Book Review: United States Beer Stamps

Discussion in 'United States Stamps' started by Molokai, Jun 13, 2021.

  1. Molokai

    Molokai Moderator Moderator

    United States Beer Stamps by Thomas W. Priester. Second Edition, Oversized Hardback, 57 pages. Quality paper with b/w plates, 1990 Pine Hill Press. Current best prices; $30.00 eBay, $22.00 Amazon, $25.00 ABE.

    I sometimes purchase philatelic books on subjects I don’t collect. “Man, by nature desires to know,” said Aristotle. Albania and Russian Zemstvos are two examples. Beer stamps, another.

    Beer stamps are, of course, revenue stamps. They were used to collect taxes on varying amounts of wholesale beer. Besides multiple series through the years, collectors may focus on shades, varieties, cancellations, papers, watermarks, plate markings (where available), surcharges, etc. I find the earlier issues quite attractive. Most of them are large, colorful and ornate.

    There is not too much written on United State beer stamps. This tome has been the primary source of information since the first edition in 1979. There is an older book -Vanderhoof’s A Check List of the Beer Stamps of the United States of America- but Priester is more extensive and his book has the latest-and-greatest on beer stamps. Steenerson’s Federal Beer Stamps, just published, is the only other book source I can find. I just ordered a copy and will perhaps report back to headquarters with an addendum to this review. Of course, there are articles in the literature and several auction catalogs featuring beer stamp collections. The most recent article I find is in Opinions VIII.

    TOC -Introduction, Condition and Prices, Notes, Catalogue, A Beer Stamp Census, Use of Provisional Issues, Surcharges, Summary of Beer Tax Rates.

    The Catalogue considers all issues: 1866, 1867, 1870, 1871, 1875, 1878, 1898 Provisional, 1898, 1901, 1902, 1909, 1911, 1914 Provisional, 1914, 1917 Provisional, 1918 Provisional, 1933 First Issue, 1933 Second Issue, 1934, 1942, 1947, 1951. Each chapter offers a full-page plate, a brief summary of the issue and line-by-line description of each stamp in that series along with suggested retail prices circa 1990.

    Priester’s Introduction does not tell us anything about beer stamps generally, rather focused on the specifics of the subject matter in the book. So, a couple of tidbits from Castenholtz’s, An Introduction to Revenue Stamps:

    Beer stamps have been referred to as the aristocrats of revenue stamps. [Who knew? Ed.] They are collected for their striking beauty and many issues forming a continuous series from 1866 to 1955. The early issues were beautiful examples of engraving, with indications of both the size of the container and appropriate amount of tax paid. A typical series contained stamps for ¼ barrel to 1 hogshead – equal to two barrels. The first two issues were circular and are found cut-square. Trimmed to size and die cut round to fit over the bung on a container. Many beer stamps are bicolored.

    Detailing three of the issues I find most interesting and appealing:

    1867 – Seven denominations from 1/8 barrel to 1 hogshead. Available in Cut Square-Mint, Cut Square-Used, Die Cut and Cut to shape. Colors: Orange, Dark Green. Blue, Violet, Orange Brown, Black, Red. The 1/3 barrel is also found on Silk Paper. Perforated prior to use with 31 small holes arranged in a circular pattern. Printed by the Treasury Department. Tax Rate = $1.00 the barrel.

    1878 – Denominated in 1/8, 1/6, ¼, 1/3, ½, 1 barrel and 1 hogshead. A wide variety of papers. BEP took over from Treasury. Tax Rate = $1.00 the barrel.

    1898 - Seven denominations up to 1 Hogshead. Colors: Blue, Brown, Green, violet, Yellow, Red, Dark Brown. Tax Rate = $2.00 the barrel.

    These stamps have plenty of variety for specialization but – relative to my first-love Newspaper and Periodical stamps – they are fairly simple to understand and classify. That said, many of them are quite expensive and a reasonably representative collection would require some deep pockets!

    Another source of Beer Stamp information: (This looks like it is direct from Priester.)

    (There is a beer stamp story in one of Herst’s books. If anyone has read it, please let me know the source.)

    My recommendation of this book? As the girl on American Bandstand might say, “I give it a ‘7’ – it’s a cool tune but you can’t dance to it.”


    Attached Files:

    AVP, DonSellos and BettyBoop like this.
  2. DonSellos

    DonSellos Moderator Moderator

    Interesting series and attractive. Thank goodness that I'm not taken enough to try and collect them.

    Don Sellos
    Hochstrasse likes this.
  3. GregAlex

    GregAlex New Member

    I find this BOB stuff fascinating. I have photocopies of most of that book that I reference occasionally. Taxpaid revenues are a pretty narrow niche, so it's good that a catalog like this exists. Thanks for the review!
    DonSellos likes this.
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