1906-08 5¢ Lincoln
Issue Date: May 30, 1908
Quantity issued: 13,500
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
If it weren’t for quick-acting members of the Detroit Philatelic Society, this rare stamp might have been lost to collectors forever. That’s because the 1908 five-cent Lincoln stamp was never intended for sale to the public.
U.S. #315 was intended for sale only to private companies, who would create a special perforated variety for use in their own coil vending machines. Only 13,500 of the stamps were issued, and 10,000 of those were sent to the Indianapolis Post Office for sale to those private companies.
However, a member of the Detroit Philatelic Society discovered the stamps were on sale to the public – in imperforate form – at the Indianapolis Post Office. He notified the club’s president of the Post Office’s mistake, and 825 mint copies were saved. Collectors also purchased approximately 350 copies at the Washington Post Office, and a full sheet of 400 in New York.
Experts believe that these 1,575 stamps saved by collectors were the only mint #315 stamps to survive. Some additional stamps were purchased (by non-collectors) and used for postage. The total number of known #315 stamps, including both mint and postally used stamps, is about 4,000 stamps. All the rest of the stamps received private perforations.
The Imperforate Stamps of 1906-08
When the 1¢ Franklin and 2¢ Washington were first issued imperforate, a scheming young man took advantage of the situation. At the time the stamps were first released, they were available only in Chicago. Seizing the opportunity to “make a quick buck,” he told New York dealers that, according to a friend who worked for the Postal Department, these sheets were an error and only a few had gotten out. Eager to own a rare and valuable error, the dealers snatched up the sheets for $10 to $25 apiece!
When the sheets came out in New York a few days later, they knew they’d “been had.” The sheets, containing 100 stamps, sold for a mere $2. One dealer sold his copies for $2.00 a block, with the statement, “it might be a scarce item or perhaps become a regular issue.”
In 1908, an imperforate 5¢ Lincoln was issued. Both stamps were issued imperforate to be used in the newly developed vending machines, which required special perforations. Private manufacturers of the machines would purchase the imperforate stamps and then apply their own perforations.