Benjamin Franklin (biography)

1¢ - Pale blue, dark blue or blue
Triangles in Corner
Double line USPS wmk
Scott #264 - 1894


Used: $0.25
No postmark with gum (MH): $3-$4
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $7-$18

Used stamps are worth less than $1


Issued: April 29th, 1895, earliest recorded example, May 16th 1895. (shown below).

Plate Size: Sheets of 400 subjects (4 panes of 100)

Printer: The Bureau of Printing and Engraving

Watermark: USPS, double lined, see below

Quantity Issued: A little less than two billion. It's a very common stamp.


The Post Office report from 1899 supplies one with almost every detail you would wish to know about this stamp, and every other stamp in this series. The level of detail is amazing. Click here for more on this report.

What you should look for

The stamps were watermarked USPS and part of one of the three letters will be visible (sometimes barely so) when immersing the stamp in watermark fluid using a simple black watermark tray. By the way, you really have to believe you have got a valuable stamp before investing the $20 it costs to buy the afore mentioned items. You could use the cheaper alternative, Ronosol Lighter fluid, however, unlike watermark fluid, it is highly inflammable and dangerous to use, plus it stinks the house up.

Look for part of one of the above letters in the watermark
Remember, the letters have to be double lined. If single
lined then go here to identify your stamp

This was the first instance of the Bureau applying a watermark, it was applied to make counterfeiting more difficult. It is not known if the Bureau had anticipated the Chicago Counterfeits or added the watermark because of them. The story of the Chicago Counterfeit can be found on the page for Scotts #248.

As this was the Bureau of Printing and Engraving contract a small triangle was cut into the design at top left and top right. This distinguishes it from the earlier 1890.

The Inspiration for the Design

The design was taken from the portrait bust of Benjamin Franklin by Jean Antoine Houdon. Now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Previous versions of Franklins portrait on the 1¢ stamp had Franklin facing to the right. This, along with the pale blue color were the principle reasons that this design was disliked by the general public. The NY Times said that Franklin facing to the left 'entirely altered his expression and making him resemble a putty-faced personification of senility'.

Varieties to look for

The stamps ranges from pale blue to dark blue, with the color getting darker the later the printing was.

There is an imperf pair which is fairly common (value around $120 in MNH condition). This is either known 262a or 262¢ by auction houses. It is in fact a finished plate proof and should be collected as such.

The Essay's and Proofs

Finished Plate Proof on stamp paper