1901 1¢ Pan-American Commemorative
Issue Date: May 1, 1901
Quantity issued: 91,401,500
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Color: Green and black
This is the first in a series of six stamps commemorating the Pan-American Exposition held in Buffalo, New York. The Pan-American Exposition and World’s Fair was a celebration of technology and its impact on America. The expo was held from May 1 through November 1, 1901. The Pan-American commemoratives salute the marvel of the mechanical age. The stamps are so popular among modern collectors that all six denominations were selected to be included in 100 Greatest American Stamps – and each ranked in the top 50.
The 1¢ denomination emphasizes speed of travel with the design of a lake steamer, City of Alpena. Well-suited for inland waters, steamer boats replaced sailing ships on the water route during the mid-1800s. Steamers carried commercial freight and passengers throughout the 1,555-mile Great Lakes system, contributing to the growth of Buffalo and several other major cities along the route.
The Pan-American Commemoratives –
First New Stamps of the 20th Century
The Pan-American stamps were the first bi-colored commemoratives issued by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving (plans to print the 1898 Trans-Mississippi commemoratives in bi-color were scrapped after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War). They were also the first commemorative stamps of the 20th century, and the first bi-color stamps since the 1869 Pictorials.
The bi-color Pan-Americans were printed in two steps. In the first, the vignette (center design) was printed in black ink. The frame was then printed in a second color. This process made it very difficult for the printer to align the frame evenly. As a result, several stamps feature frames that aren’t aligned properly. Collectors nicknamed these varieties based on the relationship of the ship to the frame. Highly collectible, these stamps are known as the “fast,” “slow,” and “sinking” varieties.
Inverts were also created when the stamp sheet was fed incorrectly in the second step, causing the frame to be mistakenly printed upside down.