US Stamps - the Rare and Famous

This history of US stamps is to take a walk through the rare, famous, and otherwise interesting philatelic issues of the United States over the past 165 years.

I'm still figuring out my plans for this page but am thinking it will basically be brief descriptions of interesting stamps with text links you can click for more details about each set.

This will be a work in progress and I'll be updating this page with whatever catches my interest or to respond to requests for particular issues.

The First Stamps Issued by the United States

US Stamps first issue - 5 cent Franklin
US Stamps first issue - 10 cent Washington

US Stamps First Issue (click for more details) :

Scott #1 and Scott #2 -Issued in July, 1847

One of the most beloved and studied of all sets, these were issued in response to the burgeoning need for a consolidated postal service.

With designs of Ben Franklin and George Washington on the 5 and 10 cent issues respectively, a 1/2 ounce piece of mail could be shipped up to 300 miles for a nickel and over 300 miles for a dime.

The Trans-Mississippi U.S. Stamps of 1898

US Stamps #292 $1 Cattle in the Storm
US Stamps #293 $2 Trans-Mississippi

The Trans-Mississippi Commemorative Stamps :

This may be my favorite set of all. There is an interesting history stemming from fact that these were issued during the aftermath of the Depression triggered by the panic of 1893. In 1898, the country was still recovering and most Americans had little disposable money so few of the high value stamps were bought and stored away by collectors.

This struggling economy decreased demand and was compounded by a stamp collector community that thought these were a ploy by the USPS to generate income.

Sound familiar?

Times haven't changed too much in some respects but I'm not sure the beauty of this engraved set trumpeting exploration west of the Mississippi will ever be matched.

The $1 Cattle in the Storm and $2 Mississippi River Bridge issues now have hefty prices and are very difficult to find in high quality, faultless condition.

The Columbians of 1893

This One Dollar Columbian depicts Queen Isabella offering to pawn her royal jewels to pay for Columbus' expedition to sail west. Whether this ever happened is up for debate but the story has lived on for 5 centuries.

1893 US Stamps Columbians Issue :

This is the most popular of all United States stamps with collectors and the worth of a United States stamp collection is often determined by this set of stamps.  

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' sailing voyage this set is full of bright, colorful designs and offers many challenges to even the most advanced stamp collectors.

Large Banknote Stamps

Purple 90 cent Banknote stamps like this one were printed by the American Bank Note Company in 1888 and show a profile of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.

The large Banknote Stamps were issued by three private companies for about two decades from 1870 through 1888 and are a brilliant display of innovative colors.  

Many of the rarest of Banknotes can only be found if you become an expert in identifying the grills and subtle design and color differences to properly identify the stamps.  So it pays to know your stamps which is part of the reason many collectors love stamps from this time period.  

I have found most Banknotes misidentified in collections in the past but have yet to find the real rarity, a 24 cent grilled National Bank Note Company stamp and would love to hear any stories if you have!

The Zeppelin Stamps of the Great Depression

Graf Zeppelin US #C14 $1.30 Airmail Stamp

The Graf Zeppelins Airmail Stamps :

This set was issued in 1930 during the still nascent Great Depression and, as the depression intensified most stamps went unsold and nearly all of the Graf Zeppelins were destroyed.

This, combined with our love of flight and some exquisite designs, keep these Zeppelins in high demand...which really is just another way of saying these stamps can be difficult to find and expensive.

Return to the main Stamp Collecting page from this US Stamps page.

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