Postal stamps are among the most collected items in modern times. Their history is bizarre: they were absolutely necessary until suddenly they weren’t anymore. The advent of telephones killed their popularity, as phone calls replaced letters. That is not to say they are disappeared – with at-home delivery, postal stamps are as popular as ever, but the average person doesn’t use them anymore. Mostly, it’s people working in delivery and e-commerce that deal with postal stamps nowadays.
But before the telephone (and eventually internet) revolution, postal stamps were the only way to get a letter delivered. They signaled the sender paid for the delivery, which simplified the whole delivery ordeal. In the years before 1855 postal stamps were seldom used, and delivery was paid by the letter’s receiver. Naturally, that lead to letters not being delivered because of poor financial situations, and who knows how many lovers have lost contact with their significant other because of that.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has adjusted its prices throughout the years. And printing companies released stamps to follow these adjustments. For example, sending a letter in 1928 would cost you .02 dollars for the first ounce, whereas the same letter in 1958 would cost you .04 dollars. As the prices increased, stamps’ values also needed to keep up. While it is possible to apply multiple stamps to an envelope, it can get confusing for sorters.
The 4 cents Lincoln stamps is one of the most iconic ones. It ran from 1954 until 1968 and it featured President Lincoln’s face based on a portrait by American painter Douglas Volk. This stamp was necessary to pay for a letter sent from 1958 until 1963, when the postal rate rose to .05 dollars. Thanks to its short run, and the fact that an extra series released in 1958 to commemorate Abe’s 150 years, these stamps are quite valuable to collectors.
In this article, you are going to learn everything you need to know about the 4-cents Abe Lincoln’s stamp. You will walk away with better understanding of its history, its value, and how to buy one that will make your collection shine.
The History of 4-Cent Lincoln Stamps
The 4 cent Lincoln stamp made its first appearance in 1953. While the domestic rate for letters was still only .03 dollars for U.S. first-class postage, sending a letter to Europe would cost you .04 dollars. That was the goal of the Lincoln stamps before 1958. In the following years, the rate for domestic postage rose to .04 dollars, making the 4-cent Lincoln stamp a necessity for everyone.
There are 4 main versions of the 4-cents Lincoln stamp:
- The regular violet stamp that is part of the Liberty issue series
- The 1958 Lincoln and Douglas debate stamp
- The 1958 sesquicentennial issue
- The 1965 black stamp that is part of the Prominent American series
The original violet stamp was released in 1954, but it wasn’t that popular as its only real usage was in paying to send letters to Europe. While there were many migrants, it couldn’t compete with domestic usage of stamps, which costed 1 cent less at the time (.03 vs .04 dollars). The stamp reached mass adoption in 1958, when first-class postal delivery prices rose to .04 dollars for domestic letters.
That is also the year two commemorative stamps featuring Abe appeared: the Lincoln and Douglas debate stamp and the sesquicentennial issue. They were issued to commemorate Lincoln’s birth 150 years prior (he was born in 1808), and both featured a unique design and color. The sesquicentennial issue used a different portrait that was more on the front and had a different color, blue. The debate stamp was issued to commemorate the 100 years from the Illinois debate between Lincoln and Douglas for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Evaluating a 4-Cents Lincoln Stamp
The good news about the Lincoln stamp is that its run was somewhat limited (15 years). That simplifies the evaluating process immensely, as you don’t need to worry too much about things like the stamp’s age. Still, it’s important to know what to look for when assessing a Lincoln stamp’s value. There are 2 main reasons:
- Spotting fake stamps
- Not overpaying for a dud
It’s important to be able to at least give an estimate of a piece before buying it. Some people overvalue what they have, others undervalue it. But you don’t need to overpay for things that aren’t worth it. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize how valuable a piece.
Here’s what you should look at when evaluating a 4 cent Lincoln stamp:
- The color: Time and atmospheric agents take their toll on a stamp’s color. If the color is faded out, the piece won’t be as valuable. Brighter, more saturated colors are more valuable to collectors, as it shows the stamp has been well-conserved.
- The cancellation: When a stamp is used, it gets a cancellation imprint on it, to avoid it being reused indefinitely. The heavier the cancellation, the more it covers the stamp’s design. Which, naturally, decreases its value. Ideally, the cancellation is mostly on the envelope and only lightly present on top of the stamp itself.
- The centering: The centering in postal stamps refers to the balance and alignment of text, images, and other elements on a stamp. Ideally, the center of a stamp should be visually appealing and clearly define the main purpose or message of the stamp.
- The paper: Paper is the most fragile part of a postal stamp. Damaged paper lowers the stamp’s value.
- The perforation: The perforation of a postal stamp refers to the way in which the edges of the stamp have been cut or torn. Sometimes, perforation looks a bit off. That’s when the piece’s value drops.
- The gum: The gum is the adhesive coating that glues the stamp to the envelope. An original gum that works fine is more valuable than a regummed piece, or worse, a damaged one.
By examining all of these, you’ll be able to assign a grade to the stamp. Grades go from Poor (P) to Super (S). The main component that makes up a grade is the perforation, as it determines the stamp’s looks and feels.
Let’s see how the grades work.
Grading a 4-Cents Lincoln Stamp
The grading system used in stamps is similar to that of other collectibles. It’s based on the factors we listed above. The better the condition of each part, the higher the stamp’s grade. Higher grade stamps fetch a higher price, as these are the best conserved pieces.
Here are the grades with a brief description of each:
- Poor (P): Poor stamps score bad in every field. They have shoddy perforation, they are discoloured, and the design is often faded out. Often, they are hard to recognize.
- Average (A): This is a step above poor. Imperfections will still be present, especially in centering or perforation. But they’ll be easily recognizable.
- Fine (F): This is the lowest grade where the stamp looks like it’s supposed to. There are still notable imperfections – especially in the perforation and cancellation mark.
- Very Fine (VF): Very fine stamps usually have light asymmetries but overall look pretty good. The colors are bright, and the centering is almost perfect.
- Extra Fine (XF): Extra fine stamps offer good color, centering, and perforations. They aren’t quite perfect, but they’re pretty close.
- Superb (S): Superb stamps are also called mint. They have no cancellation mark because they were never used.
When examining a stamp to determine its grade, you also have a chance to spot a fake. Let’s see how.
Spotting a Fake Lincoln Stamp
Unfortunately, there are people who believe scamming others is the ticket to wealth. These people will stoop down to a low level to extort money to others. These are the snake oil salesmen of our times – selling something that sounds too good to be true. Although, luckily for us, 4 cent Lincoln stamps are among the least faked stamps out there, as even their highest-selling pieces go for far less than other, more popular stamps.
You don’t need to be an expert appraiser to spot fakes. There are a few ways of figuring out whether the piece in your hand is authentic or not. Here is how:
- Measure the stamp’s size. Counterfeits often are slightly smaller than the stamp they’re trying to replicate.
- Touch the stamp’s surface. Authentic stamps are engraved, which means you should be able to feel creases and ridges on the stamp. Counterfeit stamps are not engraved. Instead, they are printed, which results in a flat surface without any creases or ridges that you could feel by running your fingers over them.
- Pick up a magnifying glass and examine the stamp’s surface. Analyze the ink lines running around the stamp. You should see smooth, even lines that are consistently spaced apart. However, if you spot any gaps or dips in the ink lines and uneven spacing between them, then the stamp is likely a fake.
- With your magnifying glass still in hand, now examine the light areas of the stamp. You’ll notice that parts of the design are missing. That is because counterfeiters don’t have access to the same type of equipment the original printers do.
- The perforated gauge, the way the stamp separates between itself and the paper, is another telling sign that it’s a fake. If the perforation size is off (usually bigger), then the stamp is counterfeit.
If you want to see the process of determining a stamp’s authenticity more in depth, here’s a great video by the U.S. Postal Service channel that details the process:
Now you are ready to go out and buy some stamps.
Buying a 4 Cent Lincoln Stamp
Buying a Lincoln stamp is quite simple. The stamp itself is still common, and even the highest priced ones haven’t sold for jaw-dropping prices at auctions compared to other stamps. Still, it’s good practice to know where to get one without getting defrauded.
Let’s talk locations. Where can someone buy a 4 cent Lincoln stamp? There are 3 main places where you can do so:
- Online marketplaces (eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, etc.)
- Auction houses
- Vintage items sellers
Since we’re talking about a stamp that isn’t that valuable, we recommend focusing on online marketplaces.
It’ll be hard to find a 4 cents Lincoln stamp at auction houses and vintage items sellers, since these prefer to focus on higher-priced items. However, auction houses are fine if you’re after a stamp with a particular story attached to it. For example, a stamp used on a letter sent by someone famous.
Online marketplaces are the kings of collectibles. People own all sorts of trinkets that have been passed down for generations, and postal stamps are part of these trinkets. You’ll easily be able to buy any kind of 4 cents Lincoln stamp on there, as long as you are willing to do your research and avoid scams. Though, as we said, most Lincoln stamps don’t sell for much money, so you can definitely afford to buy a dud or two.
Warning: Online marketplaces, unfortunately, are also the kings of scam. Carefully examine the photos provided by the seller, and don’t be afraid to ask them extra questions. A seller that refuses being transparent is a red flag. Stay away from them whenever possible. This is especially important if you’re going to a higher-value piece.
Overall, expect to not pay much more than the stamp’s value for a piece.
4 Cent Lincoln Stamps for Sale
Buying 4 cent Lincoln stamps is quite easy. They are abundant all around the web, and most have very affordable prices. Let’s see a few of the more interesting sales to get you acquainted with it.
This sale is the poster child of Lincoln stamps online buying experience. If you want to buy this piece now, it’s $1.35, which is already quite high all things considered. The picture shows the piece is perfectly centered and perforated. The color is slightly faded, but it’s hardly noticeable.
For a mere $4.50, these will definitely get your friends’ attention. These are 10 4-cent Lincoln stamps that belong to the Prominent American series. They look as good as new, with perfect centering and perforation. Good buy if you want to collect a few of the Lincoln stamps in this specific style.
This is an example of sesquicentennial issue 4 cent Lincoln stamp. This one, unlike the other stamps on the list, is used, as you can tell by the cancellation marks in the picture. Still, it’s a piece that you can’t miss in your collection, if you’re after Lincoln stamps. Luckily, the cancellation mark is somewhat light, which makes the design of the stamp still well visible. This piece will cost you $1.49.
Despite the fact that most Lincoln stamps sell for low prices, there have been a few interesting pieces selling in recent years. Let’s see them together.
Most Valuable 4 Cent Lincoln Stamp (Rare Ones)
While most stamps will cost you a few dollars at most, there are some that fetched interesting prices at auctions.
- There’s this stamp that sold for $500. It has a Fair/Good grade, and shows light cancellation marks. Beyond that, the piece is perfect. It has great colors, centering, and perforation.
- Here’s a couple of Lincoln stamps that sold for $175. The 3rd stamp is unfortunately ripped off, or this piece could have commanded an even higher price. These stamps are in mint conditions, as they went unused.
- Last, there are these two postmarked 1958 stamps that went for $150. The uniqueness of this sale is that these stamps are applied to 2 envelopes. Generally, pieces on envelopes lose a lot of value because there’s a risk of ripping off the stamps.
Buying Lincoln stamps is a fun way to kickstart a collection. They are cheap, plentiful, and look cool. Plus, you can still use them nowadays if you want your letter to look unique. Perhaps sending your resume in an envelope with a Lincoln stamp is your ticket to your dream job. It surely beats the online resume that gets discarded because it looks like every other one.
FAQs about 4 Cent Lincoln Stamps
Can I still use 4 cent Lincoln stamps?
Yes, you can still use 4 cent Lincoln stamps to send letters or packages. The stamp designs are quite interesting and unique, so they will certainly make your mail stand out. However, depending on the type of postage you need, it is possible that these stamps may not be sufficient in terms of price. You should check with the post office before using them to avoid any complications.
How do I buy a 4 cent Lincoln stamp?
Luckily for you, these stamps are affordable. Just head to your favorite online marketplace or do a quick Google search and you’ll find plenty of them for a low price.
How do I evaluate a 4 cent Lincoln stamp?
You will need a magnifying glass. Examine the stamp in detail – is it a genuine piece or a fake? Then, inspect the condition of the various elements of a stamp. The color, centering, perforation, and paper are all elements you need to analyze.
4 cent Lincoln stamps might not be the most valuable collectibles out there, but they’re still a fun and affordable way to start a stamp collection. And if you send a letter with one of those, you’ll definitely make a great first impression on the receiver.
Lincoln stamps are readily available everywhere. While this dilutes their value, it makes them a great point of entry for anyone looking to start – or grow – their collection. Just make sure to not overpay for one. There are a few pieces out there that are worth a lot of money, but they are a tiny minority. Unless you’re after a unique piece, it’s best to stick to the more affordable options.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong price for a postal stamp. Whatever the buyer is willing to pay is the correct price. If you’re happy to spend a little more to get a specific piece, go for it. As long as you’re happy with your purchase, you did the right thing.