1994 $2 Bureau of Engraving and Printing Centenary
· Duplicates design of 1894 James Madison stamp (US #262); created from original 100-year-old die
· At $8, it was the most expensive item of its kind issued by the USPS
· A small percentage of these sheets have a rare double-transfer error
Stamp Category: Commemorative
First Day of Issue: November 3, 1994
First Day City: New York, New York
Quantity Issued: 5,000,000 panes
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
Format: Panes of 4 printed in plates of 24
Why the stamp was issued: To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) producing its first US postage stamps in 1894.
About the stamp design: The image on this stamp, taken from US #262, was based on a painting by Gilbert Stuart. In planning this issue, the USPS had considered making the stamp a definitive, to go along with new $1 and $5 definitives in progress. They would be part of a series recreating 19th-century stamp designs. The USPS also considered the sheets containing eight or ten stamps, but ultimately decided that was too much. In the end, they settled on four commemorative stamps on a pane.
On the selvage of the souvenir sheet is engraved the image of the BEP’s original home, a red brick building at the corner of 14th Street and Independence Avenue in Washington, DC. The image was based on an original BEP engraving from 1880. The selvage art reproduces this image exactly, down to the woman walking a dog along the sidewalk in front of the building!
Special design details: This Madison stamp has several small differences from the original 1894 printing. The image was cropped slightly so it could fit better within the BEP’s perforator. While the original stamp has two white lines above the oval, this reprinting only has one. As a result, the white diagonal lines in the top corners are open, while they were closed on the original stamp. Additionally, the image was cropped horizontally so that the scrollwork around the denominations touch the design’s out edge. On the original, there were small horizontal lines there. The BEP used a transfer roll to capture the engraving from the original US #262 stamp die, and applied these changes to the transfer roll, which was used to create a new die. Additional cuts were added (visible in Madison’s coat and the dark oval around the portrait) to prevent ink spreading.
First Day City: New York, New York – Issued at the American Stamp Dealers Association’s Postage Stamp Mega-Event at Madison Square Garden.
Unusual fact about this stamp: Of the 5 million souvenir sheets produced, 104,000 (a relatively small number) were found to have a double transfer.
A double transfer was created when the original, 100-year-old #262 die image was transferred to new printing sleeves. Two images were not properly laid out. They were burnished out – but not thoroughly enough – creating a “double” image. Although the minor double transfer is very “out of register,” it’s not always noticeable at a glance. A light horizontal line appears at the bottom and small traces of the lettering, numerals and the lower-left inner frame are doubled.
This tribute to the BEP and the classic #262 stamp, with their unique double transfers, offer a special connection to the classic-stamp era – when double transfers occurred much more frequently.
History the stamp represents: The BEP was established in 1862, following the outbreak of the Civil War. When the firing on Fort Sumter began, the nation was already on the verge of bankruptcy and was in no position to finance a war. This matter, along with other war issues, prompted President Lincoln to call a special session of Congress. During this session, secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase suggested issuing non-interest-bearing notes that would circulate as money and a system of domestic taxation.
Congress adopted the Chase plan, and as a result, the first government-issued paper money came into existence. That same year, the president appointed a commissioner of internal revenue, who was given the authority to assess, levy, and collect taxes. Items such as medicine, perfume, cosmetics, alcohol, and tobacco were taxed, and stamps were provided as proof of collection of the tax. The BEP began by printing only the beer and cigar stamps, but by 1878, nearly all revenue stamps were produced by them.
In 1894, with the approval of the secretary of the Treasury, the Bureau submitted a bid for the contract to print the new series of postage stamps. Their bid was almost $7,000 less than the lowest bid submitted by the three private companies also competing for the contract. Until this date, contracts had been awarded to private companies for the production of stamps. Despite loud protests that the Bureau was not capable of producing the stamps, they were awarded the contract.
The BEP used the same dies previously used by the American Bank Note Company for their first series of stamps, but made small changes to them so the stamps could be distinguished from the previous issues. The BEP printed its first postage stamps on July 1, 1894. The very first stamp produced by the BEP was #256, the 6¢ Garfield, issued less than three weeks later on July 18.
That stamp marked the start of the First Bureau Issue. Throughout 1894, the BEP would print stamps in 13 more denominations, though some color differences and slight changes to the printing plates resulted in several varieties of some of the stamps. The following year, the BEP printed the same designs on double-line watermarked paper, to help prevent counterfeiting.
Soon, the BEP began producing most US postage stamps. In the coming years, there were several major milestones. The BEP produced its first coil stamps in 1908, first used the rotary press in 1914, and began experimenting with electronic controls in the perforating process. During World War II, the BEP produced Allied military stamps that were used in Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. The BEP printed its first full-color stamp on the Giori Press (#1094) in 1957.
For about 75 years, the BEP produced nearly all US postage stamps (except for the 1943 Overrun Countries printed by the American Bank Note Company). This began to change in the late 1960s when the US Post Office began issuing contracts to private security printers. BEP stamp production dropped significantly, to less than 50% of all stamps in 1997. The last BEP-produced stamp was #3632, printed for the last time on June 10, 2005.