Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made. Photo KnowInsiders
Table of Contents

Stamp collecting is a passion, and rare U.S. stamps are history, art, and even antiques. Better yet, they can be worth life-changing amounts of money:

Several factors determine the high value of these small pieces of art. While some could be firsts of their kind, others could be a printing mistake.

Postal service in the United States had delivered stamp-less letters before introducing adhesive postal stamps issued in the late 19th century. Before, people would seal the letter and hand it over to the post office. Post office workers would then find the receiver and charge the correspondence fee. But with the perforation of postage stamps, the postal system changed to the one we know today.

These small pieces of faded paper commemorate signs of the time with historical faces and events that changed the world. The value and demand for stamps depend on different factors such as issue date, the image on the front side, the origin country, or some blunder or misprint, the most popular one being those with invert errors.

Even with the decline in the use and writing of letters during the 21st century due to electronic mail getting the spotlight, postage stamps are still in high demand among philately (study of postage stamps, postmarks, postcards, etc.) collectors.

How is a stamp's value determined?

Typically, the value of a stamp is determined by four distinct elements:

• The image on the face.

• The perforations along the edge where it was attached to its sheet.

• The denomination or monetary value.

• The country of origin—usually featured on the face.

The name of a stamp is usually derived from these elements. For example the 2c George Washington features the image of George Washington with the denomination of 2 US cents.

The most valuable stamps in the world often feature some kind of blunder or misprint within one of these main components, known as an error. Typically, a stamp error arises from a mixup in the printing plates during pressing. Errors are usually quickly caught and removed from circulation, increasing rarity and value of the affected stamp. In the below list of some of the most valuable stamps in the world, you’ll see many colorful errors that bring whimsy and humor to the field of philately.

Who Was The First President of America: George Washington Who Was The First President of America: George Washington's Biography, Personal Life, Fun Facts

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made

US Stamps with Faces of Famous People

1. Abraham Lincoln Stamp 1867

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo Pinterest

Estimated value: $200,000

Origin: 1867, United States

Face value: 15 US cents

The 1867 Abraham Lincoln stamp features an extremely rare “Z” grill that has distinctive horizontal ridges rather than vertical ones that were a standard feature in other grill types.

In light of the extreme rarity aspect of this stamp and its significance during the Civil War period, it is valued to be worth in the region of $200,000.

2. George Washington B-Grill Rose 1868

Photo vinovest
Photo vinovest

Estimated value: $900,000

Nature of rarity: Limited number – only four stamps exist

Origin: 1868, United States

Face value: 10 US cents

A normal 1868 George Washington postage stamp isn’t worth a lot of money. However, it’s worth millions of dollars if it has a B-grill mark (tiny upward-pointing dents.)

In fact, there are only four George Washington B-Grill stamps that currently exist. One of these stamps was sold for about $1 million in 2008.

3. Benjamin Franklin 1868

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo Benjamin collection

Estimated value: $3,000,000

Nature of rarity: Limited number – only two stamps exist

Origin: February 1868, United States

Face value: 1 US cent

Benjamin Franklin holds a special place in US postal history - he served as the country’s first post maker and is featured on most US postage stamps. The most valuable Benjamin Franklin stamp is the Benjamin Franklin Z Grill.

The US Postal Service used different types of grills (embossed patterns) to prevent the reuse of stamps. However, the Z grill was not widely used - making the Benjamin Franklin Z Grill postage stamp a rarity.

Only two of these stamps are available - one is permanently held at New York Public Library’s Miller Collection, while the other is sold at auction houses. In 2005, a Benjamin Franklin Z Grill single stamp was traded for four Inverted Jenny stamps valued at $3 million.

US Stamps Featuring Events

4. Declaration of Independence Stamp 1869

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo eBay

Estimated value: $625,000 – $1,200,000

Nature of rarity: Invert center

Origin: 1869, United States

Face value: 24 US cents

This 24-cent stamp is a masterpiece commemorating the independence of thirteen colonies from the British Kingdom on the 4th of July, 1776. It includes painting the Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull on its face.

This two-colored stamp has G-Grill vertical ridges that point down, used only on this 1869 Issue. This inverted printing error was sold for $1.2 million at Philip Weiss Auctions in 2008, while the block of four sold for $625,000 in the Robert A. Siegel auction. The stamp is a part of the 1869 Pictorial Issue, representing a series in which USA postage stamps carried different illustrations, from delivery on horseback and steamship to famous paintings and vignettes of Patriotic Eagle.

In 1869, US stamps were printed in two colors for the first time, according to the Smithsonian.

One of the most popular from the 1869 National Bank Note Pictorial Issue was this 24-cent stamp that featured John Trumbull's iconic portrait of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the center.

"One of the finest examples of engraving, the center of the stamp is a miniature masterpiece," according to Mystic Stamp.

One such stamp sold for $152.50 on eBay in May after receiving eight bids.

The National Bank Note Company printed 235,350 of these stamps, the Smithsonian reported.

5. Landing of Columbus Stamp 1869

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo wikimedia

Estimated value: $275,000

Origin: 1869, United States

Face value: 15 US cents

This stamp was a copy of the famous painting by John Vanderlyn and a feature of the stamp was an unusual double-printed vignette, with normal and inverted printing applied.

Costing just fifteen cents when it was released, an inverted sample of this stamp can be expected to fetch at least $275,000 if it went to auction.

What is the oldest stamp in the US?

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo postal museum

These two United States postage stamps became valid for use on July 1, 1847. The cover (below) was postmarked the next day.

The essay vignettes of Franklin and Washington were printed from existing engravings by Asher B. Durand. The frames were drawn in pencil and ink on cardboard, then a light wash of India ink was brushed on to give tone. The Franklin stamp paid the rate for one half-ounce sent up to 300 miles. The George Washington stamp paid the rate for longer distances or heavier mail.

6. Hawaiian Missionaries Stamp 1851

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo museum philately

Estimated value: $600,000

Nature of rarity: Limited number – only fifteen stamps exist

Origin: 1851, Kingdom of Hawaii

Face value: 2 US cents

In 1963, Life magazine said this stamp “Pound for pound, is the most valuable substance on earth.” The stamp dates back to 1851, when Hawaii was a sovereign nation and a popular destination for American missionaries spreading the gospel. Yet the Kingdom of Hawaii’s postmaster was American, and Honolulu’s and San Francisco’s post offices were well-connected. Collectors love these stamps for both the rarity of their survival, as well as their fanciful numerals.

Interestingly, the 2-cent stamp didn’t serve much of a purpose—the only use was for a newspaper or the captain’s fee (ship captains received 2 cents for every letter they carried). Audrey Hepburn fans will recognize a stamp similar to this one from her 1963 picture with Cary Grant, Charade, but there’s a catch. In that film, where a Hawaiian Missionary stamp plays a key part in the intrigue, its value is 3 cents, but there was no such thing as a 3-cent Missionary, only 2-cent, 5-cent and 13-cent.

First ...in US stamps

The first woman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp was Queen Isabella in 1893. The first American woman honored on stamp was Martha Washington in 1902.

The first Native American on a stamp was Pocahontas, 1907.

US Stamps with Symbols

7. Shield, Eagle and Flags Stamp 1869

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo alamy

Estimated value: $310,500

Origin: 1869, United States

Face value: including ten items worth between 1 and 90 cents

The Shield, Eagle and Flags stamp belongs to the 1869 pictorial issue that included ten items worth between 1 and 90 cents.

The 30 cent worth Shield and Flag piece with inverted flags is considered to be the rarest of the 1869 error stamp. The Shield and Flag design features the G grill and is available in several variations, including split grill, double grill and gum only. While an unused sample with inverted flags is valued at $210,000, a used example costs $65,000. An unused example of the 30¢ Shield, Eagle and Flags with flags inverted from the 1869 pictorial series fetched a record price of $310,500 at Robert.A.Siegel auction that took place in April, 2016.

8. Inverted Jenny

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo Siegel Auction

Estimated value: $1,593,000

Nature of rarity: Invert error

Origin: 1918, United States

Face value: 24 US cents

Maybe a slim chance of acquiring this rare and valuable stamp. There were only 100 issued and one of them is on display at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

With a face value of 24 cents and some as 2 dollars, these stamps are famous because the biplane featured in the picture was printed upside down by mistake. Each one is estimated to be worth at least $100,000.

However, since only one pane of all Inverted Jennies has ever been discovered, the design has subsequently become a highly valued prize for philatelists, bringing the price up to $200,000.

Furthermore, In October 2014, the plate block of four Inverted Jenny stamps sold for $2.97 million at a New York action to the U.S. collector Bill Gross. This set a new record for the highest price ever offered for any American stamp item of any period. This is almost three times the price paid for the same block in 1989 that was auctioned for $1.1 million.

9. CIA Invert

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo eBay

Estimated value: $15,000

Nature of rarity: Limited number – only 100 stamps with invert error exist

Origin: 1979, United States

Face value: 1 US dollars

The CIA invert one-dollar contains a postage error and belongs to the Americana series, produced from 1975 to 1981. Only 100 stamps with this error were in print, depicting a colonial rush lamp and a candle holder.

According to a popular belief, CIA agents noticed the mistake in 1986, buying a sheet with 95 remaining stamps to sell them. A block of four of this series sold for $71,875 at the Cherrystone auction in 2021. However, the estimate for a single stamp is around $15,000.

Do you know...?

In 2021, 13 billion U.S. postage stamps were printed, and $776.2 million in stamps and stamp product orders were received by mail, telephone at 1-800-STAMP-24 and online at usps.com/stamps.

Other types of stamps

10. ‘Blue Boy’ Alexandria Postmaster’s Provisional

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo David Feldman

Estimated value: $1,000,000

Nature of rarity: 1847, United States

Origin: 1873, United States

Face value: 5 US cent

Blue boy is among the rarest stamps solely because of its color. It was the only stamp printed on blue paper out of seven knowns from the Postmaster’s Provisionals produced in Alexandria, Virginia. The rest were printed on buff-colored paper instead.

This one-of-a-kind stamp is still attached to the original yellowish envelope, originally mailed between forbidden lovers with a note “burn as usual” at the end of the letter. Luckily, the envelope was saved and sold for $1,000,000 to David Feldman in 1981.

11. Lost Continental

Top 11 Most Valuable and Rarest US Stamps Ever Made
Photo smithsonian

Estimated value: $325,000

Nature of rarity: Limited number – only one stamp exists

Origin: 1873, United States

Face value: 24 US cent

Continental is one of the rarest surviving examples of prints by Continental Film depicting General Winfield Scott. The experts tried for years to determine if they printed the stamps as the National Banknote Company did until they proved it by paper comparison. This one-of-a-kind stamp was sold at a Seigel Gallery auction in December 2004 for $325,000. The 24-cent series continued to be issued by the National Banknote Company in the later years. However, this Continental is still considered a unique variant of an issue.

Conclusion

Some US stamps are rare because they are the firsts, others have printing errors and others are simply rare and old—all factors that make these the most sought-after U.S. stamps. Each US stamp features a famous person, an important event or specific symbol. Looking at stamps made in the US, we can have a general look at what happened throughout US history.

How Much Is A Postal Stamp and How to Send Packages Within The US? How Much Is A Postal Stamp and How to Send Packages Within The US?

If you still send snail mail, tell your pen pal the cost of exchanging letters is about to go up. The U.S. Postal Service has announced ...

Top 10 States Where Many Postmen Are Bitten By Dogs In America Top 10 States Where Many Postmen Are Bitten By Dogs In America

Dog attacks pose a serious threat to postal employees and the public. Here are the top states for postal carrier dog bites that everyone should ...

Simple Tips To Change Your Address With United States Post Office (USPS) Simple Tips To Change Your Address With United States Post Office (USPS)

Are you moving and want to change your address in the post office (USPS)? Learn how to change your address to continue receiving your letter ...