National Postal Museum Announces Second Revenue Stamp Auction

Press Release

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum announced today that an auction to sell a portion of the museum’s deaccessioned revenue stamps will be held Saturday, Sep. 30, at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City.

Revenue stamps were issued by the Department of the Treasury as proof of payment for taxes on various products and legal documents. Many of the stamps represent so-called “sin taxes” on various forms of alcohol and tobacco.

More than five million revenue stamps will be offered in the sale; nearly three million of those are wine stamps. The wine stamps are inscribed “Series of 1941” and were issued between 1942 and 1954. This series had 104 different denominations and still holds the record for the most U.S. stamps in a single series.

The wine stamps were issued in two formats, both of which feature engraved grapevines. For stamp collectors, the highlight of the wine stamps is the rare 1949 $4 issue (“Scott Stamp Catalogue” number RE175). The sale also will feature narcotic, tobacco, alcohol, silver tax and documentary stamps.

This is the second sale of deaccessioned revenue stamps. Only 35,000 revenue stamps were offered in the first sale, which took place in February 2005.

“The first sale was a huge success, not just for the National Postal Museum, but for the entire hobby of stamp collecting,” said museum registrar Ted Wilson. “Through that sale, we were able to inspire new stamp collectors and introduce them to revenue stamps in particular.”

The auction will include individual, group and wholesale lots; it will be conducted by Matthew Bennett International, an auction house based in Baltimore. For more than 55 years, Matthew Bennett International, Inc. has been distinguished as a leading auction house in both United States and international philately. Matthew Bennett has divisions in the United States, Switzerland and Hong Kong. For more information, go to

“When the Smithsonian acquired these revenue stamps, it was with the intention that they would be made available to the public and that the proceeds of any sale would be used for the benefit of the national philatelic collection,” Wilson said. “The second sale will bring us even closer to realizing that vision.”

Philately is the collection and study of postage and other types of stamps, postmarks and stamped envelopes, and the study of postal history.

The National Postal Museum also will donate deaccessioned revenue stamps to a number of organizations including the British Library, the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History and the American Philatelic Society. The remaining deaccessioned stamps, consisting mainly of higher-value rarities that have been marked to distinguish them from the unmarked copies that were sold in the first auction, will be sold in a third sale. The date of that sale has not been determined.

Approximately 7.8 million obsolete revenue stamps were transferred to the Smithsonian Institution from the Internal Revenue Service between 1954 and 1978. The Smithsonian Board of Regents approved the deaccession, or removal, of more than seven million revenue stamps from the national collection in January 2004. Proceeds from the sale of deaccessioned revenue stamps will be used to enhance the national philatelic collection. The National Postal Museum will retain approximately 250 copies of each revenue stamp variety.

The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing the largest and most comprehensive collection of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., in the Old City Post Office Building across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information visit the museum’s Web site at

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