The Amazing One-Cent Issue of 1851 -- A Quick-Study Guide

Larry Volovsky -- Valley Magazine - May 1, 2000
  A die proof of the One-Cent stamp
which clearly shows the entire
reprinted with permission

When the bank note engravers at Philadelphia's Toppan, Carpenter, Casi-lear & Co.assumed the contract to produce the second issue of U.S. definitive stamps in 1851, in some ways they encountered problems previously unknown to them. For in designing stamps that were far more intricate and elaborate in content than America's first issue done by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson in 1847, they immediately encountered difficulties in properly and completely transferring the engraved design to plates. Not only that, but since the One and Three-Cent values were to be more widely used and, thus, printed in large quantities, multiple plates had to be made and, after much use, these same plates had to be re-engraved for further printings.

The result, of course, turned out to be a bonanza for future philatelic specialists. The constant necessity for reworking the various steel plates of the One and Three-Cent 1851 issues created a plethora of printing and plate variations that have been the delight of stamp students for decades. Note that these problems were inherent with the use of the harder surface of steel plates, as opposed to copper. Among these many printing plate varieties are not only some of our country's great classic rarities (i.e., Scott No. 5, Plate No. 7R1E), but numerous more common varieties that can be pursued by virtually any stamp collector.

These problems experienced by the Toppan firm are the key reason why they eventually lost the contract to produce U.S. stamps. For instance, the only Type of this stamp that shows the entire design is Scott No. 5, the rare Position No. 7R1E.

The varieties of Types and their catalog-listed subvarieties were caused by Relief Trimming (altering the design by trimming away lines on the transfer roll used to place the designs onto plates), Short Transfers (insufficiently transferring the full design to the plate), Re-Cutting (reinforcing the stamp designs after they have been entered onto the plates), and Erasure (removing parts of a design after it's on the plate).

Shown with this article are the Types of the One-Cent 1851 imperforate issue.

There are variations to these types on the 1857 perforated issue, but by becoming familiar with the 1851 Types one has a very good introduction to understanding all Types of this stamp.

Using this guide and a magnifier to examine your 1851 One-Cent stamps, you will soon easily be able to determine not only their Types, but their catalog numbers, as well.

What's A "7R1E"?

Stamps of this series were printed on five steel plates-1E (Early) 1L (Late), 2, 3, and 4-containing two panes (right and left) of 100 subjects each.

In order that each stamp on a plate can be identified in regard to its position on that plate, the stamps are numbered 1 through 100 beginning at the upper left position. Thus, the first stamp on the third line (each line containing 10 stamps) is Position 30. The next to the last stamp on the tenth line is Position 99.

Therefore, Scott No. 5 (Position 7R1E) is translated to be the 7th stamp on the Right Pane of Plate No. 1 in its Early state.

Stanley B. Ashbrook

Illustrations shown here are the intricate, carefully-executed drawings of the late Stanley B. Ashbrook, the renowned philatelic classicist who is respected as the preeminent authority on the One-Cent Stamp of 1851-57. His book on this subject, published in 1938 by H.L. Lindquist Publications, continues today as the fountainhead of historic studies made on this issue.

TYPE I-7R1E

The only Type that shows the full design. Only one stamp out of a possible 1,000 plate positions is this type. Scrolls and outer lines complete. Full curved line outside labels. Little balls at lower left and right complete.

TYPE IA

Same as Type I at bottom, but top ornaments and outer line at top are partly cut away.

TYPE IB

Shown here: Position 8R1E, the best example of this rare type. Other less distinct examples are 3-5, 9R1E. Same as Type I, but balls below the bottom label are not so clear. The plume-like scrolls at bottom are not complete.

TYPE IC

Same as Type IA, but bottom right plume and ball ornament is incomplete. The bottom left plume is complete or almost complete.

TYPE II

The tiny little balls of the bottom scrolls and the bottom of the lower plume ornaments are missing. However, the side ornaments on the design are complete.

TYPE III

Top and bottom curved lines outside the labels broken in the middle. Side ornaments are complete.

TYPE IIIA

Similar to Type III with the outer line at top or bottom broken, but not both. Type IIIA on Plate 4 shows signs of plate erasure between the horizontal rows. Those from Plate 1E show only a tiny break in the line at top or bottom.

Type IV

Similar to Type II, but curved lines outside the labels recut at top or bottom or both.



Catalog Identification Guide
for all known types of the One-Cent Issues
Scott No.
Type
Description
5
Type I

imperf

5A
Type Ib

imperf

18
Type I

perf 15 1/2

6
Type Ia

imperf

6b
Type Ic

imperf

19
Type Ia

perf 15 1/2

19b
Type Ic

perf 15 1/2

7
Type II

imperf

20
Type II

perf 15 1/2

8
Type III

imperf

8A
Type IIIa

imperf

21
Type III

perf 15 1/2

22
Type IIIa

perf 15 1/2

9
Type IV

imperf

23
Type IV

perf 15 1/2

24
Type V

perf 15 1/2

Type V

perf 15 1/2

24b
Laid Paper


See a close-up view of the 1851 strip of three of plate positions 7, 8, 9R1E which franks the

PSE Library