1909 5¢ Washington
Earliest Known Use: May 18, 1910
Quantity issued: 4,000 (estimate)
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Like so many of the other stamps in the Washington-Franklin Series, this variety came about because of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s desire to create a better product. One of the main problems the Bureau was encountering was paper shrinkage. Since the stamps were wet printed they would shrink as the paper dried, causing irregular and “off center” perforations, which resulted in a considerable amount of waste.
To combat the problem, the Bureau changed the composition of the paper by adding 35% wool rag to the wood pulp. Although stamps printed on this paper are known for having a bluish tint, the best way to check them is to examine the gum on the back. When compared with ordinary stamps, the yellow gum gives the stamp a grayish tone. Of the eight denominations printed on this new paper, the 6¢ orange and the 10¢ yellow are the easiest to distinguish, while the 13¢ blue-green is the hardest to locate and also the most desirable.
Since this paper was purely experimental and was not considered a new variety by the Postal Department, the stamps were simply distributed in their usual manner. Thus, the majority issued were used and lost to collectors, making these stamps quite scarce. Because there was a small demand for the 15¢ ultramarine issue (the highest denomination printed on this experimental paper), this stamp is the easiest to obtain.