Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum to Sell Excess Revenue Stamps

Press Release

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum will sell nearly six million duplicate revenue stamps transferred to the Institution by the Internal Revenue Service. Approximately 7.8 million obsolete revenue stamps were transferred to the Smithsonian between 1954 and 1977. The transfers included as many as 50,000 copies of nearly 1,900 distinct revenue stamp varieties.

The duplicates were transferred with the understanding that they would be exchanged for other stamps, or sold to make funds available for the national philatelic collection, or be destroyed.

“Unlike traditional Smithsonian acquisitions,” Allen Kane, director of the National Postal Museum, says, “the revenue stamp duplicates were acquired for the express purpose of exchange or sale to fill critical gaps in the national philatelic collection. The museum is now going forward with the original intention of the transfer. The sale will be completed in phases, with the first auction scheduled for fall 2004.”

In January, the National Postal Museum released information on the quantities to be sold for 55 of the approximately 1,900 varieties. Since then, the entire collection has been reviewed and the museum has been able to provide an estimate of the total number of stamps that will be sold.

The National Postal Museum’s decision to “deaccession” and remove the duplicate revenue stamps was approved by the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents at its Jan. 5, 2004 meeting. The museum will retain copies of each variety for the national philatelic collection. Additional copies will be donated to other museums and non-profit philatelic organizations. For some varieties, the museum has far more copies than exist in private hands. To avoid flooding the market and significantly devaluing these stamps, the museum will destroy approximately 1.4 million copies.

Revenue stamps were first used by the Department of Internal Revenue during the Civil War to show that taxes for certain goods and services had been paid. Products bearing these stamps included alcoholic beverages, playing cards, tobacco, firearms, boats, narcotics and legal documents.

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