United States stamps issued during the Classic Period followed familiar patterns such as the repetitive pairing of stamp subject with stamp denomination. Until 1861 only the five-cent stamp deviated from this informal model. That is, in 1847 the 5-cent issue honored Benjamin Franklin, but subsequent 5-cent issues depicted Thomas Jefferson.
The marriage of color to denomination is another example of this pattern. But again, exceptions occurred. While the earlier 5-cent stamp of the 1851-1861 Issue contained examples printed in the darker colors such as red brown and brown, the 5-cent Jefferson of the 1861 Issue was printed in buff, a notable color difference. Most usage occurred in the second half of 1861 through the end of 1862, and the shades range from buff (the most common) to brown yellow and olive yellow.
The 5-cent stamp typically paid the single-weight rate to France when used with a 10-cent stamp or two more 5-cent stamps. Otherwise, in combination with other denominations, it paid the larger weight and foreign destination rates. National Bank Note Company printed approximately 175,000 stamps of this stamp, including all its shades.