US Stamps

Sorting out the markets for 3¢ 1851 George Washington stamps

Apr 28, 2021, 8 AM
The 1851 imperforate 3¢ orange-brown George Washington stamps (Scott 10 and 10A) are typically the most frequently misidentified United States stamps in collections.

Stamp Market Tips — By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

On July 1, 1851, the U.S. Post Office Department issued an imperforate 3¢ orange-brown George Washington stamp (Scott 10). Several years ago, the editors of the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers broke the issue down into type I (Scott 10) and type II (Scott 10A). 

At the same time, the editors also broke into two types the imperforate 3¢ dull red George Washington stamp (Scott 11 and 11A), the 3¢ rose George Washington stamp perforated gauge 15½ (Scott 25 and 25A), and the 3¢ dull red George Washington stamp perforated gauge 15½ (Scott 26 and 26A).

The type I stamp (Scott 10) in used condition is much scarcer than the type II stamp (Scott 10A). This is not adequately reflected in their respective 2017 Scott U.S. Specialized catalog values: $190 for type 1 and $150 for type II.

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A bigger problem is that  the orange-brown 3¢ Washington stamp (Scott 10) is about the most frequently misidentified stamp in U.S. collections. 

In the thousands of U.S. collections that we have viewed over the years, almost all have a misidentified dull red stamp (Scott 11 or 11A) in the space for the orange-red stamp. Only very advanced collectors and serious students are at all likely to get it right.

When selecting a Scott 10 or 10A, most collectors are happy to settle for a three-margin example. True four-margin stamps with unprinted margin all around are very difficult to find, because there is little margin between the stamps to work with. 

Three-margin examples are a good buy at 50 percent to 65 percent of Scott catalog value. True four-margin examples are easily worth full Scott catalog value or more, depending on the size and balance of the margins.