1906-08 2¢ Washington
Issue Date: October 2, 1906
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Issued in January 1903, the 2¢ Washington was severely criticized by the public. Printed in black ink on India paper, the proofs of this stamp were crisp and clear. After seeing these samples, a New York newspaper stated it was “the finest stamp ever produced.” However, when the actual stamp was printed on the softer stamp paper in red ink, the result was not as beautiful as anticipated. Many felt the overall design was poor, the portrait didn’t resemble Washington, and the stamp appeared too crowded.
Less than two months later, the Postmaster General decided to replace it with a newly designed stamp. Known as the “two-cent revised design,” U.S. #320 was released later that year featuring Washington framed by a modified U.S. shield. The new design, which went to the opposite extreme, was applauded by the public.
The 2¢ Washington stamps of 1906-08 were issued in both perforate and imperforate form. Like the 1¢ imperforate stamp, U.S. #320 was issued for the use of manufacturers of private vending machines. It was first issued in Chicago, leaving New York dealers unaware of its existence for a short time. This led to one of the most interesting stamp stories of the era.
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.