US Stamps

By John M. Hotchner

The United States Stamp Society: a matchless resource for collectors

June 26, 2015 04:19 PM

  • This selection of 1908-22 Third Bureau issue stamps, also known as the Washington-Franklins, poses many questions when it comes to stamp identification because of the numerous changes in production during this period. Help with resolving these problems and others relating to United States philately is available through membership in the United States Stamp Society.
  • This stamp was overprinted for a banquet of the Haverford Township (Pennsylvania) Stamp Club in 1941.
  • The cartoon caption contest for July is this 1976 stamp showing the drummer boy from Archibald M. Willard’s painting The Spirit of ‘76. Pick up the drumsticks and tell me what this young man might be thinking or saying. The rules to enter the contest are in the accompanying article. Entries must be received by e-mail or at Linn’s by July 27 for a chance to win a prize.

By John M. Hotchner

The deeper we United States stamp collectors get into our hobby, the more questions we have about how to tell the difference between various face-similar stamps.

This can include how to tell booklet stamps from sheet stamps, how to determine watermarks or die-cut types, how to measure perforations, how to identify flat-plate products versus rotary press printed stamps, or any of a dozen other problems that U.S. stamp collectors often need to solve.

Many of these questions come together with the Third Bureau issue of 1908-22. Because these stamps show Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, this issue has been nicknamed the Washington-Franklins.

The 14 years of the Washington-Franklins were a period of changes in technology and experimentation at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Also, the volume of mail was increasing, and unprecedented numbers of stamps were needed at more and more U.S. post offices.

The Bureau struggled to produce more stamps with less waste in formats, especially booklets and coils, that had seen little use before.

In this period, which began with double-line “USPS” watermarked, perf. 12 sheet stamps, there were changes to a single-line “USPS” watermark and then no watermark; changes from flat plate to rotary productions; and adjustments in perforations to perf. 10, then perf. 11, with a generous smattering of perforation combinations.

And these are only some of the changes.

Despite the efforts by the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers to untangle these sometimes confusing stamps, collectors often need additional help.

I would like to recommend the United States Stamp Society as a good source of assistance. The society describes itself on its website as a “non-profit, volunteer-run association of collectors to promote the study of the philatelic output of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and of postage and revenue stamped paper produced by others for use in the United States and U.S. administered areas.”

The society is almost 90 years old, beginning as the Philatelic Plate Number Association in 1926, changing its name to the Bureau Issues Association in 1930 and incorporating as a nonprofit organization in 1938. In 2000, the name was changed to the United States Stamp Society.

The society has many excellent publications, but the jewel of membership is the monthly United States Specialist, which covers all aspects of U.S. stamps with a focus on issues since stamp production was transferred to the BEP in 1894.

The society also publishes research papers, makes available copies of members’ U.S. exhibits and sponsors 18 committees and study groups.

More than that, though, the people who write the articles for the U.S. Specialist, and those who work in the committees and study groups, are willing to help other collectors — through e-mail, letters or in person at stamp shows — to gain a deeper understanding of U.S. philately.

All in all, the United States Stamp Society is a tremendous resource. I have been a member for more than 40 years and have derived much information, but even more enjoyment, from the publications and from contact with other serious U.S. stamp collectors.

Membership is $25 per year. Membership applications are available from executive secretary Larry Ballantyne, Box 6634, Katy, TX 77491-6634; by e-mail at execsecretary@usstamps.org; or at the aforementioned website.

Haverford update

The stamp shown nearby, overprinted “Haverford Twp. Stamp Club, February 19, 1941,” previously was pictured in the U.S. Stamp Notes column of Oct. 20, 2014.

After reading that column, Stan Sandler, vice president of the Havertown (Pennsylvania) Stamp Club, wrote to me, recommending that I talk to longtime club member Al Hopkinson.

Hopkinson told me that the overprint was done for a club banquet held at the Viking Inn on Westchester Pike, and that the overprinted stamp was placed on a flyer about the event.

He added that the club overprinted a couple of dozen other stamps during the same era.

Hopkinson said he sold his collection of these stamps some time ago, but hopes that other examples still remain in existing collections. Me too!

Cartoon Contest

As a nation, the United States is fond of saying that our youth are our future. This truism is no less accurate for earlier generations.

So, because we have just finished celebrating July 4th, it might be interesting to think about what the youth of our Revolutionary War years were thinking about their future and the future of the young nation.

For that reason, I have chosen the 13¢ Drummer Boy (Scott 1629) from the American Bicentennial issue for the July cartoon caption contest. This stamp was issued Jan. 1, 1976, in a strip of three. The other two stamps picture the old drummer and the fifer from the painting Spirit of ‘76, by Archibald M. Willard.

Pick up the drumsticks and put yourself in this 1776 scene Then consider what you as a 15-year-old might be thinking or saying about the future of the United States, its expectations, how the post office might work, the bedrock elements that you would want to see established for the new government, or anything else that tickles your fancy.

Two prizes will be given. One each for the best philatelic and nonphilatelic line.

The important thing is to use your sense of humor, because entries with a humorous twist have the best chance of winning a prize.

Put your entry (or entries) on a postcard if possible and send it to me, John Hotchner, Cartoon Contest, care of Linn’s Editor, Box 4129, Sidney, OH 45365; or e-mail it to jmhstamp@verizon.net. Be sure to include your mailing address.

For each winner, the prize will be the book Linn’s Stamp Identifier, published by Linn’s (a retail value of $12.99), or a 13-week subscription to Linn’s (a new subscription or an extension). To be considered for a prize, entries must reach Linn’s no later than July 27.

Why not enter now while you’re thinking about it?