1914-16 2¢ Washington
Issue Date: June 30, 1914
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Rotary Press
U.S. #459 – the Only Imperforate U.S. Rotary Press Coil
U.S. #459 is the very first stamp produced by rotary press – and the only imperforate rotary press coil in U.S. postal history. The 2¢ Washington stamp was issued June 30, 1914, just two days after the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand. Ferdinand’s death set off a chain of events that led to World War I. As the winds of war swept across the globe, even sharp-eyed collectors failed to notice that a new stamp variety had been issued.
U.S. #459 was produced in a single printing, and a mere 21,000 stamps were issued. Most were privately perforated by the U.S. Automatic Vending Machine Company and used for commercial mailings in two New England states. Three full years passed before collectors realized the existence of this variety of the 1914 2¢ Washington stamp. Remarkably, two rolls of U.S. #459 had survived in mint condition – a roll of 500 stamps and another of 1,000.
The 1914-16 Rotary Press Coil Stamps
By 1914, the demand for coils had grown even greater. Once again, the Bureau was in search of a new method that would increase production and hopefully reduce costs at the same time. It was this need that prompted Benjamin Stickney, a mechanical expert at the Bureau, to develop the rotary press.
His invention, which utilized a continuous roll of paper to print the stamps, would eliminate the “paste-up” stage entirely, thus saving a great deal of time. This resulted in both an increase in production and lower operation costs. Having been tested successfully, the rotary press was adopted as the method for printing all coil stamps. These stamps were slightly larger in size than stamps printed on a flat bed press.
Eventually, the rotary press was used to print sheet stamps and booklet panes as well. By the mid-1920s, production rates had jumped from 1,000,000 stamps per day to nearly 6,000,000! Through the years, Mr. Stickney’s invention has proved to be one of the most productive pieces of equipment ever created by the Bureau. Today, with the exception of an operator and someone to transfer the stamps between various stages, modern machinery has nearly eliminated the need for human workers.