From 1894 to 1965, all U.S. Federal playing cards tax stamps were printed and issued by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). On July 1, 1940 the BEP issued both small and large “1 Pack” tax stamps for all playing card manufacturers. The “1 Pack” referred to a deck of 54 or less cards. The reference allowed for tax rate changes without having to reprint or surcharge the stamps.
The previous 10¢ stamp design (figure 1) by replacing “10 Cents” with “1 Pack” for new stamps (figure 2). The stamps look very similar but were used at different time periods. The “1 Pack” stamps were used for 25 years.
In the first article, I discussed the perforated, large “1 Pack” stamps and showed a small set of some of the cancels. In this article, I will discuss the large coil “1 Pack” stamps that were produced for only the large playing card manufacturers and precanceled. The original tax rate was 11¢ but was quickly changed to 13¢ on October 1, 1941 and remained at that rate until July 31, 1965 when the playing card tax was rescinded.
The term “precancel” means to cancel an item before being issued. This article will show the BEP red cancels on “1 Pack” stamps. The Bureau issued precanceled stamps at no additional charge to the manufacturer. The precancels do not include dates, but we can still narrow the date. Figure 3 shows the most prevalent “1 Pack” cancel produced for the U.S. Playing Card Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Ten different precancels were created by the BEP and applied to the large “1 Pack” tax stamps. Each stamp is 38.4 mm by 20.1 mm and was sold in rolls of 1,000 and 3,000 stamps. The large vertical coil stamps were perforated 10 horizontally. These USIR watermarked stamps were printed on a Stickney press from 102-subject plates.
The stamps were precanceled before being sent to the manufactures. The company was required to apply the stamp to each deck before it left their factory. Coil stamps made it easier to apply to the top of the deck. Yet many playing card manufacturers did not separate the stamps using the perforations but rather using machines to cut the stamps apart like the one shown in Figure 4.
The USPC continued to use Consolidated-Dougherty’s strong brand recognition not only on their cards but also as part of their cancels (figure 5 and 6). However, on September 1, 1962, Consolidated-Dougherty Card Company was dissolved into the USPC, so these stamps were only used before September 1962.
The two precancels in Figure 7 and 8, along with the above USPC seal (figure 2) and Consolidated-Daugherty cancel (figure 5) were previously used on large 1928 tax stamps, a sample shown in figure 1. E.E. Fairchild Corporation had its office in Rochester, New York.
New Precancel Designs
The remaining five precancels were new designs. Figure 9 shows a variety of the cancel variety of Brown & Bigelow located in St. Paul, Minneapolis. The fancy B&B canceled tax stamps are found on Redi-slip Remembrance decks like advertising decks and Frederic Enterprises of St. Louis, Missouri pinup decks.
The Arrco Playing Card Company of Chicago, Illinois formerly Arrow Playing Card Company used the below tax stamp (figure 10).
The Standard Packaging Corporation (SPC) located in Chicago, Illinois held many playing card manufacturers. Two precancels (Figures 11 and 12) were used on decks distributed by SPC. In 1960, B&B merged with SPC and became a Division of Standard Packaging Corporation.
Lastly, figure 13 shows the Western Printing & Lithographing Company precancel stamp. Western had a large plant in Racine, Wisconsin where it produced many of its decks.
If a deck is found with one of the above precanceled stamps, it had to be sold between July 1, 1940 and July 31, 1965. In the next article, I will show and discuss the small “1 Pack” stamps. Please submit any comments below or email me at Kristin_email@yahoo.com.