US Stamps

Interesting history behind Van Duzer revenue stamp

Apr 26, 2023, 8 AM
The United States 4¢ black S.R. Van Duzer revenue stamp for Mrs. S.A. Allen’s Hair Restorer (Scott RS249) showed payment of the tax on the product. The stamp also served as an advertisement for the product.

Stamp Market Tips by Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

Private die proprietary revenue stamps, known informally to collectors as match and medicine stamps, remain one of the most popular and active areas of revenue stamp collecting.

The Civil War brought about the institution of new taxes to pay for it. The taxes were in effect from 1862 to 1883. Private die proprietary revenue stamps were used to show payment of taxes on matches, proprietary medicines, perfumery and playing cards.

Manufacturers, at their own expense, could pay for engraved dies and plates for printing the revenue stamps. Those who did so received a discount from the government on the stamps printed.

Also, the manufacturers could and did use the stamp designs as advertisements for their products.

An interesting example is the 4¢ black S.R. Van Duzer revenue stamp for Mrs. S.A. Allen’s Hair Restorer (Scott RS249). Susan A. Allen was the wife of Dennis Allen, a dentist practicing in New York City.

She began marketing a hair-restoring potion in the 1840s. Around 1862, Selah R. Van Duzer acquired sole proprietorship of Mrs. Allen’s product. Van Duzer was a wholesale druggist operating out of New York City.

The hair restorer was a concoction of sulfur, acetate of lead, glycerin and water. The product continued to be marketed until around the turn of the 20th century.

The Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers values reasonably attractive examples in fine-very fine grade and used condition with minor faults on old paper (Scott RS249a) at $45, on silk paper (RS249b) at $40, and on paper watermarked double-line “USIR” at $210.

The stamp is a good buy at up to full Scott catalog values.

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