The 2-cent stamps of the First Bureau Issue provide an entire area of study unto themselves. Design variations and color varieties abound in these printings and, since the 2-cent stamp was the primary payment for first-class domestic mail and the most commonly available stamp during the 1890s, a multitude of usages can entertain the student of postal history.
Students must first understand the three distinct triangles seen on these stamps. Because of the sheer number of stamps printed, which caused excessive wear on the plates, repairing the plates was an ongoing process. Over time new plates were also added to the inventory. Different engravers had different ideas as to what the triangle should look like, producing three distinct varieties. Later re-entries into the plates show distinct re-cuttings. These re-cuttings, along with the later colors, create a Type IV recognized design. The Type I triangle appears in the 1894 unwatermarked printings on pink, carmine lake, and shades of carmine. The Type II and Type III triangles occur on shades of carmine only.
All three Types of triangles occur in shades of carmine on the watermarked papers used for the 1895-1898 printings. Pairs of stamps showing Type II and Type III triangles are known, demonstrating the re-entry process discussed above. The 1898 printings are found in many shades of red, carmine, orange, and pink but will always be the Type III triangle with the re-cuttings of the vignette, and they are referred to as Type IV.