Philosateleia
Kevin Blackston
PO Box 17544
San Antonio TX 78217-0544
United States of America

1908–22 Washington-Franklins

At first glance, the third Bureau issue, commonly referred to as the Washington-Franklins, looks simple. The same frame was used for all values of $1 or below, and only two subjects—George Washington and Benjamin Franklin—were featured in the vignettes. Nevertheless, multiple dies, perforation gauges, and watermark varieties were used, making this arguably the most complex stamp series the United States has ever produced.

The first of the Washington-Franklins were issued in 1908 on paper watermarked with a double-line “USPS” and perf. 12, while a change to a single-line watermark in 1910 created an additional subset.

Green 1-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Red 2-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington
Olive 8-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington
Yellow 10-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington

In 1912, the 1¢ and 2¢ designs were reworked to replace the spelled out values with numerals, making them consistent with the rest of the series. In addition, George Washington replaced Benjamin Franklin on the 1¢ stamp, while Franklin’s portrait replaced Washington’s on all stamps with face values of 8¢ and up.

Green 1-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington
Red 2-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington

Next, stamps were produced perf. 10. Soon after, the post office switched to unwatermarked paper for postage stamps while keeping the same perforation gauge.

Olive 8-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin

Beginning in 1917, stamps were issueded perf. 11, which became the new standard for stamps printed from flat plates.

Brown 4-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington
Blue 5-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington
Orange 6-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington
Salmon 9-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Yellow 10-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Blue green 11-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Claret 12-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Gray 15-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Blue 20-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Orange 30-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Purple 50-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin

During World War I, stamps were printed on offset presses, leading to yet more varieties of the 1¢–3¢ stamps.

Purple 3-cent U.S. postage stamp picturing George Washington
George Washington

$2 and $5 stamps picturing Franklin were also introduced for packages needing large amounts of postage.

Red & black $2 U.S. postage stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin

Several values were produced in coils throughout the entire time span, and several different perforation gauges can be found on those, some of which are scarce. In addition, some values from the series were issued imperforate so that private vending machine manufacturers could create their own coils.

Finally, specialists identify various types of the 2¢ and 3¢ stamps that can be distinguished only by minor differences in the designs, along with a few other varieties that feature experimental paper and unusual perforation gauges.

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Published 2018-06-19 Last updated 2018-06-20