1851 Washington, Type II
- First Three-Cent U.S. postage stamp
- The “workhorse” of the era’s postal system, mailing the majority of America’s letters
Stamp Category: Definitive
Series: 1851-57 Issue
First Day of Issue: July 1, 1851
Printed by: Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co.
Quantity printed: 20,000,000 estimate (#10 and #10A combined)
Format: Printed in sheets of 200 stamps, divided into two panes of 100 each, in rows of 10x10
Printing Method: Engraving
Color: Orange Brown
Why the stamp was issued: The 3c Washington stamp was issued to pay the first-class rate for single letters of one-half ounce or less for a distance of 3,000 miles or less.
About the printing: The design is engraved on a die – a small, flat piece of steel. The design is copied to a transfer roll – a blank roll of steel. Several impressions or “reliefs” are made on the roll. The reliefs are transferred to the plate – a large, flat piece of steel from which the stamps are printed.
Types or “varieties” occur when a stamp has differences which vary from the way it was originally engraved. A damaged plate or foreign matter can cause these differences on the plate and on the stamps printed from it. They can also occur when the design is being transferred to the plate when lines are manually re-cut.
About the design: Two types of the imperforate 3c stamp were created due to recutting of the plates. The recutting caused differences in the frame lines of the design, among other variations.
Special design details: US #10A is Type II. There are inner frame lines on both sides of the stamp, which differentiate it from #10.
For decades, collectors have studied the 1851 3¢ Washington, its types, and many minor varieties. For many years, the #10A was not recognized as a major stamp variety. Extensive study of the 1851 3¢ Washington revealed many varieties of color and recutting.
When the design for the 1851 3¢ Washington was created, some of the engraving plates used to print the stamps were re-cut, adding the inner frame line. These inner frame lines at the sides of the stamp distinguish #10A from #10, making it a major variety now recognized in the Scott Catalogue.
George Washington’s portrait on the stamp is based on a statue by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The statue is considered by many to be one of the most life-like representations of America’s first president. It was created using detailed measurements of his body as well as a life mask of his face. Washington’s statue is in the rotunda of the Virginia state capitol building in Richmond.
About the 1851-57 Series: On July 1, 1851, 1c, 3c, and 12c stamps were issued. These new stamps met the reduced postal rates passed by act of Congress on March 3, 1851. U.S. #1 and #2 were demonetized. Later changes due to the Act of March 3, 1855 led to 10c (1855) and 5c (1856) additions to the series. Perforated stamps of the same designs (plus three new designs) were issued in 1857 as part of the Series of 1857-61.
History the stamp represents: America’s first two postage stamps were issued in 1847. Rates were determined by the weight and distance the letter was mailed. Letters mailed 300 miles or less were 5¢ per half ounce; while those mailed over 300 miles were 10¢ per half ounce. Postage could be paid by the sender at the time the letter was mailed, or by the addressee upon receipt.
These stamps and rates remained in use until 1851, when Congress reduced postal rates. These new rates created the need for new denominations. The first stamps issued to meet the lower rates were issued on July 1, 1851. The new 1¢ stamp was used on newspapers, circulars, and “drop letters” (letters mailed to the same town.) The single letter rate, based on a half-ounce, was changed to 3¢ for mail sent up to and including 3,000 miles (except for drop letters.) Mail exceeding this distance was lowered to 6¢ and two of the new 3c stamps could be used to pay postage to the West Coast. Besides the 1c and 3c stamps, a 12c stamp was issued.
Prepayment was optional until January 1st 1956, when it was made mandatory to pre-pay with postage stamps. Requiring people to sue stamps lightened the burden in postal clerks and allowed mailers to simply drop their letters in the post office mail slot, rather than waiting in long lines. Americans appreciated the lower rates as well.