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Six Cent Lincoln U.S. Bank Note Identification Guide

National Bank Note Company
No secret mark 

US 137 and 148 - There is no extra shading in the lower ribbon, below "SIX". Note that the color is a much richer, brighter shade of carmine than the later Continental printings. 

Continental Bank Note Company
Secret Mark

US 159, 186 and 208 - Four lines of  shading have been reinforced in the lower ribbon, below "SIX". Note that the color is a much duller shade of carmine than the National printings and the impression is generally weaker (except on the re-engraved 208). 

American Bank Note Six Cent - US 186 Vs 208

Side-by-side comparison of the 6¢ American Bank Note of 1879 (left) Vs the 6¢ Re-engraved stamp of 1882. Note the thicker, duller color of the re-engraved stamp.

A blow-up of the distinguishing areas of the 6¢ of 1879 (left) Vs the 6¢ Re-engraved stamp of 1882. There are three distinct lines on the re-engraved stamp at right and four indistinct lines on the stamp at left. All 208s will have this feature and the lines will be distinct.

Follow these steps in the identification of your six cent Bank Note:

Determine the type of paper the stamp was printed on, if it was printed on the "hard white" paper it is either a National or Continental printing. The National printings can often be separated by color alone, the color is quite a bit more vivid in general than the Continental and American printings. The stamp at the top of this page is the National Bank Note Printing, US 148. Compare the color with the US 186 in the diagram below it. The stamp should also be checked for the "secret" mark. If the stamp was printed on the "hard white" paper and does not have the "secret mark", it was printed by the National Bank Note Company. If the stamp has a grill, it may be US 137. If it does not have a grill it is US 148. Care must be taken when authenticating the grill. Many fake grills have been added over the years in an attempt to increase the value of the stamp. If you suspect your six cent National stamp has a grill, you must have it certified.

If the stamp was printed on the "hard white" paper and does have the "secret mark", it was printed by the Continental Bank Note Company and is US 159

If the stamp was printed on the "soft porous" paper, it is an American Bank Note printing. Compare the number of lines in the panel as shown in the illustrations above to determine the US number. The lines in the panel must be distinct for the stamp to be a US 208. Be sure to note the muddy color of the US 208.

If you are unsure of the type of paper used or the secret mark, you MUST assume that the stamp is the more common variety. If the stamp is unused and has at least partial gum, it should be certified to ascertain the type, since the value of the stamp will in most cases far out weigh the cost of certification.

Watch for re-perforation (to fake a more well-centered stamp), for re-gumming (a major problem with the Bank Notes), and even for bleaching of the cancellation (to remove the cancel). Unused copies carry a substantial premium over the used stamp.

We include the "Special" printings in this identification guide merely for completeness. Only 185 copies, total, of US 170 and 195 were sold, and they were never issued for postal use, rather for collectors only. We occasionally see uncertified copies of these stamps offered for sale at ridiculously low prices. You can rest assured that the stamp being offered is not genuine. These stamps are so rare, only 65 copies are known, they seldom come up for sale, except in the sale of a major U.S. Collection. 

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