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Identifying Secret Marks

1873 Continental and 1879 American Bank Note Issues

Tiny reference points were engraved in the Continental Bank Note and American Bank Note designs to differentiate them from the originals done by the National Bank Note Company.

While the secret marks on the Continental and American Bank Notes are the same, the printings can be distinguished by the Hard (Continental) and Soft (American) paper used to print the stamps.



1¢ (#156, 182). A small crescent is visible in the pearl at the left of the numeral "1".

1 cent secret mark

2¢ (#157). Since the small diagonal line under the scroll at the left of "U.S." seldom shows clearly, the best way to identify this stamp is by its brown color.

2 cent secret mark

3¢ (#158, 184). Heavy shading under the upper tail of the left ribbon.

3 cent secret mark

6¢ (#159, 186). Darkening of first 4 vertical lines in lower part of left ribbon.

6 cent secret mark

7¢ (#160). Small semi-circles at ends of lines outlining ornament at lower right corner.

7 cent secret mark

10¢ (#161, 188). Small crescent cut into ball directly under "E" of "POSTAGE".

10 cent secret mark

12¢ (#162). End of ball in numeral "2" is a crescent.

12 cent secret mark

15¢ (#163, 189). V of color at bottom of triangle in upper left corner.

15 cent secret mark

30¢ (#165, 190). The upper triangular protrusion in the letter "S" of "CENTS" is widened and less distinct. This secret mark appears on some but not all of the American printings.

30 cent secret mark