Columbus Vindicated

Columbus in Chains, the 2-dollar Stamp

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$2 Columbus in Chains single

Like all the dollar values in the Columbian series, the 2-dollar stamp—“Columbus in Chains”—filled no postal function. The Post Office Department issued it as a “souvenir,” anticipating sales to collectors who would never actually use the stamp. This played itself out as expected. Numerous collectors invested heavily in the issue. As was the case with all the dollar-value Columbians, some collectors, wanting canceled versions on cover, grossly overpaid regular rates to secure a postmark. The painting used for the stamp’s model is titled “The Third Return of Columbus.” Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze executed the artwork in 1841, and James Herring’s Apollo Art Association, located in New York City, awarded the painting to a gentleman named Richard Arnold in 1843. It supposedly remained in the Arnold family until late in the twentieth century. The 2-dollar stamp, inspired by the Leutze painting, depicts Columbus in chains, accused of administrative misconduct by Admiral Don Francisco de Bobadilla. Returned to Spain to stand trial, Columbus was eventually acquitted. Charles Skinner engraved the vignette, and D.S. Ronaldson engraved the lettering and frame.

Columbus Describing Third Journey, the 3-dollar Stamp

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$3 Columbus Describing His Third Voyage single

Columbus returned from his third voyage in 1500. The 3-dollar stamp features a scene in which Columbus explains his most recent discoveries to the Spanish monarchs. Inscribed “Columbus Describing Third Journey,” the 3-dollar stamp, like the other dollar values, served no postal function. A painting by Francisco Jover y Casanova by the same title served as the stamp’s model. It is held at a museum in Valladolid, Spain. Robert Savage engraved the vignette, and D.S. Ronaldson engraved the frame and lettering.


Isabella and Columbus, the 4-dollar Stamp

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$4 crimson lake Isabella and Columbus single

A landmark in U.S. postage stamp production, the 4-dollar issue of the Columbian series—“Isabella and Columbus”—was the nation’s first stamp to feature the portrait of an identifiable woman, Queen Isabella. Since its appearance, women have often been so honored. The source of Queen Isabella’s image, though uncertain, probably dates to the fifteenth century and was painted by either Bartolome Bermejo or Antonio Munoz-Degrain. Lorenzo Lotto, a contemporary of Columbus, painted the portrait of Columbus, a contemporary of Columbus. Printers in Chile used Lotto’s portrait of Columbus on several stamps there. Alfred Jones engraved the vignette, and G.H. Seymour engraved the frame and lettering. Only 22,993 of the 4-dollar stamps were sold to the public, making it one of the most difficult of the dollar values to obtain.

Columbus, the 5-dollar Stamp

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$5 Christopher Columbus single

The 5-dollar value of the Columbian series occupies an almost mythical position among collectors for its rarity and chiseled beauty. Only 21,844 copies were available at time of issue, and, adjusted for inflation, the price in 2006 valuations would have been $108.20. A metal cast in Madrid by artist Olin L. Warner served as the stamp’s model. The U.S. Treasury Department issued half dollar coins at the same time using the same model, as did printers who issued tickets to the exposition. Albert Jones and Charles Skinner engraved the stamp.