The 1894 Bureau Series
The Value of the Stamp
Ulysses S Grant (biography)
5¢ - Deep chocolate, Yellow brown or Chocolate
Scott #255 - Un-watermarked - 1894
No postmark with gum (MH): $14-$33
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $40-$120
Issued: September 28th 1894, earliest recorded date of use, October 16th, 1894. Earliest recorded cover, October 23rd, 1894.
Plate Size: Sheets of 400 subjects (4 panes of 100)
Printer: The Bureau of Printing and Engraving, their first contract
What you should look for
An unusual and valuable (retail about $500) item to look for on 255 covers is the handstamp seen below. The Spanish-American War was raging at the time and consequently mail to Spain or its Colonies was forbidden. It can be seen on other covers, however as the foreign mail rate was 5¢ most will be found on #255 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
Consesus on the subject of the design was difficult at the time. Originally it was to have been George Washington (see essays below), as he was already featured on the 2¢ design, it was decided to William Seward, Secretary of State during the Lincoln administration. However, as Ulysses S Grant, president and war hero, had recently deceased, the vote went to him.
Contrary to the paucity of photographs of Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant has over 300 photographs of him. Many of them whilst a Civil War General. The design was based off this photograph. Like Lincolns representation on #254 his hair treatment was given some artistic licence.
Varieties to look for
There are some imperfs, although it is debatable that these were issued as such, they are more likely to be small die plate proofs. Nevertheless, Scotts chooses to give them their own designation as an imperf, they can be found as Scotts #255a. It would seem, by recent auction prices that the philatalic world begs to differ with Scotts, recent auction prices for hinged examples are only $140.
Example of a vertical imperf (unique)
The Essay's and Proofs
#255 is different from the rest of the 1894 Bureau's in that its triangle is cut smaller, see the illustration below, where I have compared the size of a 2¢ 1894 triangle with the 5¢. Also, as shown below, there is an extra line between the white oval outer border above the words STATES and the edge of the design, as seen in the comparison between the 3¢ and 5¢ below.