Series of 1851-57 12¢ Washington
First Day of Issue: July 1, 1851
Quantity issued: 2,500,000 (estimate)
Printed by: Toppan, Carpenter & Co.
Printing Method: Flat plate
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¢. Therefore, the 12¢ Washington stamp satisfied the double domestic rate over 3,000 miles.
Bisects of U.S. #17 are known and are greatly valued on cover (which helps to document their genuine postal use and eliminate the potential for fraud).
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.
Every U.S. #17 stamp was printed from the same plate onto hard, white wove paper. The plate was recut a great deal, but the work was done skillfully. A number of double transfers are known.