1917-19 2¢ Washington
Type I and Ia
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing experimented with the master dies while producing the 2¢ Series of 1917-19 Washington. But the vast majority of stamps for this issue (U.S. #499) were printed on the regular master plates (Type I). They were produced in great quantities, as they fulfilled the domestic first class mail rate.
U.S. #500 was the result of an experiment on the flat plate issue of the 2¢ Washington with 11 gauge perforation. Type I master dies were beginning to wear out, so another die was produced by taking a particularly strong impression of a Type I and entering 10 subjects. A new transfer roll was then created. The result was an increase in pressure that produced a notable difference (Type 1a). Quantities of U.S. #500 are scarce – particularly for well-centered stamps.
Flat Plate, Perf. 11
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing continued to use the 10 gauge perforation machines on flat plate stamp sheets even after the successful introduction of 11 gauge perfs. The state of war in Europe made money and resources scarce. Eventually, the 10 gauge rollers wore out, and stamps produced on flat plate presses were given 11 gauge perfs.
That marked the beginning of the flat plate, perforated 11 Series of 1917-19 stamps. Perf 12 had proven too flimsy, perf 10 had proven difficult to separate without damaging the stamp, so perf 11 was the solution.
The Series of 1916-22 2¢ Washington Type I stamps had several distinguishing features: a pronounced white line underneath Washington’s ear, and the bottom two strands of hair behind his ear are shorter than the ones above it. Other features are often less distinct than found on Type II or Type III dies.
The increased pressure with the experimental roll made the engraved lines of the designs appear deeper and wider, as if they had been re-cut. Washington’s toga button in particular appears much more defined on Type Ia stamps. The color is a deep rose carmine and centering is frequently quite poor. Overall detail is notably clearer than on Type I stamps.