The Shield, Eagle and Flags stamp belongs to the 1869 pictorial issue that included ten stamps worth between 1 and 90 cents. The series was the first to feature something other than national leader portraits. It also marked the first use of bicolor printing. Spelled out in red letters, the denomination number flows over into the blue-framed flags through the red shield. Due to the oddly placed denomination and the confusing arrangement of colors, the stamp was often criticized as an example of a bad design.
The new technique required double pressing: to print the center design also known as vignette and to print the frame. Negligence in merging the two processes led to the emergence of rare inverts. Because of that some stamps of the issue have an inverted frame rather than an inverted vignette. The 30 cent worth Shield and Flag piece with inverted flags is considered to be the rarest of the 1869 inverts, which explains the high price of the stamp.
Incredibly popular nowadays, the 1869 pictorial series was ignored by the 19th century public and soon withdrawn from production. Since the stamps were only in use for a year, they are almost impossible to find. The Shield and Flag design features the G grill and is available in several variations, including split grill, double grill and gum only. While an unused sample with inverted flags is valued at $210,000, a used example costs $65,000.
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