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Grill Issues (1867-1868)

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10-cent Washington F. Grill single

Following the Civil War, the federal government feared revenue losses because some people were cleaning and re-using postage stamps. It commissioned numerous experiments aimed at making it difficult to do this. Experiments involved cancellation devices that abraded or cut the stamp surface, inks and papers that would dissolve during cleaning, and even one misguided trial involving gunpowder.

Charles F. Steel, a supervisor with the National Bank Note Company, is credited with inventing a process that embossed a waffle-line pattern into the stamp. The procedure broke the paper fibers, allowing ink to penetrate the paper. This made cleaning more difficult. The Post Office Department issued the first such stamps using the process in 1867. The all-over pattern made the paper very fragile, making separation at the perforations difficult. The government amended its contract with the National Bank Note Company, specifying that these 'grills' be applied to postage stamps prior to delivery in 1868.

The National Bank Note Company experimented with a number of grill sizes and styles: an overly large grill weakened the stamp; a small grill did not produce the desired effect. In 1916, William L. Stevenson classified the different grill sizes using the letters A to J, with one style — the Z grill — differing in the horizontal orientation of the small ridges at the top of each peak.

Some grilled stamps are quite common, but not all grill patterns were used on each denomination of a stamp. In some cases, very few copies remain of certain stamp/grill combinations. This has produced some of philately's greatest rarities — the 1-cent and 15-cent stamps of the 1861 Issue with the Z grill (there are only two copies each known at this time) and the 3-cent denomination with the B grill (only four copies known, all originally affixed to the same envelope).

In 1875, the grilling of stamps ended. Today, experts agree that the government's perception of the reuse problem was greatly exaggerated and that the costs involved in preventing reuse greatly exceeded the revenue protected.

Chip Gliedman

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3-cent Washington A. Grill single

The A grill was the first experimental grill devised by National Bank Note Company to deal with the fraudulent reuse of stamps that had been washed clean of their cancellations. The grill itself covered the entire area of the stamp (with the points going up), which greatly weakened the paper and the perforations. This resulted in less than perfect separation of the stamps. Ends were jagged and perforations ripped.

This first attempt at grilling was only used with the 1-, 5- and 30-cent issues. National Bank Note Company printed approximately 50,000 3-cent stamps, 2,000 5-cent stamps, and 2,000 30-cent stamps. With fewer than five copies know to exist, the 5-cent Jefferson is considered the rarest of the A grills. Fewer then ten copies of the 30-cent stamp are known to exist.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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3-cent Washington B. Grill single
Image courtesy of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries

Its large size distinguishes the B grill from other grilled stamps. It is 22 points high by 18 points wide (18 X 15 mm) and 'points up' in orientation when viewed from the back. The larger size of this grill may have proved a problem in production, and it was quickly replaced with smaller grills.

All four known examples of the B grill appeared on a single cover posted in Mason, Texas, in February 1869. All are denominated at three cents.

References:

  • Siegel Auction Galleries Census of 3-cent Rose, B Grill (Scott 82). The Siegel Encyclopedia. http://siegelauctions.com/enc/census/82.pdf
  • Stevenson, William L., and Lester George Brookman. United States Grills and Notes on the Grilled Issues of the U.S. Edited by William Herzog. Triad Publications, 1980.
  • Notes on Grilled Issues of the United States. James Dire. http://www.jamesdire.net/grill.html

Chip Gliedman

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3-cent Washington C. Grill single

The C. Grill is considered to be, along with the A Grill, an experimental grill. The National Bank Note Company for a limited period beginning in late 1867 produced stamps with the C. grill. The grill is 16 to 17 points in width by 18 to 21 points in height. Only one denomination was used with the C. Grill, the 3-cent Washington. An estimated 300,000 3-cent Washington stamp with the C. Grill are believed to have been produced.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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2-cent Andrew Jackson D. Grill single

The D. Grill was used on two stamps starting in early 1868. The 3-cent Washington was the first stamp to be produced with the grill. The 2-cent Jackson stamp was also produced by National Bank Note Company with a D. Grill, but for a much shorter time than the 3-cent Washington. The grill is 15 points in width by 17 to 18 points in height. An estimated 500,000 3-cent Washington stamps with the D. Grill are believed to have been produced along with 200,000 2-cent Jackson stamps.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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10-cent Washington E. Grill single

The E. Grill went into regular production, replacing the D. Grill, in February of 1868. Within that month the E. Grill would be produced with the 1-cent through 15-cent stamps of the 1861-1866 Issues. The E. grill is 14 points in width by 15 to 17 points in height. A total estimated 111,000,000 stamps with the E. Grill of the above mentioned denominations were printed by the National Bank Note Company.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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10-cent Washington F. Grill single

The F. Grill went into full use in March of 1868, completely replacing the Z. Grill. Of all the grills, the F. Grill was produced on the most denominations. The F. grill is 11 to 12 points in width by 15 to 17 points in height. A total estimated 291,590,000 stamps with the F. Grill of the 1-cent through 90-cent denominations of the 1861-1866 Issues were printed by the National Bank Note Company.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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1-cent Franklin Z. Grill single

After the experimental grills A. and C. were produced the first grill to be put into regular production was the Z. Grill. The first denominations to have the Z. Grill were the 2-cent Jackson, 3-cent Washington and 12-cent Washington stamps. Around the same time the stamps with the D. and E. grills went into production. In mid February of 1868, three other denominations were printed with the Z. Grill, they are the 1-cent Franklin, 10-cent Washington and 15-cent Lincoln stamps. These three denominations were only in production a short time before the new F. Grill was put into full production. As a result, these three denominations with the Z. Grill are far more rare than their three brother denominations printed earlier with the Z. Grill. The 1-cent Franklin today is the rarest with only two known, one being in the Benjamin K. Miller Collection. The Z. grill is 13 to 14 points in width by 18 points in height. An estimated 1,000 1-cent stamps, 500,000 2-cent stamps, 100,000 3-cent stamps, 2,000 10-cent stamps, 100,000 12-cent stamps and probably a similar number of 15-cent stamps as the 1-cent stamp, 1,000, were produced by the National Bank Note Company.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

References:

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