Scrutinizing This 1-cent Stamp Can Pay Big Dividends

Scrutinizing This 1-cent Stamp Can Pay Big Dividends

December 2018-AP-Cover
This column is featured on page 1166 of the current (December 2018) issue of The American Philatelist. APS members may view the entire column online or in the print edition. The monthly magazine is just one of the many benefits of membership in the American Philatelic Society. Learn more and become a member today:


One of the starkest examples of catalog value differences for a common U.S. stamp design is for the many 1-cent Benjamin Franklin stamps issued beginning in 1923 (design A155 in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers). In the last year alone, we have had nearly 300APEX brochure inquiries about stamps of this design, whether by email, phone, Quick ID or in formal submissions made to the American Philatelic Expertizing Service (APEX) for authentication.


All inquirers hope they have the next big find of one of the very valuable versions of this little 1-cent stamp, which can sell for prices in the low six figures. It’s a fact that there are unidentified rarities at large in the albums and stock books of the world, but it’s also a fact that genuine rarities are rare because there are few of them. Needless to say, most of those looking for a big payday actually have common stamps.

In this column, we will help you review these 1-cent Franklin stamps, to enable you to determine whether yours is worth having certified. The chart on page 1169 will provide some comparisons to be made for narrowing your possibilities:

One Cent Ben Franklin

120418_Figure 1 - Scott 552  271

The first inspection you should make is to look at the back of the stamp. If there are any green specks of ink, the stamp is a flat plate printing and therefore is Scott 552, the unwatermarked 1c Franklin issued January 17, 1923. The most common of all the “penny Franklin” stamps, more than four billion of these were issued. An example is shown in Figure 1.

120418_Figure 2a - 1923 1c (yellow) green Franklin horiz coil - Sc 597




Figure 2 shows the horizontal and vertical coil stamps, Scott 597 and Scott 604. These are not the expensive versions of this denomination, so you can eliminate coil stamps at this point ... (continued for APS members)

The entire column is available to APS members online and in the print edition.

Engage with us

Great American Stamp Show

Hartford, Connecticut | August 20-23, 2020