The George Washington 1 Cent stamp is a highly sought-after collectible. The entire multidenominational run is considered rare to uncommon in terms of its availability on the market. This leads many collectors to wonder how much a 1 cent George Washington stamp is worth.
A 1 cent George Washington stamp is worth anywhere from 20 cents to $800 or even more, depending on multiple variables. Those variables include traditional stamp rating criteria, the stamp’s history, its specifics, and whether or not it is exceptionally rare.
Each criterion contributes to the overall value of a George Washington 1 cent stamp, whether bought on the open market, through a private sale, or at an auction. If you have a 1 cent George Washington stamp, read on so that when you have it appraised, you understand how the value is determined.
How Much Are 1 Cent George Washington Stamps Worth?
The first step in determining the value of a stamp is to understand how it is rated and how that ties into the amount a collector might pay for ownership. The criteria itself is pretty cut and dried. Practical application, however, can be quite subjective.
This is the most important criteria above all else. A stamp that is damaged, or the details obscured, holds far less value than one that is in good condition. A stamp in good condition will be worth less than a stamp in pristine condition.
Stamps are graded by appraisers on the following scale:
Superb: This is the highest quality stamp and has near perfect centering, coloring and gum (the adhesive on the back of the stamp.)
Fine: A Fine rated stamp will have no noticeable flaws, but the coloring may not be consistent, or be faded, and it might have hinge marks (hinges hold the stamp in place in albums).
Good: These stamps might have noticeable centering issues or blurred coloring, thinning gum and heavy hinge marks. Stamps rated as “good” do hold value because of their collectability, which is still quite robust.
Stamps with those ratings are collectible to everyone. Stamps with ratings below that hold virtually no value. However, they are good for beginner stamp collectors and are sometimes referred to as “space fillers.”
The condition of a stamp doesn’t just refer to the stamp. If the stamp is on an envelope (called a cover) the rating system is very similar, but different in some key ways. Some of those differences include:
- The quality of the postmark
- How firmly the stamp is affixed to the envelope
- Whether a letter is in the envelope
- The preciseness and sharpness of the postmark
In the case of the George Washington 1 cent stamp, a postmark in good condition or having the original letter in the envelope can offset issues with the quality of the stamp. In fact, in most cases, a postmark in great condition can increase the value of even marginal stamps. It rarely goes the other way around though.
The only other situation where the condition of a stamp doesn’t matter is if its rarity is so acute that collectors will pay just to say that they have one in their possession. These types of stamps are perhaps the rarest of all types of stamps.
In stamp collecting, how the stamp is positioned, externally on its borders and within the stamp itself, is very important. Technically, the definition is as follows:
“Centering is the relationship of a stamp’s design, margins, and perforations – or edges, if the stamp is imperforate.” – Mystic Stamp Company
Centering pertains to several aspects of a stamp:
- The space between a perforation and the beginning of the stamp design – Is that margin even all round the stamp?
- The overall image on the stamp – is it centered in relationship to any ink borders, the perforations, and the edges of the stamp?
- Is the image centered in relationship to the printed border?
- Are the edges of the stamp straight?
- Is the image on the stamp straight in relationship to straight edges?
- Is there any variation between the inked borders and the image inside the borders that make it uneven?
While the overall condition of a stamp is the most important factor, most appraisers and stamp collectors will start with how the stamp is centered. Perfectly centered stamps usually command higher value than one that is off center or crooked.
Stamps that are not centered generally have experienced:
- A printing error caused by a calibration that is off
- A printing error where the original artwork as approved was off-kilter
- A perforation error
In printing, back when the Washington 1 cent was produced, if a plate shifted, even minutely, an image could be altered. Any inked border might be off center or an image could even be printed on the stamp slightly crooked.
Most centering errors, however, refer to perforation mistakes. If the sheet of stamps that is to be perforated is even slightly off center, the margins of at least a portion of the stamps on that sheet will be noticeably off. The flaw might not be consistent throughout the sheet, leading to a portion of the sheet being close enough to consider them in good condition.
Perforation issues date back to 1857. Before that, stamps had to be hand cut. With stamps like that, centering of the image and interior border is important, but the centering of the stamp border is less so.
Gum in stamping is the glue that is used to adhere the stamp to an envelope. The better state the gum is in, the higher the value, with all other aspects being considered equal. A stamp with perfect gumming is considered “mint.”
The rating system for stamp gum is as follows:
Mint: The stamp has full, undamaged gumming and it is exactly as sold by the Post Office.
Unused: The original gum has been damaged via the use of stamp hinges.
Unused Without Gum: The stamp has lost all its original gumming.
Rareness includes several factors that pertain to the propensity of a collector locating an available stamp on the open market. Rareness is one factor in determining value.
The multiple variables with rareness include:
- Total number of estimated stamps on the market or in collections
- Stamps with printing errors
- Content issues, such as a stamp that is printed upside down
- Perforation issues
- Stamps that were considered limited issue, commemorative, or had a short run because of external issues
This is the simplest variable. Stamps that are not rare are found on the market for sale much more frequently than those that are rare. Even popular rare stamps will only be on the market occasionally.
Stamps With Printing Errors
Everyone and everything makes mistakes. Stamp printing operations are no different. Errors that have been documented include printing the wrong artwork, not setting the artwork up in the press correctly, and erratic ink coverage.
These are a bit different from printing errors as the problem is not with the printing process, but the content of the stamp. Artwork with mistakes or upside down designs, the wrong images being used, or designs that had flaws are all examples of content errors in stamp printing.
Sometimes stamp sheets or rolls have been set up misaligned in the perforating machine. Other times machine malfunctions have knocked the sheets or rolls off of alignment. The result in either case are margins that are uneven.
Rare Issue Stamps
These stamps had their total number of printed stamps controlled. The reason was usually that it was a commemorative issue. Stamps also had limited runs because of design changes (like the Penny Black stamp.) The last type is when the stamp is manufactured incorrectly, and the print run is limited as a result.
One good way of determining how rare a stamp is involves tracking the stamp’s commercial activity in the Auction Price Database. This shows how many times a stamp has shown up for sale in the private market.
Rare Is Disappearing
One issue affecting rare stamps is that they are quickly disappearing. This is because collectors are buying them up as soon as they are on the market. The total number of rare stamps is finite, and if new rare stamps are not added, that number will continue to decline.
This includes the George Washington 1 cent stamp. As more collectors have collected the odd stamp that has found its way onto the market or into an auction, the number of potential stamps that can go on the market shrinks. That reality greatly affects and will continue to affect the value of a George Washington 1 cent stamp.
Each of these factors go into determining if a stamp has value and then how much value it possesses. Each will also help determine the value of a 1 cent George Washington stamp.
1 Cent George Washington Stamp History
George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are depicted in the Washington-Franklin Issue stamps. They were issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS) starting in 1908 and running through 1922. The run included stamps in various denominations, starting at one cent.
Both were used repeatedly throughout history because no two other men had more influence on the trajectory of the United States of America. Were it not for both, it is very likely the country would not have been created when and in the way it was.
Two Distinctive Features
Both stamps have one feature that sets them apart from other stamp designs. That is the heads set in ovals in full profile. This format was used for all Washington-Franklin Issue stamps, regardless of denomination.
Prior stamp issues had different images for each denomination. The central figure might be the same and in fact was the same most of the time, but the visage used was not. Varying the imagery had become a tradition with new stamp issues.
Additionally, Washington and Franklin had appeared on the first two American stamps that were issued in 1847. The Washington-Franklin Issues were, in a way, a return to the beginning of American stamps.
Washington-Franklin Issues Were PR
Printing technology in the US was still being perfected when the initial stamps were issued in 1847. As a result, while slowly improving, federal stamps often had issues with consistency and quality. That led to many complaints from the public.
That came to a head in 1869, when the USPS issued a set of ten stamps that broke from the tradition of using statesmen on the face of all US stamps. The decision was immensely unpopular. In addition, the public did not like the adhesive that was used or the size and shape of the set. It was quickly pulled from circulation.
Over time, stamp complaints varied in intensity and frequency and ranged from problems with the gum and the taste of the gum to issues with poor quality perforations, blurred and smeared ink, and postmarks that could not be seen. Postal clerks complained that there were not enough colors for canceling. Specifically, they were upset that the lack of colors made it difficult to sort the mail.
The Specifics Of 1 Cent George Washington Stamps
Stamps were sold individually and as rolls and sheets. The Washington imagery was simple, but elegant. The shapes and colors were warmer and a little gauzy. This contrasted greatly with prior stamps that had vivid details and contouring.
Additionally, the inspiration for a consistent image to be used across denominations was Britain. Starting with the English Penny Black stamp and moving throughout the period since, England often used one image of a royal across all versions of the stamp.
Each version employed olive branches as a symbol of peace. The denomination is only spelled out on 1 and 2 cent stamps. The printing was fairly complicated for its time, requiring two separate transfer phases. One provided the Washington or Franklin engraving while the other provided the border and lettering.
The first stamp was a red Washington image issued on November 16, 1908. It sold for 2 cents. The 1 cent George Washington stamp was issued after that, intermittently for two years. A collector or appraiser can tell when a stamp was produced by the perforation gauge, type of paper used, and different watermarks.
Through 1923, there were several changes made to the stamps, including the artwork and method of printing. The very last of the Washington-Franklin Issue was a 1 cent Washington head with olive leaves, which has subsequently become the most coveted and rarest stamp of that era.
The initial watermark had a double-line pattern of the letters USPS embedded in the fibers. One problem with this watermark was that it had large double-lined letters that often weakened the stamp and caused it to start to come apart. This was replaced by a single line watermark with smaller letters.
The Washington-Franklin stamps, of all denominations, were the last to use a USPS watermark in the stamp paper.
The paper used was wetted before printing to enhance the ink and glue bonds. This caused shrinkage of the stamp paper, which became critical in booklets of six. The shrinkage caused perforation misalignments and in 20% of printed stamps the perforations were so off that the sheet of stamps was unusable. As a result, centering is an issue with many George Washington 1 cent stamps.
The Exceptional Rarity Of 1 Cent George Washington Stamps
The final thing to consider when evaluating the worth of a 1 cent George Washington stamp is rarity. Stamp rarity is affected by many things. This includes short runs as well as collectability of stamp versions. In addition, as mentioned above, the rarity of all stamps is being affected by a dearth of “new rareness.”
The 1 cent George Washington stamp is no exception, and in fact is a pronounced victim of the fact it is so collectible. That is good news if you are selling a 1 cent George Washington stamp, and very bad news if you are in the market to buy one.
George Washington 1 cent stamps are not all that rare, mainly because the print runs were large. With that said, desirable stamps in excellent or good condition rarely stay on the market for long.
The Value Of 1 Cent George Washington Stamps
After digesting all this information, it’s easy to see why pinning an exact dollar value on a George Washington 1 cent stamp is difficult. By considering individual aspects of each stamp, though, it is possible to get a general dollar range.
For example, a single-line horizontally perforated 1 cent George Washington stamp from 1912 in mint condition will be worth about $32, while a used stamp will be worth about half of that. Using that as a base, other variables such as condition and clarity factor in to increase or decrease the price you would get from a dealer.
Generally, because this stamp is not rare on its own, the price most people will get will be somewhere between $0.20 and about $30. Other characteristics can make the stamp very valuable, however, and you’ll find some 1 cent George Washington stamps on the market for more than $1,000.
1 cent George Washington stamps are worth anything from a few cents to $800 or more in rare cases. It’s impossible to determine the value of a 1 cent George Washington stamp without considering variables including the stamp’s history and its condition.