Card Proofs of the
19th Century

By Greg Waldecker

Presented to the Tidewater Virginia Stamp Club
February 10, 2015

1893 Issue
The Columbian Exposition Issue
American Bank Note Company (ABNC)

According to a report of the Third Assistant Postmaster General, of November 20, 1892, the USPOD decided

“…to issue, during the progress of the Columbian Exposition at Chicago, a special series of adhesive postage stamps of such a character as would help to signalize the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus…it was consistent with the idea of a display at the Exposition of such articles as would illustrate the history, progress and administrative functioning of the Post-Office Department, which Congress, by statute, as directed to be made part of a general governmental exhibit…” 43 

This same report goes on to explain benefits to the USPOD and the country:

“The benefits to accrue to the Exposition from the issue of such a series of stamps, by constantly drawing to it public attention, at home and abroad, are too patent to need elaboration.” 44 

In the report of the Postmaster General for 1892, he explains another benefit which will be derived from this new issue of stamps:

“In addition, the ‘mania,’ as it is called, for collecting postage stamps, as specimens, is universal throughout the world….the value of postage stamps in private collections which will never be drawn upon to pay postage may safely be placed at many millions of dollars. The beauty and unique character of the new Columbian stamps will cause their sale in large quantities, simply for use in collections; and not only will they be purchased in single and partial sets by collectors, but in view of the limited time in which they will be issued, they will be accumulated in great quantities by dealers and others to meet future demands…” 45 

It is this line of thinking which can be extrapolated to give collectors today an understanding of why the card proofs were created in the first place.

This will be the last series of stamps printed by an outside contractor for the USPOD. The remaining issue, and all others until the Overrun Countries issues, will be printed by the Bureau of Engraving and printing (BEP).

The following information is germane to this series:

Scott Number Denomination Color
230P4 One cent Deep Blue
231P4 Two cent Brown Violet
232P4 Three cents Green
233P4 Four cents Ultramarine
234P4 Five cents Chocolate
235P4 Six cents Purple
236P4 Eight cents Magenta
237P4 Ten cents Gray Black
238P4 Fifteen cents Dark Green
239P4 Thirty cents Orange Brown
240P4 Fifty cents Slate
241P4 One Dollar Salmon
242P4 Two Dollars Brown Red
243P4 Three Dollars Yellow Green
244P4 Four Dollars Crimson Lake
245P4 Five Dollars Black
Scott 230P4 
Deep Blue
Scott 231P4 
Brown Violet
Scott 232P4 
Scott 233P4 
Scott 234P4 
Scott 235P4 
Scott 236P4 
Scott 237P4 
Gray Black
Scott 238P4 
Dark Green
Scott 239P4 
Orange Brown
Scott 240P4 
Scott 241P4 
Scott 242P4 
Brown Red
Scott 243P4 
Yellow Green
Scott 244P4 
Crimson Lake
Scott 245P4 
Bureau of Engraving and Printing

As had been the custom in the past, the USPOD placed advertisements for the contract to print stamps for the government on October 16, 1893. Three bids were received, from the same firms or individuals who had previously bid. After making known the bid amounts, the USPOD was approached by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which prepared all other securities for the U.S. government – including the revenue stamps – and offered a bid which was substantially lower than any other. Given the consideration that this was a governmental agency, that it was located in Washington, D.C. and that the bid presented substantial savings, the contract was awarded to the BEP.46 

Prior to the BEP taking control of the production of stamps, all card proofs had been created by the American Bank Note Company, from dies in their possession. As a security measure and an expedient, the dies from the ABNC were turned over to the BEP where they were modified by placing the triangles in the top corners of the design.

The only card proofs of this issue were done by the BEP in 1895, so the need to measure card thickness is not at issue with these. The new stamps were not printed in their entirety, but only five of the values were produced. As this is the last instance of card proofs being prepared for issue and sale to the general public, no other subsequent stamps were produced routinely on card stock. 47 

The following information is germane to this series:

Scott Number Denomination Color
247P4 One cent Blue
248P4 Two cent Pink
232P4 Six cents Brown
262P4 Two Dollars Dark Blue
263P4 Five Dollars Dark Green
Scott 247P4 
Scott 248P4 
Scott 232P4 
Scott 262P4 
Dark Blue
Scott 263P4 
Dark Green

43 Luff, p. 128.
44  Ibid.
45  Ibid.
46 Luff, p. 136. The information comes from the October 31, 1894 report of the Third Assistant Postmaster General and is quoted verbatim by Luff.
47  Snee, p. 760.

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