The 1895 Bureau Series
The Value of the Stamp
Thomas Jefferson (biography)
50¢ - Orange or deep orange
Scott #275 - Double line USPS wmk - 1895
No postmark with gum (MH): $85-$200
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $425-$1,500
50¢ - Red orange
Scott #275a - Double line USPS wmk - 1895
50¢ - Orange or deep orange or red orange
Scott #275b - Imperf - Double line USPS wmk - 1895
Facts and Statistics
Issued: Issued November 9th 1895, Earliest recorded date of use, February 27th, 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.
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.
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 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.
One wonders how much coffee the engraver was drinking at the time as the resemblance between Houdon's bust of Thomas Jefferson and this rendition is quite marked.
Varieties to look for
The Essay's and Proofs
There are no proofs or essays of #275