbian was officially was issued on January, 1st 1893, a Sunday, and at Post Offices the following day. The earliest known use of the $5 Columbian is the 6th January, 1892.
Plate Size: Sheets of 200 subjects (2 panes of 100)
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: 27,350 (of which 21,844 were sold)
Color: Black or grayish black.
Usage: The $5 Columbian is often seen on its own on covers, mostly for philatelic use, it is rarely seen in combination with other values. It is often seen with the registered fee cancel.
Interesting Fact: At the time, there was no $5 postal rate and as such the stamp was pointless. It was commonly believed that the stamp was issued for collectors to acquire. This resulted in a huge hue and cry from the stamp collectors, most of whom could not afford the princely sum of $5 to buy this stamp, and thought that the post office was trying to wring money from them. This protest became even louder when the USPS did the same thing with the Trans-Mississippi series and issued a $2 value.
In the end the stamp sold very well and the price tripled very quickly based on speculation. As in all speculation, what comes up comes down and by 1895 they were being dumped, even at prices below face. One side effect of this dumping is that it depressed the demand for the $5 bureau issued this year, making this stamp far more scarce than the $5 Columbian.
The Inspiration for the Design
The source for the design was the 1892-1893 Columbian Exposition Half Dollar designed by Olin L. Warner who based his design on a medal that had been struck in Madrid.
What you should look for
As with all the values of this issue, look for Columbian Expo cancels or on a Columbian Expo cover, they increase the value of the stamp or cover. Any stamp is more desirable with a clean cancel, preferably a town cancel, heavy cancels can detract from the value and are common on this value.
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.
Varieties to look for
Any Columbian stamp with an exposition cancel
The Essay's and Proofs
Large Die Proof (252P1)
Plate Proof on India (245P2)
In 1993, on the 100th anniv. of the Columbian stamp
the post office issued a Commemorative Stamp Panel
for all the demoniations, the $5 panel is shown above