US Stamps

Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale ½¢ stamps

Feb 12, 2024, 11 AM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

Two United States Nathan Hale stamps have been issued.

In 1925, the flat plate version of the ½¢ stamp (Scott 551), perforated gauge 11 by 11, appeared as part of the 1922 definitive series. When the series was converted to rotary press printing, the Nathan Hale stamp was issued again in 1929, perforated gauge 11 by 10½ (Scott 653). In Figure 1, Scott 551 is shown on the left, and 653 on the right.

The Nathan Hale stamps are featured in my thematic collection of intelligence and espionage on stamps. The reason is that he was the only volunteer when Gen. George Washington asked for someone to take on an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City to report on British troop movements.

About two weeks later, Hale was captured by the British and sentenced to death by hanging. It is said that his last words were, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” There is only a second-hand report of this statement, but it is believed to be authoritative.

Whether precisely accurate or not, it has passed into history as his true sentiment, and Hale has been accorded hero status.

My collection includes covers franked with the stamps, and I recently found the cover shown in Figure 2. This 1939 special delivery cover was paid entirely by rotary press-printed Nathan Hale stamps: 26 of them. They pay the first-class rate of 3¢, plus the 10¢ special delivery charge.

Can a Linn’s reader report a cover from the same period with more than 26 Nathan Hale stamps? If so, I would be happy to feature it in a future column. Drop me a line at, or by mail at Box 1125, Falls Church, VA 22041-0125.

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