By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller
Official stamps came about as a result of the Act of Congress of March 3, 1873, which abolished the franking privilege. Stamps for each department of the federal government were issued July 1, 1873.
The first Official stamps were printed by the Continental Bank Note Co. on thin, hard paper. In 1879, the contract for printing Official stamps passed to the American Bank Note Co.
The stamps produced by the American Bank Note Co. were sometimes in slightly different shades of color from the 1873 printings, and they were on soft porous paper.
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The 1879 Official stamp issues on soft porous paper can be surprisingly difficult to find. The Justice Department 3¢ bluish purple George Washington Official stamp (Scott O106) is a good example.
Misidentification is a common problem. The shade of purple is more bluish than the 1873 stamp (Scott O27). The paper is thicker, with a clear weave visible when held up to a strong light. For soft porous paper examples, compare with the more common Scott O114-O117.
The 2017 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers values the stamp at $190 in unused original gum condition and at $125 in used condition.
Examples in grades of fine-very fine or better are hard to find in unused original gum condition and used condition. Examples in mint never-hinged condition are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Sound examples in unused original gum condition and in the grade of very fine are worth every bit of full Scott catalog values. Examples in the grade of F-VF bring 60 percent to 70 percent of Scott catalog value.