Arago: 5-cent Re-engraved Washington

5-cent Re-engraved Washington

The initial 5-cent blue Washington sheet stamp was issued February 22, 1966; the 5-cent blue Washington was issued as a horizontal coil on September 8, 1966. Bill Hyde designed the stamp after a portrait by Rembrandt Peale displayed at the National Gallery of Art. Charles A. Brooks engraved the vignette, and William R. Burnell engraved the lettering.

Brooks’s engraving was quite true to the Peale portrait, but the stamp’s facial features gave the unflattering appearance of a 'pocked marked' and 'unshaven' first president. Criticism led to a new version, engraved by Joseph S. Creamer, Jr., which was issued as sheet stamps on November 17, 1967, at the American Stamp Dealers Association National Postage Stamp Show in New York City.

When the first-class letter rate changed from five cents to six cents in January 1968, there was little need for 5-cent stamps. Even when the first-class letter rate increased to fifteen cents in May 1978, there were still plenty of original design coil stamps available. Surprisingly, a 5-cent coil stamp with the re-engraved image appeared unannounced in the early months of 1981.

One reason for the issuance of the new coils was the anticipation of a five-cent increase from the then current fifteen-cent first-class rate. It is speculated that a significant quantity of new coils was produced at the request of the Disabled American Veterans for their charitable response envelopes.

As it turned out, the rate increased only by three cents in March 1981, and the DAV mailing used a strip of three of the new 5-cent Washington coil stamps and a single 3-cent Parkman coil stamp. The plates for the re-engraved 5-cent coil went to press only one time, on December 2, 1980. In November 1981 the first-class rate increased to twenty cents. Surprisingly, when additional quantities of 5-cent coils were needed, new plates were made with the original 'unshaven' design, and they appeared in strips of four on the next DAV mailing.

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