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."
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.
Earliest date of use January 6th
Sheets of 200 subjects (2 panes of 100)
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
27,350 (of which 21,844 were sold)
Black or grayish black.
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.
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.
A $5 Columbian on a mourning cover
A $5 Columbian on a registered cover
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
The color ranges from grayish black to black. The stamp is not
prone to fading. There are the occasional double transfers.
Any Columbian stamp with an exposition cancel
carries a substantial price premium. None more so
than #245. There is only knownone example, last sold
at auction for $5,000
The Essay's and Proofs
Photos mounted either side of vignette
Thick white card
Columbian large die proof die sunk on 110x101mm card
Large Die Proof on india mounted on card 25 2P1 (var)
Plate Proof on India (245P2)
India plate proof on thin card
India plate proof on card block
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