1994 Legends of the West
Issue Date: December, 1994
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: 10.1 x 10
The story of this famous issue revolves around two mistakes made by the United States Postal Service and a string of events without precedent in the history of U.S. stamp collecting.
In January 1994 the Postal Service announced it was creating a set of 20 stamps titled “Legends of the West,” featuring “broadly defined, American-themed subjects.” Sixteen of the 20 stamps honored people associated with the exploration, settlement and development of the American West. One of the people to be featured was black rodeo star Bill Pickett. The remaining four stamps, located at the corners of the sheet, featured conceptual designs: Home on the Range, Native American Culture, Western Wildlife, and Overland Mail.
After the stamps were announced, but not officially issued, a radio reporter phoned Frank Phillips Jr., great-grandson of Bill Pickett, and asked him about the stamp. This was the first Phillips had heard of the stamp, which was ironic – for the last 14 years Phillips had written to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee suggesting that Bill Pickett should be honored on a stamp. Each year he had been politely turned down. Pleasantly surprised, Phillips went to his local post office, looked at the design and recognized it as Ben Pickett – Bill’s brother and business associate. The stamp pictured the wrong man! That was the first mistake.
Phillips complained to the Postal Service and Postmaster General Marvin Runyon issued an order to recall and destroy the error stamps. Runyon also ordered new revised stamps be created – these are the corrected Legends of the West stamps (#2869) pictures here.
But before the recall, 186 error sheets were sold by postal workers – before the official “first day of issue.” This was the second mistake. These error sheets were being resold for sums ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 each!
Several weeks later the U.S. Postal Service announced that 150,000 error sheets would be sold at face value by means of a mail order lottery. This unprecedented move was made with the permission of Frank Phillips Jr. so the Post Office could recover its printing cost and not lose money. Sales were limited to one per household. The remaining stamps were destroyed.