Series of 1851-57 5¢ Jefferson
Earliest Known Use: March 14, 1856
Quantity issued: 150,000 (estimate)
Printed by: Toppan, Carpenter & Co.
Printing Method: Flat plate
Color: Red brown
New Denomination Introduced
In 1851, Congress reduced postal rates. These new rates practically eliminated distance as a factor and created a need for new denominations. The 1¢ stamp was used on all mail up to 3 ounces and on “drop letters” which were mailed to the same town.
The single letter rate, based on a half ounce, was changed to 3¢ for mail not over a distance of 3,000 miles. Mail exceeding this distance was lowered to 6¢. In 1855, the rate for letters over 3,000 miles changed to 10¢.
In early 1856, a 5¢ stamp picturing Thomas Jefferson was issued. Students of the Series of 1851-57 debate the purpose for which it was issued. Some believe it was intended to satisfy the 5¢ Registry fee, while others correctly point out the fee could only be paid in cash. Another possibility is the “ship to shore” or U.S.-British Postal Treaty fee of 5¢ for U.S. mail traveling through the United Kingdom and bound for specific destinations. Covers bearing U.S. #12 were commonly sent to France and Great Britain as well as Holland, Spain, Mexico, and Switzerland.
At the time U.S. #12 was issued, prepayment was still optional. If postage was paid by the addressee upon receipt, the rate was higher. Due to increased collect rates, the use of postage stamps was greatly stimulated. In 1855, pre-payment was made compulsory.