The Americana Stamp Series

Between 1975 and 1981, the freedoms of the United States were honored with the Americana Stamp Series. The stamps contain images from Colonial America; they feature phrases like “Freedom to speak out” with a podium and “A public that reads” with a pile of books. The images on the stamps show quaint and charming pieces of Americana.

The United States Postal Service hired the private firm Kramer, Miller, Lomden and Glassman of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to design the art. The series came in twenty stamps in sheets and twelve in coils, plus one stamp made for a booklet.

This was the first U.S. stamp series with no male being featured; two female figures appear, though they represent allegorical characters rather than real women in history. Another separation of this series from other series was its lack of any featured President.

The stamps had five themes:

The Roots of Democracy

Rights and Freedoms of the American People

Symbols of America

Pioneer America, and

America’s Light.

This series produced the famous CIA Invert error (Scott 1610c), a postage stamp error on a one dollar stamp in the “America’s Light” theme. One sheet of 100 stamps was printed with the black inverted, so that the candle and text are positioned opposite of the colored flame.

The CIA Invert Error stamp from the Americana Stamp Series.

The CIA Invert Error.

A CIA employee bought a sheet of the error stamps, and other interested CIA employees saved one stamp each. The remaining stamps were sold to a stamp collector. The U.S. government tried to buy back the errors, but some employees refused to give them back. Rumor says these employees were fired!

Unfortunately the Americana Stamp Series was not terribly successful, and it was ended earlier than expected.

You can see stamps from the series here. Which stamp is your favorite?




The Sacagawea Mule Error

One of the greatest – or most infamous, depending on how you look at it – errors in numismatic history involves the 2000 Sacagawea coin.

If you’re not familiar with the term “mule”, a mule error is the production of two different coin designs on one coin. Prior to 2000, no U.S. coins had a mule error, but the Sacagawea coin broke that streak.

The coin was accidentally printed with the obverse design of a U.S. State quarter along with a Sacagawea reverse of an eagle.


After discovering the error, the Mint found thousands of coins with the same error at the Philadelphia Mint. These coins were melted to avoid any problems.

The question also arose whether the mule error coin could be legally owned. After all, if a coin is a partial quarter and a partial dollar, what denomination is it really?

Debates erupted on how this could have happened, and the Mint reported that it was due to the same size die of the State Quarter and Sacagawea dollar.

A Sacagawea dollar obverse.

A Sacagawea dollar obverse.

As it turns out, the mule error was produced three different times. Rogue employees probably were to blame for the printings. Two employees were also caught selling the coins for profit. The former employees received fines and jail time.

While the Mint destroyed most of the mule error coins, ten known coins still exist. One estimate says that a single Sacagawea Mule would bring in as high as $250,000 at auction.

Errors, Freaks and Oddities

Here is a cheat sheet for anyone starting out in stamp collecting or anyone interested in collecting stamps with printing mistakes.

Errors, freaks and oddities (EFOs) apply to any printing mishaps on stamps.

An error means the stamps turn out in such a way that they don’t have the appearance they were intended to have. This might mean it has the wrong colors, is missing something, has the wrong denominations, or another such mistake.

These days, errors are uncommon thanks to the careful watching of the printing process. However, the longest-run error on a stamp happened in 2011 on the U.S. Forever Statue of Liberty Stamp. The stamp showed the Statue of Liberty in Las Vegas instead of in New York. Somehow no one in the printing process noticed the error for three months.

"Cinco" instead of "Diez"

“Cinco” instead of “Diez” error

Common kinds of errors include:

Design error: Factually incorrect designs, such as a wrong inscription or a picture of the wrong subject.

Value error: The wrong denomination printed on a stamp.

Omission error: Something accidentally left out, like a color.

Invert error: Like the infamous ‘Inverted Jenny’ stamp, a stamp printed upside-down.

Double impression: A stamp printed twice, imperfectly overlapping.

-Imperforate error: Missing perforations on one or more sides.

An inverted printing on an 1892 stamp.

An inverted printing.

A freak means a one-time mistake. Maybe a bug got into the system and ruined a single stamp, for instance.

An oddity is usable but has a slightly off printing mistake, like eyes on the top of a person’s head. Oddities are very common.

Some philately enthusiasts disagree on what exactly defines an ‘error’, ‘freak’, or ‘oddity’. The lines can be somewhat blurred on what each means. This article does a good job of explaining the debates over the labels of EFOs.