1869 30¢ Shield and Eagle Pictorial
Earliest Known Use: May 22, 1869
Quantity issued: 304,650
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Method: Flat plate
Color: Blue and carmine
Ranked #7 in 100 Greatest American Stamps, the 30¢ Shield and Eagle Pictorial was heavily criticized when it was issued. The frame of flags is printed in blue and the shield in red. The design was created so that the denomination – spelled out in red letters – flows over into the blue flag printing. Most of the Pictorial stamps had trouble with the registration of colors, and this is exaggerated because of the oddly-placed denomination.
The 1869 Pictorial Series
The appearance of the 1869 Pictorials marked a significant change in U.S. stamp design. For the first time in American postal history, something other than portraits of national leaers was being pictured on a stamp. These were the first U.S. stamps to be printed using two colors.
Printing with two colors required the stamps to be run through the press twice; once, to print the vignette (center design), and then again, to print the frame. Carelessness in merging the two impressions resulted in the rare inverts. Instead of an inverted center, the stamp actually has an inverted frame, since the center design was printed first. The 30¢ Shield and Eagle with inverted flags is the rarest of the 1869 inverts. The least obvious of the three, it was the last to be discovered.
The pictorials were to be produced over a four-year period by the National Bank Note Company. When issued, however, the stamps were unpopular with the public. Within a year after their release, they were withdrawn from sale.
Today, the pictorial issues are the most popular of the 1840 – 1870 Classic Stamps. Because the stamps were only in circulation for a year, they have become increasingly hard to find in both unused and used condition.