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.