By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller
Telegraph stamps are quite popular with collectors in many countries. This is especially true of countries where the telegraph system was owned and operated by the government, and just like the postage stamps, the telegraph stamps were issued by the government.
Such was not the case in the United States, because the telegraph systems were privately owned, and the telegraph stamps were private issues. Most of the stamps were given as free franks to high-ranking railroad and newspaper companies that did a lot of business with the telegraph.
Some were sold at a discount to mid-level officials of the same companies, and some were sold at face value to the general public. Most U.S telegraph stamps are far more common in unused condition than in used condition.
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U.S. telegraph stamps have a small but dedicated following. They are listed alphabetically by the name of the company that issued them in the back-of-the-book section of the 2017 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, after savings stamps and before essays.
Telegraph stamps run the gamut from very expensive to quite affordable. A good place to start is with the 1891 Commercial Union Telegraph Co. commutation telegraph stamp (Scott 8T2). The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog values the stamp in unused condition at $35, and it is a good buy at that price.