Card Proofs of the
19th Century

By Greg Waldecker

Presented to the Tidewater Virginia Stamp Club
February 10, 2015

The Card Proofs


In describing the proofs in this collection, I will present them as they would have been printed as stamps, in chronological order, even though some of the issues were recreated as special printings in 1875 with plates made by the Continental Bank Note Company, which held the contract at the time the card proof printings were created. Such substantial re-engravings will be noted throughout.

As this is an almost complete representative collection, missing only one value from the 1879 special printing (Scott 193P4), the four values from the 1895 issue and one possible variety (The two cent Columbian with broken hat, which may or may not exist. It is listed, but I have never seen one offered). I call this representative, as it does not provide a comprehensive presentation of all printings, but rather an example of each of the listed varieties of card proofs.

The presentation will follow the “normal” listing as is found in most catalogues and albums, starting with the Regular Postage Issues, followed by the Special Delivery Issues, and then the Postage Due Issues. The complete Official Issues will follow and end with the Newspaper Issues.

There are card proofs of many of the revenue stamps of the 19th century, however, these are not considered in this discussion because, as Dr. Brazer explains in his book, Essays for U.S. Adhesive Postage Stamps:

“Revenue proofs were never freely distributed in sets and all of the proofs known came from the files of the Bank Note Companies or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Proofs made by the Butler Carpenter Company came from the bankruptcy sale of their effects which were bought by collectors and generally distributed through dealers….”

This, then definitely answers the question about where the revenue issue card proofs derived from, and removes them from consideration as they were never part of the six printings of card proofs which were either freely distributed as political favors or available for purchase from the USPOD at face value.

Carrier Stamps (1851)

The first stamps in the collection of the card proofs are the Carrier stamps, Scott LO1 and LO2.

These were originally issued in 1851, under the direction of the USPOD, as they began taking control of the delivery of mail from the local carriers. This was authorized by an Act of Congress, approved March 3, 1851. The streets, roads, highways and avenues of New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans were established as post routes. With the fee for delivery fixed at one cent, the USPOD began taking mail delivery into its realm of responsibility.10  Scott LO1 saw limited use as a stamp, primarily in Philadelphia, PA and Cleveland, OH according to information published in the American Journal of Philately in the August 20, 1869 edition. 11 

The card proofs came from the original dies, which were delivered to the Continental Bank Note Company from the vaults of the USPOD at the same time the order for reprints of some of the issues were ordered. 12  Surprisingly, there is no mention of these in Brookman’s The United States Postage Stamps of the 19th Century.13 

Both of these stamps were printed in blue.14  There is no significant color variation so the only way to determine the printing is by measuring the thickness.

Scott LO1P4
Scott LO2P4
1847 (Reprints of 1875)

The 1847 issues, Scott 1 and 2, could not be produced as proofs since the original Toppan and Carpenter dies, were the property of the original printers, Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, and had been destroyed when the contract ended. New dies were prepared by the Continental Bank Note Company, creating what would be known as the 1875 Reprints, Scott 3 and 4. 15 

The reprints, or reissues, are distinctly different from the original dies, requiring the designation of different stamps by the editors of the Scott catalogues. The many differences are clearly spelled out by both Luff and Brookman.16 

There is no significant color variation known from any of the printings; determination of printing must be made via measurement.

The following table provides the information about the denominations and the breakdown of colors used for the eight stamps in this issue:

Scott Number Denomination Color
3P4 Five cents Red Brown
4P4 Ten cents Black
Scott 3P4 
Red Brown
Scott 4P4 

Brazer, p.xv.
10  Luff, p. 148, 192. John Luff, in his book The Postage Stamps of the United States, discussed the reasoning behind these stamps, their production and the uses. Although the card proofs had been issued years before Luff’s book, he only mentions them in relation to the 1890 issue.
11  Luff, p. 194.
Luff, pp. 260-61.
13 Brookman, Vol. III, pp. 203-216. It appears that Brookman did not consider these as being part of the “regular” issue of U.S. stamps and omitted them from inclusion in his three volume set.
14  The colors listed for all card proofs are taken from the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers. It must be noted that in many cases, the regularly issued stamp colors differ from those used for the card proofs. These will normally correspond to the colors used for the special printings.
15 Luff, p. 255.
16 Luff, p. 255; Brookman, Vol. I, pp. 92-93.

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