There is a common misconception that the Franklin head series of stamps is difficult to identify. It’s not. A major factor to that unjustly stigma is that they are often lumped together with the Washington heads which are much more complex. Let’s look at how easy it is to identify the Franklins.

The Franklin heads only come in eleven denominations: 8¢, 9¢, 10¢, 11¢, 12¢, 13¢, 15¢, 20¢, 30¢, 50¢, and $1.

The 13¢ denomination is the easiest. It only comes in one variety, Scott #513. There are only five other varieties for the rest of the stamps and they are easy to distinguish.

Scott # Perforations Watermark Notes
414-421 12 Single line all denoms but 11¢, 13¢, and $1
422, 423 12 Double line only the 50¢ and $1 issues
431-440 10 Single line all denoms but the 13¢ and $1
470-478 10 Unwatermarked all denoms but the 13¢
508-518 11 Unwatermarked
523 11 Unwatermarked $2, Orange-red and black color
547 11 Unwatermarked $2, Carmine and black color
524 11 Unwatermarked $5, Green and black color

That’s it! The Perf 10 issues need a little further investigation to see if they are watermarked or not. Also, Scott #476A (the 30¢ value that is perf 10 and unwatermarked) only exists mint. No used examples are known. Lastly, the 50¢ value, perf 12, needs watermarked to see if it's #421 or #422.

The three high value stamps that are easily distinguishable. The $2 orange-red and black copy is Scott #523 and a carmine and black copy is Scott #547. The color is quite different and should fool no one. The #523 is a very orange appearing color and the carmine color on #547 is a deep red like Scott #599 and Scott #634. Scott #524 is the $5 denomination in green and black.

There is only one Franklin head coil stamp, the 10¢ denomination, Scott #497. It is perf 10 vertically. This is a rotary press stamp while all of the other Franklin head stamps are flat plate printed. Fakes of Scott #497 are rare. You could take a Scott #472 and trim off the perforations to fake a #497. However, the catalog value of #472 is higher than the #497. It’s unlikely someone would damage a more expensive stamp to fake a cheaper one. Someone may try adding perforations to #497 to fake the #472. Because #497 is a rotary stamp and #472 is flat plate printed, the design size is different and fakes should be easy to spot.

Now, was that so hard?