US Stamps

By Donna Houseman

Controversial U.S. 1917 30¢ orange will remain unchanged in Scott catalogs

July 01, 2015 10:28 AM

In the Spotlight on Philately column this month, Ken Lawrence presents a lengthy and fascinating history of the United States 30¢ orange Benjamin Franklin stamp of 1917 with gauge 10 perforations on unwatermarked paper. The unwatermarked 30¢ orange stamp has been surrounded by controversy since the first report of its existence appeared in late 1917.

Lawrence’s column was prompted by an article published in the May 2014 American Stamp Dealer & Collector magazine, published by the American Stamp Dealers Association. In the article, titled “Scott’s 476A High Watermark, or Believing in Ghosts,” the author, Kevin Lowther, reported that Professional Stamp Experts had certified a stamp as United States Scott 439 with watermark. PSE had examined the stamp using the Foster and Freeman Video Spectral Comparator and said they found a “very clear” watermark. That stamp was from a pane that previously had been certified by the Philatelic Foundation as a pane of unwatermarked 1917 30¢ orange stamps (Scott 476A). The conclusion drawn by PSE, Lowther and others is that the unwatermarked stamp is actually a watermarked 30¢ with just a hint of “S” of the “USPS” watermark visible.

Lawrence challenges this conclusion with convincing arguments, but stops short of saying that the “deniers,” as he refers to them, are wrong. Instead, he suggests that unbiased, controlled scientific analysis is needed.

Scott 476A was first listed in the 1973 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps. Until the 1991 edition of the catalog, the stamp was listed with dashes in the unused and used value columns. The 1991 edition valued an unused single in the grade of fine at $3,000 and a block of four at $12,500. The 2015 Scott U.S. Specialized catalog lists the stamp at $2,500 unused and $4,750 never hinged. In Vol. 1 of the Scott 2016 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, the values for this stamp decline somewhat: to $2,250 unused and $4,500 never hinged.

Until more conclusive evidence is presented, the Scott editors have no plans to reconsider the listing of No. 476A.

Make plans now for APS Stampshow in August

The American Philatelic Society’s annual Stampshow will take place Aug. 20-23 at the DeVos Place Convention Center, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, in the heart of Grand Rapids, Mich. The event is the largest annual stamp show in the United States.

Make your plans and reservations now. Show hotels sell out quickly.

Linn’s and Scott will be well-represented at booth 726, within close proximity of the United States Postal Service booth. I will be in attendance along with my Linn’s/Scott editorial colleagues Michael Baadke, Martin Frankevicz, Denise McCarty and Steven Myers. Amos Media sales representatives also will be on the show floor. Stop by our booth and say hello.

Linn’s editors and the Linn’s Advisory Board will discuss “The State of the Stamp Hobby” from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, in Room Overlook E. Mark this time slot on your calendar. You will hear more about this event and the Linn’s Advisory Board in the coming weeks.

We hope to see you at the show.