On July 1, 1851, new and lower postage rates went into effect. America’s first 1-cent stamp was issued on that date to pre-pay certain categories of mail, including circulars, which today might be called 'junk mail'.
The 1-cent stamp was printed in blue, and features a central portrait of
our first postmaster general, Benjamin Franklin, in profile facing right. Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co. designed and printed the stamp, which was issued by the Post Office Department over the next ten years.
The 1-cent stamp was engraved, and it was printed from steel plates of two hundred stamps. Twelve plates were made to print 1-cent stamps during this ten-year period. The stamps were issued without perforations until 1857, when perforations were introduced.
The printers encountered significant technical difficulties making the plates, causing incompleteness of the stamp design, primarily at top and bottom. Stamp collectors assign different 'types' (and therefore catalog numbers) to the 1-cent stamp, which depend largely on the completeness of the ornate edges.
Type I stamps have the full design. Very few of these were printed, and they range from scarce to very rare. The other types have varying degrees of incomplete edges. Besides Type I, the recognized types and sub-types are Type Ia, Type Ib, Type Ic, Type II, Type III, Type IIIa, Type IV, Type V, and Type Va. By far the most common is Type V.