Questions and Answers

CSA Questions & Answers

7 JUL 2007

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Q 6 - I have not been able to find any real information about the CSA stamps that are showing up on E-Bay described as "Unissued Confederate Stamps." One looks like the 5c Jefferson Davis #6 but is a 10c value and is in various colors. The other looks like the 1c John C. Calhoun #14 but is a 2c value in green. I cannot find these stamps in my catalog. Can you tell us something about these stamps?

A 6 - This question has come up on a number of occasions. So I have decided to put down here for reference all that I know about these "stamps." To dispel any doubts, these stamps are NOT unissued true Confederate Stamps. To be considered an "unissued" CSA stamp implies that the stamp was printed on the authority of the CSA government but never used. Scott CSA #14 (the 1c John C. Calhoun yellow-orange) is the only true unissued CSA stamp. These "stamps" in question are known as private printings from the "Altered Plates" or sometimes referred to as "Private Proofs."

On 1 JUL 1862, the CSA discontinued the 5c rate. Therefore, there was no further need for 5c stamps. The CSA government asked that De La Rue in London supply plates for a 10c stamp. Since there was a severe time constraint implied, De La Rue in order to save time took the original die for the 5c Jefferson Davis stamp and simply changed the value tablet from 5c to 10c and constructed an altered plate of 400 subjects in 4 panes of 100.

Since there was no need for a 1c stamp as there was no 1c rate, the CSA government also asked De La Rue for a 2c plate. De La Rue did the same thing with the 1c John C. Calhoun stamp and changed the value tablet on the original die to 2c and constructed a second altered plate of 400 subjects in 4 panes of 100.

These two altered plates were shipped through the blockade to Richmond. De La Rue did not print any stamps from these plates. When the plates arrived in the Confederacy, they were shelved and never used by the CSA government. The CSA government never printed any stamps from these altered plates. There is no known specific reason why these plates were never used, but it is known that Postmaster General Reagan was committed to the use of engraved stamps. Since these plates were typographed and not engraved, that is most likely the reason that they were never used. These plates were thought to have been stored at the Archer & Daly printing facility in Atlanta, Ga and were captured by the North with the fall of Atlanta. Or they may have been in Richmond and captured with the fall of Richmond. It is not really known for sure.

The story goes that a federal soldier captured the 10c altered plate and cut the plate up into sections giving them as gifts to friends as a "rebel souvenir." Sections of this altered plate have long been known. In 1896, 500 sheets where known to have been printed in black with proof-like impressions from a section of 70 stamps which for many years was the largest known surviving section. Very recently two additional sections of the plate have since been discovered in private hands both full panes of 100. Now only one pane of 100 remains unaccounted for. Through the years, there have been many printings from various sections of the original plate. One of the ones most commonly seen is a block of 9. There have also been many facsimiles of the 10c altered plate stamp in various colors. They are today quite common and are very often found in older collections and are constantly turning up for sale in dealer's stocks and on places like E-Bay auctions where the seller is unaware of the true history.

The story involving the 2c altered plate is a bit different. After the war, this plate completely disappeared until it was found intact in 1926 by August Dietz. At this time, Dietz printed an unknown number of full sheets (probably 400-500 of 400 subject stamps per sheet) from the newly discovered plate. He printed these stamps in a deep emerald green color. These are very often seen today as blocks, gutters, and even full panes of 100 and full sheets of 400. Further later printings from this altered plate with a black proof-like impression were also made. Dietz did a second printing from the plate in 1955 for the Norfolk, Va APS Show. This later printing was in green, brown, and orange and is far different from Dietz' original emerald green printing. Many facsimiles of this altered plate stamp also exist in various colors. The plate still exists today. Bill Bogg, a prominent CSA dealer who died in the late 1980's, acquired the plate from the Dietz estate in the early 1960's along with a large number of sheets that Dietz had previously printed from the plate. Bogg had the plate made into a coffee table display. The next owner was a collector from Charlottesville, Va who acquired the plate privately from the Bogg estate in the late 1980's. He removed the plate from the coffee table setting and converted it into a hanging display. The plate was on public display at the Washington 2006 International show courtesy of the owner. Below is a photo of the plate taken in June 2006 at the Washington show. More photos of the show and the plate can be seen at Washington 2006 . The plate was privately sold again in early 2007, and the current owner is not known to me. The plate currently has a crack in it and it is unlikely that it will ever again be used to print sheets.

Close-up of the 2c Altered Plate

As recently as the late 1980's, printings from these altered plates were touted by some collectible dealers as being good investments guaranteed to appreciate. That is not true. Since the plates (or sections of the plates) still exist in private hands, more printings could theoretically be done at any time. The stamps from these altered plates have only a nominal value of $1.00 - $2.00 each.

The example on the left is a "Private Proof" printing in black from a well known Block of 9 section of the 10c Altered Plate. The example on the right is the right upper corner of a "Private Proof" printing of a complete sheet of 100 in black of the 2c Altered Plate. Below are a few examples of the 10c Altered Plate facsimiles. Many others also exist.

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