1869 90¢ Lincoln Pictorial
Earliest Known Use: May 10, 1869
Quantity issued: 55,500
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Method: Flat plate
Color: Carmine and black
The Pictorial series came under attack the moment they were issued. They were considered radical at the time – square rather than rectangular, bi-color, and only three bore the traditional portraits Americans were accustomed to. To make matters worse, customers complained the gum wasn’t sticking properly.
The 90¢ Lincoln is the only stamp of the series that didn’t result in inverts. Only one is known on cover – the legendary “Ice House” cover sent from Boston to Calcutta. The cover was stolen from a collector in 1967 and its whereabouts were unknown until 2006, when an unsuspecting elderly couple brought it to a Chicago-area stamp dealer.
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 leaders 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 Within a year after their release, they were withdrawn from sale.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.