The 1895 Bureau Series
The Value of the Stamp
Henry Clay (biography)
15¢ - Dark blue or indigo
Scott #274 - Double line USPS wmk - 1895
No postmark with gum (MH): $30-$90
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $150-$300
15¢ - Dark blue or indigo
Scott #274a - Double line USPS wmk - 1896
Facts and Statistics
Issued: Issued November 30th 1895, Earliest recorded date of use, May 5th, 1896.
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: 7,013,612. The stamp paid the foreign registered rate so expect to see a lot of oval registered cancels. An example of which is shown below.
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 source for the design Brookman attributes to the famous daguerreotype of Henry Clay. This would be incorrect as their is little, if no, resemblence. It is more likely that it copied from a print which used as its source a later photograph of Henry Clay.
The source of the design (above) and the design (below)
The source photograph (below) for the print above
Shown below is the famous, and only daguerreotype of Henry Clay
Varieties to look for
There are no varieties of #274. Brookmans mentions a sheet with 'an extremely faint impressoin in a yellowish green shade'. Althought I have not been able to find any auction records of this going back to the sixties.
The Essay's and Proofs
There are no proofs or essays of #274