Chocolate, pale brown, dark chocolate of yellow brown
Subject: Columbus soliciting aid of Isabella
Number issued: 35,248,250
Scott #: 234
Issued: January 1st, 1893
$1 - $2
No postmark with gum (MH)
$6 - $11
Full perfect gum, no postmark
no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH)
$40 - $60
Although January 2nd was the official release date, there are a very few covers with a January 1st postmark. This set of six, known as the 'Burger Covers' is a full set of the six values that had the January 2nd strike.
Stamps with a Columbian Exposition postmark, or even better, on mail from the Exposition have a significant price premium. The latter can command prices in the $100 to $200 range.
A pane of 100 of #234, there are two panes to a sheet of 200
Most cancels are heavy, there are few examples with the town cancel used on first class mail.
Columbus at the Court of Ferdinand and Isabella
The design was created by Alfred S. Major. The frame was engraved by Douglas P. Ronaldson, the image is from a painting by the Czech painter Václav Brožík.
The engraving of the picture (or vignette) was created by Charles Skinner. Interestingly this is the only Columbian stamp issued whilst the artist was still alive. The painting was created in 1884 and is now located in the dining room of the Hotel Manoir Richelieu in Quebec, Canada.
The painting as it appears at the far end of the hotels dining room
Queen Isabella was a patron of Christopher Columbus. However, she had rejected his proposal to reach the Indies through western trade paths three times until finally agreeing in 1492.
#234 was issued with the following plate #'s
Engraved vignette mounted on watercolor drawing
Block sunk on thick card
Columbian large die proof die sunk on card
Large die essay on India
Die Sunk on Card
Plate proof on India
Plate proof on card stock
Large Die Trial Color Proofs on India
Printed on card
An American Bank Note Company set of proofs mounted on card and signed by the engravers
On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Landing of Columbus the largest Exposition ever held on US soil was held in Chicago. The Post Office was determined not to miss out on this and proposed a series of stamps to commemorate the event. The purpose behind this was three fold
1) To encourage the purchase of stamps by the public
2) To stimulate the hobby of stamp collecting
3) To make a tidy profit
It was estimated that 3 Billion stamps would be sold and between September and the end of December 1892 work progressed on their production.
The Post Office's plan of their exhibition space at the Chicago Exposition
At the Exposition the Post Office was in the US Government Building and had been given a vast amount of display space. The display cases showcased stamps from the very earliest days of stamps to 1892 both in the US and around the world. Postal cards were sold in every building and of course one could purchase the new Columbian series stamps.
The US Government building at the World's Columbian Exposition
The Post Office Dept. informed all post offices that they would not be able to order the new series on an 'as needed' basis as was the normal procedure. Instead they would be sent an amount the powers to be deemed sufficient. Plus the department would not accept any returns and they would not be issued any other stamps until they had run out the new series. This caused much complaining by the post office owners, complaints were coming in that these stamps were too big, being twice the size of current issue (this was done to accommodate the expansive designs).
The Post Office display space at the World's Fair
The post offices need not have worried. The stamps proved to be immensely popular. So much so that Post Offices refused to sell the higher values for fear of running out. The price of these skyrocketed as a result. Companies instructed their offices to use the higher values on internal parcels so they could benefit from their sale when delivered to their branch offices. US travellers in Europe were accosted for them, they were even traded on bourses.
And then like all bubbles, it collapsed. Before you knew it the $5 stamps were being sold at a steep discount. Being totally useless for letters, and with a world glut the price dropped like a stone, at one point stamp dealers would only offer 30% of the face value for them.