Save on Classic U.S. #90 and #97
1868 12¢ Washingtons with E and F Grills
US #90 and #97 are nearly the same stamp – but the grills make all the difference. Both 12¢ stamps were issued in 1868, feature an engraving of President George Washington and were printed by the National Bank Note Company using Plate 16.
However, the US #90 and #97 stamps were given different “grills” and produced in different quantities. The grill patterns add to the scarcity and desirability of these stamps. Plus the story of this short-lived experiment is quite interesting.
What are Grills?
From 1867 to 1871 many US stamps went through a process designed to prevent removal of cancellations and the reuse of postage stamps. This was done with a machine invented by Charles F. Steele that produced an embossed grill on the stamp. The grill broke the paper’s fibers, allowing cancellation ink to thoroughly penetrate the paper, preventing the ink’s removal.
Several types of grills were used. Stamp collecting’s grill expert – William L. Stevenson – identified 11 different types, and categorized them using a letter system, A-J and Z. That’s why we refer to the grill on the #90 stamp as an E grill and on the #97 as an F grill.
Here’s how to tell the stamps apart:
E Grill – U.S. #90 F Grill – U.S. #97
Earliest known use: 3, 1868 Earliest known use: May 27, 1868
“E” grill size: 11mm x 13mm “F” grill size: 9mm x 13mm
Grill features 14 by 15-17 points Grill features 11-12 by 15-17 points
Points down Points down
Your Stamp May Have Been Mailed to England or France...
The most likely use for these 12¢ stamps was sending a letter to England, or with an additional 3¢ stamp, to send a letter to France. So when you take advantage of this opportunity and add #90 or #97 to your growing collection, you’ll get a stamp that probably carried a message overseas.
While we can’t know for sure what message these stamps carried, it was probably important – the 12¢ stamp was one of the highest values in use at the time. Once it was mailed, it was carried thousands of miles across the ocean (probably by steamship) and finally to its destination. This was quite a process when compared to today’s era of overnight delivery and e-mail!
Now you have the chance to write the next chapter in the story of these special stamps. By making them a part of your stamp collection you’ll ensure their preservation for future stamp collectors – just like earlier generations of collectors did for us. What a wonderful tradition.