Arago: 10-cent Monroe Kansas & Nebraska Overprints

10-cent Monroe Kansas & Nebraska Overprints

James Monroe (1758-1831) of Virginia served as president of the United States between 1817 and 1825. He is best remembered as the author of the Monroe Doctrine, which forbade any interference by foreign governments in western hemisphere.

Monroe appears on the 10-cent stamp in the Fourth Bureau Issue, designed by Clair Aubrey Huston. Huston used George F.C. Simille's engraving of Monroe, created for the 3-cent value of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition Series, for the vignette. Edward J. Hein transferred Simille's engraving to a new die and restored it for the new stamp. Simille probably drew his engraving from an engraving by Asher Durand, which itself seems to have been based on a painting by John Vanderlyn. Edward M. Hall and Howard I. Earle engraved the stamp's frame.

As early as 1899, the Post Office Department had considered marking stamps to help identify those stolen from post offices. Printing technology during the early years of the twentieth century, however, made implementation of the idea unfeasible.

The development of the rotary press changed that. In 1929 a postal inspector again advanced the idea of marking stamps, stressing that $200,000 worth of stolen stamps had been "fenced" the previous year. His argument convinced postal officials, and a plan was formulated to overprint stamps with the names for all forty-eight states for distribution to all but the very largest post offices.

Officials at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing objected to the plan as impractical. They agreed, however, to overprint stamps for Kansas and Nebraska (in the territory of the inspector who devised the plan). The Bureau overprinted eleven stamps for each state, the 1-cent through 10-cent values of the Fourth Bureau Issue, perforated 11x10.5. All post offices in Kansas and Nebraska received overprinted stamps except for Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita, Omaha, and Lincoln. Although the stamps went on sale at the Philatelic Sales Agency in Washington on May 1, 1929, known use in Kansas and Nebraska occurred as early as April 15.

The overprinted stamps created mass confusion. Although the stamps were valid for use anywhere in the country, some postmasters thought they could be used only in Kansas and Nebraska. Others thought they were precancels. False reports of stolen stamps circulated. The failed experiment was cancelled in less than a year, and the Bureau never overprinted stamps for the other forty-six states.

Stamps exist with counterfeit Kansas and Nebraska overprints. Genuine overprints have gum with only one gum breaker and striated ridges. This simple examination will help identify many counterfeits.

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