20¢ Cable Car
Transportation Series Coil
Issue Date: October 28, 1988
City: San Francisco, CA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Engraved
Perforations: 10 vertically
Color: Blue violet
At the turn of the century, cable cars were a common sight in American cities from New York to Seattle. Originally invented by British-born Andrew Hallidie, who felt sorry for the poor horses who struggled to pull streetcars up San Francisco's precipitous grades, these nostalgic cars still take the city's visitors "halfway to the stars."
The Transportation Series
A ground-breaking stamp was quietly issued on May 18, 1981. For the first time in U.S. history, a coil stamp featured its own unique design rather than simply copying that of the current definitive stamp. Fifty more coil stamps would be issued over the course of the next 15 years, each picturing a different mode of transportation.
The various denominations provided face values to exactly match the rates for several categories of Third Class mail (bulk rate and quanity-discounted mail). As the rates changed, new stamps with new values were added. Never before had a stamp series included so many fractional cent values.
Most of the stamps in the Transportation Series were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, although a few were printed by private contractors. All but a few of the later stamps were produced by engraved intaglio. Differences in precancels, tagging, paper and gum provide a large number of varieties.