This series of stamps, returning to a size and basic format as in the 1861-8 series, shows an individual bust with clean scrollwork and minimal ornamentation. Three companies will be involved in the continuous production of these stamps; the National Bank Note Company, the Continental Bank Note Company and the National Bank Note Company. Each will hold the contract during a portion of the period of issue. To distinguish between those issued by their predecessors and their own work, the Continental Bank Note Company added “secret” marks to the designs inherited from the National Bank Note Company. These were minor little changes which allowed them identify their stamps, which they believed were superior to their predecessors.26
There are two issues created by the National Bank Note Company. The first, Scott numbers 134-144, were issued with grills. There are no proofs of this 1870 issue. The second series, also issued in 1870, was Scott 145-155. There are no card proofs for this issue, while there are India proofs and large die proofs. 27
The lack of any NBNC card proofs is easily explained. Card proofs were not created until after the contract had been awarded to the Continental Bank Note Company. While it is unlikely there would have been any issue with the proprietary nature of the NBNC dies or plates, as the USPOD had ordered the continued use of the designs, CBNC would have been reluctant to use them as there had been complaints about the quality of the stamps printed by NBNC for years prior to CNBC being awarded the contract, a fact which had driven the “secret marks” being added. It wasn’t until 1895 that the philatelic community finally caught on to the addition of the marks, so there was no need to create proofs of virtually identical stamps. 28
As Luff explains, the contract to print stamps was put out for bids in December, 1872, with the successful bidder being the Continental Bank Note Company. This firm took over the printing of stamps beginning in May, 1873. This would be the firm which held the contract for the printing of the first proofs in 1875. 29
The first issue of large bank note stamps which were created as card proofs was Scott 156-166. These were created in colors which were the same as the issued stamps, with the exception of the 6, 24 and 30 cent stamps. Even these colors were close to the issued colors, being pink instead of dull pink on the 6 cent stamp, violet instead of purple for the 24 cent stamp and gray black instead of black for the 30 cent stamp. Despite holding the contract for five years, only this one issue would be created by the Continental Bank Note Company. 30 As noted by the editors of the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, there were secret marks on the 24, 30 and 90 cent dies used to create the die proofs, but no plates were made with these dies, so these secret marks do not appear on the plate proofs. 31 Although the Continental Bank Note Company will cease to exist in 1879, the proofs from this series were evidently prepared and printed prior to the merger with the American Bank Note Company.
The following chart provides the basic information for the 1873 issue:
|160P4||Seven cents||Orange Vermillion|
|162P4||Twelve cents||Blackish Violet|
|163P4||Fifteen cents||Yellow Ornage|
|164P4||Twenty Four cents||Violet|
|165P4||Thirty cents||Gray Black|
|166P4||Ninety cents||Rose Carmine|
With the advent of the Universal Postal Union and the ratification of the agreement between member nations, the new rates and uniform colors would take effect July 1, 1875. This meant that a new denomination, the five cent stamp, would be required and the seven, twelve and twenty-four cent stamps would be discontinued. 32 As both Luff and Brookman explain, the two cent stamp’s color was changed from the previous brown to vermillion, to eliminate confusion over the similarity of color between the two cent and the ten cent stamps. As the seven cent stamps were discontinued, the color vermillion was available and used.33 Proofs of these new colors and designs would not be issued under the Continental Bank Note Company. It is uncertain, as shown in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers if any large die proofs of the new vermillion two cent stamp and the five cent stamp (Scott 178 and 185, respectively) were issued. The only verified emission for these was an imperforate printing on stamp paper. 34
According to James Lee, the one, three, six and ten cent values only appeared in the 1879 printing and no others, providing the keys to this series. Additionally, the six cent usually appears somewhat faded and is rarely encountered otherwise. 35
In 1879, the Continental Bank Note Company merged with the American Bank Note Company. The latter assumed all of the CBNC contracts, including the government contract to prepare and print stamps. Additionally, ABNC would be the successful bidder in future contracts, continuing to supply stamps, and in particular to this discussion, the card proofs for the printings in 1879, 1882, 1891 and 1893. It should be noted, as explained in the Continental Bank Note Company that the 1879 printing used the Continental Bank Note Company plates for Scott 156-166.
As explained previously, two new stamps were issued in 1875 for use, requiring their inclusion in the 1879, and subsequent, card proof printings. These were the two cent vermillion color change (Scott 183) and the new blue five cent stamp (Scott 185). Determination of printing must be made via measurement of the thickness of the card stock used.
The third card proof in this series, the thirty cent stamp, exists from only one sheet which was certified in 2012. It was broken up by James Lee, who signed each stamp on the reverse, dated it and provided the position number. There are only 100 of these; however, it should be noted that the plate block and multiple blocks were left intact, leaving far fewer than 100 individual stamps available.36
|194P4||Thirty cents||Full Black|
The fourth card proof in this series, the two cent stamp, exists from only one sheet which was certified in 2001. It was broken up by James Lee, who stamped and signed each stamp on the reverse, dated it and provided the position number. As with the previous proof, 190P4, there are only 100 of these; however, it should be noted that the plate block and multiple blocks were left intact, leaving far fewer than 100 individual stamps available. A copy of the original certificate for the sheet accompanied the sale of the stamp, which was purchased from James Lee. 37
|193P4||Two cents||Black Brown|
26 The issue of the secret marks is added to the discussion to provide the same discernable differences which mark the regular stamp issues of this series. A complete listing of these marks is not provided but is available from the sources listed in the bibliography. The easiest place for most collectors to find this is in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, included in the edition utilized here, and is both previous and subsequent editions without change.
27 Snee, pp. 30-34; 759.
28 Luff, p. 97.
29 Luff, p. 97.
30 Snee, pp. 34-35, 758.
31 Snee, p. 759.
32 Luff, p. 99.
33 Luff, p. 99; Brookman, Vol. II, p. 249.
34 Snee, pp. 759.
35 Lee, No. 67, p. 1.
36 Lee, No. 22, p. 1.
37 Lee, No. 22, p. 1.