The Pan-American issue is the first
of the twentieth century. The six-value set was released for the
Pan-American Exposition, held in Buffalo from May 1 to November 1, 1901. In
common with the Trans-Mississippi series, the Pan-Americans were issued
during the McKinley administration.
The protests of collectors against high
face-value stamps in response to the Trans-Mississippi issue was apparently
heard. The Pan-American set could be purchased for 30 cents versus $3.80 or
$16.34 for the previous commemorative sets.
The Pan-American stamps depict images
capturing new concepts and ideas for a new century—an automobile, train,
fast steamship, and man-made canal. To express this high-tech era with
enthusiasm, each stamp was printed in two colors. The set was the Bureau of
Engraving and Printing’s first attempt at bicolored postage stamps and the
Post Office’s first bicolored general release since the 1869 Pictorials. In
common with their 1869 counterparts, the Pan-American Issue created three
The 1c and 2c Inverts were issued through
post offices. The errors occurred during the two-stage printing
process—center first, frame second—resulting from the pressman’s mistake in
turning the sheet 180 degrees from the correct orientation after the first
impression. Technically speaking, the Pan-American inverts have inverted
frames and not inverted centers.
Sheets of the 1c are known to have been sold
at at least four different post offices. According to Johl the first copies
were found by a jewelry firm in Bessimer, Alabama, who intended to use them
on letters. Between 600 and 700 are likely to have been issued. Despite the
relatively large number that was issued, unused blocks are surprisingly
rare. Our Levi records show thirteen blocks of four, a block of six, and a
block of 20 existing at one time, but some portion of the smaller blocks
were certainly divided into singles. We also show two strips of four and
three pairs. There are three covers recorded, including one offered in our
1999 Rarities of the World sale.
The 2c Pan-American Invert is a much rarer
stamp. It is likely that only 200 stamps were sold by the post office, and
these quickly reached the hands of appreciative collectors. It is
surprising, then, that only two blocks of four are known (one
reconstructed). Only seven examples are recorded used .
The 4c Pan-American Invert was not regularly
issued by post offices and is actually a special printing released to
collectors through official channels. If the reported numbers are correct, a
total of 203 4c Inverts was released. One sheet of 400 stamps was printed.
An unknown quantity was overprinted with a small "Specimen" handstamp. Some
of these, both with and without overprint, were given away by Third Asst.
Postmaster General Edwin C. Madden. When postal authorities learned of the
practice, they destroyed 194 of the remaining copies and put one pane of 100
into the official archives, which was stuck down on a page. At a later date,
97 of the 100 stamps in the official archives were traded with stamp dealers
for rarities missing from the official archives. This accounts for the
disturbed state of gum on virtually all of the 4c Pan-American Inverts
without overprint. There are seven blocks of four contained in our records.
It was rumored that sheets of the 5c, 8c and
10c were also prepared as inverts, but that these were destroyed after
officials learned of the unofficial release of the 4c stamps. No examples