The 1894 Bureau Series
Thomas Jefferson (biography)
50¢ - Orange or deep orange
Scott #260 - Un-watermarked - 1894
No postmark with gum (MH): $90-$170
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $400-$900
Facts and Statistics
Issued: Replaced the 1890 30¢ value. Earliest recorded date of use, December 12th, 1894, shown below.
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
Although the rest of the 1894 issue had problems with blind perforations (perforation holes not cut out), it is far less common with the 50¢. What is more common is terrible centering. It would almost seem that the operator(s) made every effort to get the perforations right on this one, at the sacrifice of centering the stamp. Another problem with this stamp is that it almost always has the heavy registry cancel, as seen in the example below.
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.
Because so few of the 50¢ were issued, multiples above blocks of four are hard to find. Blocks of four really do not command much of price premium. Get above that and the value multiplies. A recent large block sold was by Robert Seigal Auctions, it is shown above and sold for $12,000 in 07.
The Inspiration for the Design
The old 30 cents gave way to a new 50 cents, the profile of Jefferson being transferred to the new value
The two new 1894 values, the 50¢ and the $1 did not have new engravings of presidential heads, they just recycled the 1870 engravings.
The original 1870 design of Jefferson was based, loosely on Houdon's bust of Jefferson. Unlike any other representation of Jefferson the bust had bare shoulders.
Shown below is a version, that very nearly made it as the default Jefferson bust to be used. Next to it is one of the many essays of the final 1870 version.
Below is shown the 1870 10¢, note the similar bust used as in the 1894 50¢ vignette. The 1870 rendition of the bust was criticized in that it was said that Jefferson was appearing to be falling asleep or nodding off. This was corrected in the 1894 design, the vignette was tilted a tad to the right and the eyes reworked, the whole effect being one 'wide-awake' third president of the United States.
The resemblance between Houdon's bust of Thomas Jefferson and this rendition is quite marked.
Varieties to look for
The Essay's and Proofs