First of all, there are a couple of stamps that are easy to distinguish because they have a unique stamp design. Scott numbers E7 and E17 through E23 all have unique designs. There should be no problem identifying these issues.

Next is E1 through E5 which uses the Running Messenger stamp design.

E1 is easy to identify. The plaque in the middle of the stamp ends with “At A Special Delivery Office”. It’s a subtle design difference, but it does make it unique. When the special delivery service was started, it was only available at designated post offices. The USPS didn’t offer special delivery service at all post offices until later.

E3 is easy to identify because it’s printed in orange ink. All of the other Running Messenger stamps are printed in blue.

On E2, the plaque in the middle of the stamp now reads “At Any Post Office”. Also, there are no horizontal shading lines under the words “TEN” and “CENTS”

E4 and E5 have the same inscription on the plaque as E2. Both of these issues have a thin horizontal shading line under the words “TEN” and “CENTS”. If the stamp has no watermark, it is E4. If the stamp has a double line watermark, it is E5. Double line watermarks are generally easy to detect with watermark fluid.

E6 and E8 to E11 use the Messenger on a Bicycle theme. Ink color is not always a reliable indicator on these issues.

If the stamp is perf 11, it is E11.

If the stamp is perf 12, it is either E6 or E8. The E6 has a double line watermark and E8 has a single line watermark. Be careful when watermarking these stamps. Sometimes you only catch a small part of the double line watermark and at first glance, you may think it’s a single line watermark. With a little practice though, it’s easy to tell the difference between the two watermarks, even when a full letter isn’t shown.

If the stamp is perf 10, it’s either E9 or E10. E9 has a single line watermark and E10 has no watermark. Single line watermarks are sometimes faint. Due to its small size and layout, sometimes only a tiny part of a single line watermark touches the stamp. Look very closely to be sure there is no watermark. The E9 and E10 stamps are the most difficult Special Delivery issues to identify.

E12 and E15 show a motorcycle. E12 is the flat plate version and is perf 11 all around. E15 is the rotary press version and is perf 11 by 10.5. In this case, the colors are different enough that you can sometimes tell just by the ink color. E12 is more of a grey or blue colored stamp. E15 is more purple or violet. A perf gauge clinches the deal if you’re in doubt.

Likewise, E13 and E16 show a motorcycle. E13 is the flat plate version and is perf 11 all around. E16 is the rotary press version and is perf 11 by 10.5. The orange ink on these issues is too close for me to tell the difference. I always use a perf gauge to be certain on these two stamps.

Last but not least are E14 and E19 that show a mail truck. E14 is the flat plate version and is perf 11 all around. E19 is the rotary press version and is perf 11 by 10.5.

Some collectors include the Airmail Special Delivery stamps in this series too. These are Scott CE1 and CE2. These stamps paid both the Airmail and Special Delivery fee. They are easy to distinguish. The CE1 is printed in blue ink only and CE2 is printed in blue and red ink.

Let me know if this “Stamp Identification” feature is something you would find useful. Now that you have your cheat sheet for the Special Delivery issues, you have no excuse for getting that dusty box out of the closet and start identifying what you have. Get going and good luck!


Scott # Design Detail #1 Detail #2 Detail #3
E1 Messenger Blue ink At Any Special Delivery Office
E2 Messenger Blue ink At Any Post Office
E3 Messenger Orange ink
E4 Messenger Blue ink Shading lines Unwatermarked
E5 Messenger Blue ink Shading lines DL watermark
E6 Bicycle Perf 12 DL watermark
E8 Bicycle Perf 12 SL watermark
E9 Bicycle Perf 10 SL watermark
E10 Bicycle Perf 10 Unwatermarked
E11 Bicycle Perf 11
E12 10¢ Motorcycle Perf 11
E15 10¢ Motorcycle Perf 11 by 10.5
E13 15¢ Motorcycle Perf 11
E16 15¢ Motorcycle Perf 11 by 10.5
E14 Mail truck Perf 11
E19 Mail truck Perf 11 by 10.5