Series of 1861-62 5¢ Jefferson
Earliest Known Use: August 19, 1861
Quantity issued: 175,000 (estimate)
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Method: Flat plate
While mail between the North and South decreased during the war, there was an overall increase in volume as soldiers and their families communicated with each other. The 5¢ Jefferson stamp satisfied the registry fee.
The issue quantity of the 5¢ Jefferson stamp ranges from an estimate of 175,000 to 600,000. All were printed from a single plate in a pale shade of buff. Sound copies are scarce, as the paper is brittle and susceptible to cracking. Heavy cancellations against the light ink make attractive examples challenging to find.
The Series of 1861-62
In 1860 and 1861, eleven Southern states left the Union and formed the Confederate States of America, an action that resulted in the beginning of the Civil War. On April 12, 1861, the war erupted at Fort Sumter. Less than two months later, the United States discontinued postal services to the South. However, numerous stamps were still in the hands of postmasters of seceding states. Fearing that these stamps would be sent to the North and sold (thus providing money for the Confederate states) the United States sent a proclamation to all postmasters, requesting that the remainders be sent to Washington. When this order was largely ignored, the government made arrangements for designing new issues and demonetizing the old issues.
The process of demonetizing rendered the old stamps invalid, while at the same time replacing them with the newly designed stamps. The new 1861 stamps were sent to post offices along with a notice that required an exchange period of six days be announced in local newspapers. During the exchange period, old stamps could be exchanged for new ones. After the six-day exchange period, the old stamps were no longer accepted as postage.
While the designs and color of the new issues differed from the old ones, the Postal Service wanted to be certain there would be no confusion between the two. They felt a change that could be easily recognized was necessary, and so the 1861 issues have the values expressed in numerals instead of being written out.
The Confederates, concerned that the Federal Government would use the postal system to spread anti-Southern propaganda, quickly set up their own postal service.
On August 12, 1862, John Gault received a patent for a design to encase postage stamps to use as currency.
By early 1862, the US was fully engulfed in the Civil War. Many people began conserving their resources as they didn’t know how much longer the war might last. Among the most hoarded items of the day – coins.
Back in 1861, the US began printing paper notes to finance the war. Known as greenbacks (because the back sides were printed in green), they were initially redeemable in coins, but as the war raged on, they became merely promises of the US government to pay. Since the notes had no metal money behind them as security, people began to hoard their gold and silver coins.
By 1862, greenbacks were being used more frequently, as coins disappeared from circulation. Eventually, small change vanished completely, and greenbacks were the only currency being used. Since much of what people needed cost less than a dollar, they found themselves faced with an unusual dilemma: how to pay for things without using their precious coins. Soon people were buying a dollar’s worth of stamps and using them as change instead. But the resulting wear and tear made it difficult for postal clerks to tell unused stamps from those that had been washed for reuse.
Eventually, the government officially acknowledged the use of postage stamps as payment. On July 17, 182, they passed a law that would allow postage stamps to be used to pay off debts to the government under $5. As stamps became an accepted form of currency, several new ideas developed.
Among those looking for a solution was businessman John Gault. On August 12, 1862, he received a patent for a “Design for Encasing Government Stamps” to be used as currency. His design would encase the stamps and protect them from wear.
The back portion of the quarter-sized encasement was made of brass. A layer of cardboard padding and the stamp were placed on the frame then covered with a thin sheet of clear mica. A frame of brass fit over the invention to secure it. This enabled stamps to be passed like coins, without destroying them. The stamps used in encased postage were the 1¢, 3¢, 5¢, 10¢, 12¢, 24¢, 30¢, and 90¢ stamps from the 1861 issue.
Soon, companies were imprinting messages on the back part of the frame. Stores and manufacturing companies such as Ayer’s Pills, Burnett’s Cooking Extracts, and Lord & Taylor began impressing their name and product on the back of the metal frame and began using them for advertising. At least 30 different companies took advantage of this new advertising tool.
Gault wasn’t the only one looking for a solution, however. Not long after he patented his invention, the government issued postage currency on August 21, 1862. They also issued fractional currency and began producing more brass and copper-nickel coins in 1863, reducing the need for Gault’s encased postage. In spite of this, encased postage was quite popular. According to Scott Catalogue, about $50,000 in encased postage was sold during the war – about 750,000 pieces. They estimate only about 3,500 to 7,000 might still exist today.