In late 1994 the USPS started to issue for select stamps uncut press sheets. The first stamp released in uncut press-sheet format was for the Legends of the West. The USPS envisioned these press sheets as an important part of their aggressive plan to make a $1-billion dollar profit off their stamp sales by the year 2000. The press sheets initially were released in two versions – signed and unsigned - with the signed versions selling with a substantial surcharge over face value. Only un-signed versions are sold today - the last signed press sheet released to the public was for the 1998 Space Discovery. I don’t know if the USPS achieved their billion dollar goal – but guess what – the uncut press sheets create another minor variety – something I felt I wanted to collect. But how does one collect something this size? They won’t fit into my plastic-sleeve scheme of things! And I surely don’t want to store them in the tubes that the USPS sends them in. So what is one to do?
Backing up a tad - the revised version of the Legends of the West stamps was the first stamps in modern times to be sold in uncut press-sheet format of six panes separated by gutters (three across and two down). The last time the Postal Service issued uncut press sheets was in 1935 and noted as Farley’s Follies, after the then US Postmaster General James Farley. However, the Farley Follies’ press sheets were of stamps of one design and not se-tenet blocks of 20, as the Legends are. The USPS offered 5000 signed (in the middle of the center gutter - almost unreadable after 4182 signatures) and initially 15,000 unsigned, uncut press sheets. The Postal Service said it had ample supply of unsigned, uncut press sheets in reserve and would put more on sale if the original 15,000 sold out (and which they did – 25,000 more!). When the sheets actually sold, the top and bottom selvage had been trimmed away, leaving the sheet with approximately the same area as six individual panes (as illustrated below). With the autographed press sheets, the USPS enclosed a Certificate of Authenticity. These uncut press sheets gave the collector an easy way to collect all pane positions - by cutting all panes from the press sheet. Recently, the USPS has also added uncut-press sheets as an option to their Standing Order program.
A complete Press Sheet, Autographed and Numbered in the center
An Obverted Pane from an Autographed Press Sheet!
... and ...
A wonderful House of Farnam cover with an
entire Obverted Pane affixed and FDOI canceled
... note that the cancel didn't quite tie the stamps to the cover ...