FINE APPEARANCE. THE ONLY RECORDED EXAMPLE OF SCOTT 164, THE 24-CENT ON RIBBED PAPER, WHICH IS ATTRIBUTED TO THE 1873 CONTINENTAL BANK NOTE COMPANY PRINTING.
In January 1873 the stamp contract was awarded to the Continental Bank Note Company (Continental), a competitor of the National Bank Note Company (National), who held the contract since 1861. Under the terms of Continental's contract, which took effect May 1, 1873, the firm was required to have "on hand in the company's vault, on that date…a sufficient supply of stamps, approved and accepted by the Stamp Agent, as complying with the terms of manufacture, quality of product, etc. to meet all foreseeable withdrawals of stamps…This to apply to ALL denominations…" This requirement provides the historical basis for assuming that Continental actually printed, gummed and perforated a supply of 24c stamps.
In April 1873 all of National's dies and plates were turned over to Continental. Secret marks were added to the dies of all values, and new plates were made for the 1c thru 15c denominations (although there is some debate over the presence of a secret mark on the 15c). For the 24c, 30c and 90c values, the same National plates were used by Continental. Therefore, philatelists separate National and Continental printings of the 30c and 90c according to differences in shade, paper, perforations and gum. However, identifying the 24c Continental has always presented difficulty, and, for a time, the Scott Catalogue dropped the 24c (Scott 164) from its listings, because it was believed that no reliable method existed to distinguish Continental's printing from National's.
William E. Mooz, a leading researcher on stamp production during the period from 1870 through the 1880's, has carefully analyzed the government records of stamp manufacture and delivery. His analysis of the 24c Continental appeared in an article published in the Chronicle (No. 185, February 2000). According to Mooz, the records show that the government Stamp Agent, D. M. Boyd, arranged for National to sell its remaining supply of stamps, including the 24c, just as its contract expired on April 30, 1873. A large portion of this supply was then "sold" by the government to Continental in October 1873 in exchange for a credit. At the end of Continental's contract period, a large quantity of 24c stamps was purchased from Continental and later destroyed.
Mooz's hypothesis is that the Stamp Agent cooperated with National in off-loading a large supply of product on Continental, then helped Continental sell the unwanted supply back to the government. The essence of this unusual arrangement is that Continental never had a reason to print 24c stamps durings its contract period, other than meeting the requirement to have stamps on hand on May 1, 1873, and as necessary for the 1875 Special Printing program. The stamps printed by Continental prior to May 1, 1873, would have been co-mingled with the supply of National's product transferred to Continental through the Stamp Agent. Any stamps issued after May 1, 1873, could have originated from this hybrid supply. Eyewitness testimony confirms that Continental had 120,700 of the 24c stamp in its vaults in September 1873, which predates the documented arrival of National's 24c stamps; therefore, it is presumed that the 120,700 stamps inventoried in Continental's vaults were their own product.
This peculiar historical circumstance helps to establish that Continental printed 24c stamps. Nonetheless, it is currently impossible to distinguish the Continental printing from National's. Both printings were available after May 1873, making identification by date of use practical only for National printings on covers dated prior to May 1873. The shades of the 24c are too varied to classify and segregate by printer. The papers used by National and Continental are, for the most part, indistinguishable by printer.
"For the most part" is the key phrase of the last statement. Ribbed paper shows either horizontal or vertical ribbed lines at the rate of approximately 40 lines per inch. The existence and nature of ribbed paper was reported in great detail by H. L. Wiley in his booklet The U.S. 3c Green 1870-1887. Philatelists have studied Bank Note stamps (regular and official issues) on various papers for many years, and, to date, ribbed paper was used in connection with verifiable Continental printings in almost every case. Thus, philatelists generally agree that Ribbed Paper = Continental Printing.
Therefore, the certification of a 24c stamp on ribbed paper was heralded as the discovery of the Holy Grail, a 24c printed by Continental. The stamp was reported by Dr. Richard M. Searing in the Chronicle (No. 128, November 1985). Although that article misstated the orientation of the ribbing as horizontal and inaccurately described the shade of the stamp as an unusual bluish purple, it raised the issue of classification and argued persuasively that the 24c on ribbed paper should be identified as a Continental printing.
After the discovery of the 24c Ribbed Paper stamp, the Scott Catalogue reinstated the 24c Continental printing as No. 164. However, the initial catalogue entry was ambiguous in defining ribbed paper as the unique qualifying feature of Scott 164. Thus, collectors were faced with two major numbers, Scott 153 and 164, which essentially possessed the same characteristics. This situation was rectified by the Scott editor, James Kloetzel, with the explanatory footnote: "The Philatelic Foudnation has certified as genuine a 24c on vertically ribbed paper, and that is the unique stamp listed as No. 164. Specialists believe that only Continental used ribbed paper. It is not known for sure whether or not Continental also printed the 24c value on regular paper; if it did, specialists currently are not able to distinguish these from No. 153" [author's emphasis].
Numerous misstatements about the quantities of National and Continental 24c stamps printed and issued have been made by various writers, most of whom were simply repeating and drawing conclusions from John N. Luff's inaccurate reporting of a Continental printing of 365,000 stamps. The Mooz analysis and historical documentation prove that it is impossible to say how many 24c Continental stamps were printed or issued, only that some were printed by Continental prior to May 1, 1873, to meet the terms of their contract. The stamp offered here may, in fact, be one of many 24c Continentals released to the public from the hybrid National/Continental supply. However, it is the only 24c currently certified on ribbed paper, and, to the best of our knowledge, this paper gives it the unique qualification for attribution to Continental.
The singular certified example of Scott 164, the 24c on ribbed paper, is offered here, presenting collectors with the opportunity to acquire the key to a complete collection of 19th Century United States stamps.
Discovered in 1967. With 1992 P.F. certificate