By Henry Gitner & Rick Miller
Official mail stamps are for use on official correspondence from an authorized department of government, governmental agency, or international organization. They usually serve as an accounting tool to determine how much another government department or entity should reimburse the post office department for mail use. They are not valid for postage on private or commercial mail. The United States issued its first Official stamps in 1873.
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Many U.S. collectors turn to Official stamps once they have gone as far as they can in regular postage and airmail issues. Market interest in U.S. classic Official stamps has remained fairly constant. The early engraved stamps have the same appealing design and production values as classic postage stamps.
Look for the 1873 Department of the Interior 1¢ vermilion Benjamin Franklin Official mail stamp (Scott O15). The 2017 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers values the stamp in unused original gum condition at $75. The margins are generally small on this issue, and finding examples in the grade of very fine can be a challenge. It is a good buy at Scott catalog value when you find one.