U.S. #547a Lake and Black
1920 $2 Franklin
Flat Plate Printing
Issue Date: November 1, 1920
Quantity Issued: 743,680
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat plate
Perforation: 11 gauge
Color: Lake and black
Once thought to be an error stamp, #547 has an interesting background. It played a prominent part in history immediately following World War I.
High-Value Stamps Were Used on Relief Packages
to Post-World War I Europe
The ravages of World War I caused a famine in Russia and threw the rest of Europe into disarray. In the United States, relief agencies as well as private individuals mailed food, clothing, machine parts and valuable Liberty Bonds to Europe. These packages were expensive to send by ship across the Atlantic and required high-value stamps. For this purpose new stamps were issued. On August 11, 1918, the $2 U.S. #523 was made available to the public.
A Fascinating Story –
Once Thought To Be a Color Error
On November 1, 1920, about two years after U.S. #523 was issued, the $2 stamp began appearing in a different color. The #523 stamp had previously been orange-red and black; the newer stamps were carmine and black. Stamp collectors believed they had found a new error! When philatelic writers inquired about the new color, they were informed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing “this stamp has always been this color.”
The Bureau investigated and discovered the earlier color had been the error. All communications between the Post Office Department and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing listed the newer stamp’s colors as carmine and black. No longer considered an error, the newer “correct” version of the stamp was given the Scott number 547.
Legendary stamp expert and author Max G. Johl stated in his classic United States Postage Stamps, 1902-1935, that due to the limited availability, the limited number issued, and the confusion concerning the stamp’s error status, “these stamps in mint condition will become very desirable in a short time....” This book was first published over 65 years ago!
Today #547 is probably undervalued. There were just 743,680 U.S. #547 stamps issued, which by modern standards is a very limited quantity. And because the stamp was soon replaced, it was not available for very long.