The stamp's central motif is a portrait of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, designed and engraved by Charles Ludwig of Hoyer & Ludwig. There is a wide range of shades of green among the issued stamps, which help distinguish the various printings of this first issue. There were 9,250,000 stamps printed from three different lithographic stones. They were printed on soft, porous, wove paper, and were imperforate. The most typical use is for the 5-cent rate (under 500 miles), although pairs are known used for the 10-cent rate (over 500 miles), and occasionally used for higher rates, which are very scarce.
Stone A or B: The earliest recorded date of use is October 16, 1861. Plate not completed, therefore size of the plate is unknown. These stones had imprints. Printings from this stone are characterized by their uniform olive green color and the best quality of the three stones with sharp clear impressions. There are no minor colors. Distinctive marks are few and minute.
Stone 1: The earliest recorded date of use is October 18, 1861. Plating completed. The stamps were printed in sheets of two hundred, panes of one hundred, and a transfer stone of fifty without imprint. A number of constant, recurring varieties occur on the fifty-subject transfer stones. The first small printing was in olive green, with other shades of bright green, dark green, light green, and dull green. The typical shade is an intermediate shade of bright green. Impressions are clear, although not a clear as on Stones A or B.
Stone 2: The earliest recorded date of use is December 2, 1861. The stamps were printed in sheets of two hundred, panes of one hundred, and a transfer stone of fifty without imprint. All shades other than olive green are known from this stone, with the most common being a dull green. It is characterized by poor impressions and many noticeable distinctive marks. This stone was also used to print the 5-cent blue Jefferson Davis (CSA Scott 4) of the same design but different color.