The 1895 Bureau Series
The Value of the Stamp
James Madison (biography)
$2 - Bright blue
Scott #277 - Double line USPS wmk - 1895
No postmark with gum (MH): $300-$700
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $900-$2,500
$2 -Dark blue
Scott #277a - Double line USPS wmk - 1895
$2 -Dark blue
Scott #277b - Imperf - Double line USPS wmk - 1895
Facts and Statistics
Issued: Issued August 13th 1895, Earliest recorded date of use, July 18th, 1896.
Plate Size: Sheets of 200 subjects (2 panes of 100)
Printer: The Bureau of Printing and Engraving
Watermark: USPS, double lined, see below
Quantity Issued: 31,720.
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 was based off the David Edwin's(?) engraving which based off Gilbert Stuart's portrait of James Madison, not the W.A. Wilmer engraving
Gilbert Stuart's portrait of James Madison
Detail of David Edwin's (?) engraving of Madison
Full version of David Edwin's (?) engraving of Madison
W.A. Wilmers engraving of James Madison
Varieties to look for
The Essay's and Proofs
There are no proofs or essays of #277