1898 Trans-Mississippi Issue
Western Mining Prospector
50¢ - Sage green or dark sage green
Scott #291 - 1898
No postmark with gum (MH): $125-$400
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $300-$600
Issued: Introduced on June 17th, 1890. Earliest documented use, a first day cover from June 17th 1898
Plate Size: Sheets of 100 subjects (2 panes of 50). There are no full panes of 50 left. Well centered blocks of four are scarce and MH copies will sell for $17,000.
Printer: The Bureau of Printing and Engraving
Watermark: Double lined USPS watermark.
What you should look for
The unique first day cover of #291 dated June 17th 1898
The Inspiration for the Design
The inspiration for the design was "The Gold Bug" by Augustus Goodyear Heaton.
Much has been written about the discovery of gold at Sutters Mill, California, the gold rush that resulted and the 'Forty Niners'. However this stamp was aimed more towards the gold prospectors of a later period. Many of those who rode the Oregon trail went in search of Gold, including some gold fields in Oregon.
All that was needed is a simple flat pan, a strong back, and patience. The large nuggets that Gold Prospectors dreamt of, were found mainly by water jets and sluices. Most gold in a stream is dust—tiny flecks mixed in with ordinary dirt. These dust particles aren’t heavy; each one weighs only a fraction of a gram. But gold particles, no matter how small, are the densest part of the mix. This causes the gold flecks to sink through water faster than everything else.
To prospect for gold, prospectors use a pan to dredge up silt and rocks from the bottom of a river. They pick out the big rocks and add water from the river to the pan. Then they swirl the pan of silt and water, allowing anything that does not sink quickly to the bottom of the pan to flow out of the pan. Prospectors repeat this process until they are left with only “black sand,” which is very dense. If they are lucky, the black sand will contain tiny gold flecks. Then they pick out the flecks, and start again. If they are very lucky, they will find nuggets of gold (see below for a typical tiny nugget, it would have rested on the tip of your finger)
Varieties to look for
Due to the shortage of revenue stamps caused by the Spanish American War, post offices had to resort to a manuscript IR cancel on postage stamps. Such an example is shown below, they typically sell for $1,000 and requires a certificate.
The Essay's and Proofs