1935 5¢ Yellowstone
National Parks Issue
Special Printing of 1935
Issue Date: March 15, 1935
First City: Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 1,724,576
1935 Special Printings and “Farley’s Follies”
In 1935, twenty stamps were reissued. These stamps are Scott #752-71. As a group, these stamps are known as “Farley Special Printings,” and were the result of the biggest stamp scandal of all time – “Farley’s Follies.”
This story begins with the issue of the 1933 Newburgh Peace commemorative, Scott #727. U.S. Postmaster General James A. Farley removed several first-run sheets of #727 from the printing presses before they were gummed or perforated, and autographed them. He gave these stamps to President Franklin Roosevelt, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, the President’s secretary Louis Howe, various Post Office Department officials, and each of his children. Farley continued this practice with other new stamp issues.
These ungummed and imperforate stamps were not available to the public – Farley was creating precious philatelic rarities and distributing them to his boss and friends!
Needless to say, the philatelic community was outraged. However, when a New York City stamp dealer declared he had a sheet of 200 ungummed, imperforate Mother’s Day stamps signed by the Postmaster General for sale, and that he had insured them for $20,000.00, the general public was upset as well. It was estimated that 160 of Farley’s special sheets had been distributed... at $20,000.00 a sheet that meant a total value of $3,200,000.00!
A recall was suggested, but deemed impossible. Finally, the Post Office came up with a solution – the reissue in sheet form of all the stamps issued since March 4, 1933, in ungummed condition, all but the first two imperforate and in sufficient numbers to satisfy public demand!
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park has the proud distinction of being the oldest national park in the world. The vast majority of Yellowstone lies in Wyoming, although it stretches into Idaho and Montana. This gigantic park covers 2,200,000 acres, which include deep canyons, majestic waterfalls, pristine lakes, dense forests, and vast meadows. The park has more geysers and hot springs than any other area in the world. These include Old Faithful, which sends a 100-foot stream of boiling water into the air about every 73 minutes. Yellowstone also has the distinction of being the largest wildlife preserve in the United States. Bears, bison (buffalo), elk, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, moose, cougars, and white pelicans are among the many animals that enjoy the park’s pristine environment.
Yellowstone’s landscape was formed by a series of ancient volcanic eruptions. More recently, glaciers covered the area – the last ones melted about 10,000 years ago. The U.S. government obtained the area in 1803, as part of the Louisiana Purchase. A member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, John Colter, was probably the first white person to see the area. In 1872, Congress established this first national park, to protect its unusual features and resources. The National Park Service was created in 1916, in part, to manage Yellowstone.
What are Farley’s Follies?
Farley’s Follies is one of stamp collecting’s most interesting stories. And since most of the stamps are readily available and inexpensive, it’s easy enough to put a specialized collection together. Let’s step back in time and discover one of the Postal Service’s biggest scandals…
James A. Farley (1888-1976) got his start in politics in 1911 as town clerk of Grassy Point, New York. He moved his way through the political system, forming the Upstate New York Democratic Organization and bringing many upstate voters to the Democratic party. In 1924, he met young Franklin Roosevelt at the Democratic National Convention. Four years later, FDR asked Farley to run his campaign for New York governor. Farley helped FDR win the elections for governor in 1928 and 1930. A driving force in the US political system, Farley helped FDR win the 1932 and 1936 presidential elections. Roosevelt made Farley his Postmaster General. Farley was pivotal in turning around the US Post Office Department. He helped the department finally turn a profit and revolutionized airmail service.
The infamous “Farley’s Follies” controversy began in 1933 when Farley removed several stamp sheets from the printing presses before they were gummed or perforated. He autographed these sheets (which were not available to the public) and gave them to colleagues and family, creating precious philatelic rarities. Stamp collectors were outraged when they discovered what had happened. Finally, the Post Office came up with a solution – the reissue in sheet form of all the stamps issued since March 4, 1933, in ungummed condition, all but the first two imperforate and in sufficient numbers to satisfy public demand. Although Farley and FDR had a falling out over Roosevelt’s plan to run for a third term, Farley remained a strong force in the political and business worlds. He went on to serve as Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation and served as a trusted advisor to several Popes, dignitaries, and Presidents until his death in 1976.
Farley’s Follies are Scarce and Valuable Collectibles
The British stamp firm Gibbons reportedly declared the reprint was “nauseous prostitution,” and at first refused to list the issues in their famous stamp catalog! But even today, over 80 years after they were issued, collectors still love Farley’s Follies.
“Farley’s Follies” were issued in large sheets that are way too big to fit in stamp albums. So smart collectors snapped up blocks and pairs in a variety of formats instead. They not only fit, but these key formats are an easy way to understand the stamp printing process.
Mystic purchased full sheets of these mint stamps and made them available in scarce formats like vertical, horizontal and gutter pairs plus arrow blocks, line pairs and cross gutter blocks. All are hard to find – some occur only once in every stamp sheet. It’s a neat way to own a scandalous slice of US postal history.