The 1895 Bureau Series
Watermarked Double Lined letters - USPS
Benjamin Franklin (biography)
1¢ - Pale blue, dark blue or blue
Triangles in Corner
Double line USPS wmk
Scott #264 - 1894
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.
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.
DETAILED FACTS AND FIGURES
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
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.
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
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