Are You Missing These 1918-20 Offset Printed Washington-Franklin Stamps?
The Washington-Franklins are among the most fascinating and challenging US stamps to collect. Issued between 1908 and 1922, they encompassed over 200 varieties, five different designs, two paper types, three printing methods, at least 14 perforations, several colors, and 20 denominations.
You can come one step closer to completing your Washington-Franklin collection with this convenient set of eight stamps. They were produced by offset printing to meet wartime demands…
The Switch to Offset Printing
Effective November 2, 1917, the first-class letter rate rose to 3¢, which greatly increased the demand for 3¢ stamps – and also for 1¢ stamps, to go with 2¢ stamps and stamped envelopes already purchased.
Operating at full capacity, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing found its ink to be of poor quality – probably due to difficult conditions during World War I. The ink contained so much grit that printing plates wore out in about 10 days, faster than it took to make them. So the Bureau switched temporarily to offset printing, for which plates could be produced much more rapidly. Later, a more satisfactory ink was found, and the higher quality engraving process used previously was re-established.
US #531 – This 1¢ Washington stamp was issued for use by private coil manufacturers. The only company still active at the time was Mail-O-Meter, which had evolved from the Schermack Company (and still used their vending machines).
US #532, 533, 534, 534A, 534B – The Series of 1918-20 2¢ Washington had five distinct types, resulting from five separate photo negatives used to create the offset sheets. Eight areas on the stamp design reveal the differences – left-hand numeral “2,” toga button, toga rope, upper lip, nose shading, ribbon detail, leaves detail, and shading on top of Washington’s head.
US #535 – The 3¢ stamp produced with Type IV plates of 400 subjects.
US #536 – This stamp was the result of an experiment by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The Bureau was testing the new Rossback perforating machine. The experiment failed, as nearly half the sheets had to be destroyed because of major perforating errors. An estimated 1,386,000 stamps were issued.