US Stamps

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

A Benjamin Franklin overprint you should be looking for

December 19, 2016 05:00 PM

  • The 1898 U.S. 1¢ green Benjamin Franklin revenue stamp overprinted “I. R.” in red ink with sans serif letters and rectangular periods (Scott R153) is hard to find in grades of very fine or better, especially in used condition.

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

In 1898, United States 1¢ green Benjamin Franklin postage stamps were overprinted “I. R.” in red ink for use as revenue stamps. 

The overprint comes in different settings and with different fonts. The letters of the overprint stand for Internal Revenue. These provisional stamps filled the gap until new general revenue stamps could be designed and printed in sufficient numbers to meet demand.

The stamps were required to show payment for a flurry of new taxes passed by the War Revenue Act of 1898, paying for the expense of fighting the Spanish-American War. The act provided for taxes on a wide range of goods and services, including amusements, liquor, tea, and tobacco. It also called for taxes on documents for business transactions including bills of lading, manifests, and marine insurance. 

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The 1¢ stamp overprinted with sans serif letters and rectangular periods is listed in the 2017 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers as R153. The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog values the stamp at $5 in unused original gum condition and at $2.75 in used condition. 

This is not a particularly difficult stamp to find in grades of fine-very fine or lower. It can be difficult to find in grades of very fine or better, especially in used condition. If you find one strictly graded as VF in unused original gum or used condition at Scott catalog value, it would be a very good buy.