Pan-American Expo Poster Stamps and Ephemera

The Pan-American Expo in Buffalo, NY, in the summer and fall of 1901, generated some of the most beautiful poster stamps of any US exposition, and for its era, the greatest variety. On this page are displayed some of the items I have accumulated over the years. I am a fairly serious collector of poster stamps, but have not made any special effort to acquire material from the Pan-Am Expo per se, so I don't know for sure whether the items here are scarce or plentiful. That said, based on my experience, they are scarce in good condition. I have scanned the best ones I own, and cleaned up most of the images to make them look better, so if you can find ones as good as these, don't pass them up.

The design of the three stamps at the top was recycled into a real postage stamp by the USPS in 2001.
If you did not reach this page from the page where I show that, you can see it here.

The ones above were probably issued as individual designs, based on what I have seen, i.e., in sheets all of the same design, and as part of the advance publicity for the Expo. The ones below, on the other hand, were part of a set of twenty designs issued in larger sheets (Probably 100 - see below), and at least five colors, which were sold at the Expo. The blue seems to be the most plentiful, and the purple the least. Centering tends to be poor on these - the ones below are unusually good.


Below are scans of some blocks of the multiple designs. All 20 of the designs I know of are shown.

Recently I found an eBay auction (ended, unfortunately) with the block below, of twenty-five in green.

The quality of that image leaves a lot to be desired, but one can make out all the designs, AND the fact that there are perforations on the right and bottom. SO that suggests to me that the stamps were printed in panes of 100, with four of these blocks of 25 to a pane. And that would be consistent with stamp-production practices of that era. One can also see that the first and third columns are identical, which explains the (to me) puzzling differences in the blocks of 10 above. Odd that they could not come up with 5 more designs.

Poster stamps were certainly not the only souvenirs at the Pan-American Expo. Do a search on Ebay and you will find pamphlets, teaspoons, maps, bookmarks, ashtrays, paperweights, postcards, etc. My own interests focus on paper items, preferably stamp- like, or at least engraved. Below are some of the tickets issued for the Expo, many of which were prime examples of the engraver's art, back as well as front.

Advertising covers were a popular means of publicizing fairs and expos of the period, and again the Pan-Am Expo generated some of the finest. Below are a selection of mint envelopes with Expo-related cachets. These are available for $10 to $20, depending on condition - used examples in good condition with attractive stamps and cancels sell for $30 to $200. I like the fourth one especially - click on the thumbnail and look at the enlarged version - what looks at first like a map of the Americas is actually a woman dancing.

Picture post cards were a new concept in the U.S. in 1901, having been legalized by the USPOD only three years earlier. Below are some of those. You will note that the messages are all on the image side, and the back has space for an address only. It was 1907 before one could write on the address side. If you want to know more, here is a brief history of postcards. And another.

The best way to start a collection of material like the above is to buy an entire collection in an auction that specializes in something related, rather than exactly what you are buying. I bought most of my poster stamps in philatelic auctions, where they are less sought than they would be in a sale of paper ephemera, or a sale specific to poster stamps. I see items like the poster stamps at the top of this page on eBay for $1 to $10 each, depending on the knowledge and chutzpah of the seller, and don't recommend that as a way to get material, unless you know what you are doing. If all you want is one or two of your favorites, rather than a complete collection, go to someone who specializes in this sort of material, such as Rigastamps . You will pay a little more, but spend less time and get exactly what you want, from someone honest and reliable.

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Click here to access my web page about the 1936-1951 Poster Stamp Bulletin of the National Poster Stamp Society.

All text Copyright © 2000, William M. Senkus

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Revised -- 02/09/2008