These stamps are easy to identify. There are only 4 of them, Scott #QE1 to #QE4. You’re probably aware of them because they are not that far back in the catalog. Many printed albums include spaces for these 4 issues.
However, how many of you know what the Special Handling stamps were used for? I bet many collectors can’t answer that question.
The U.S. Postal Servivce Act of February 1925 provided for a 25˘ fee that allowed fourth class mail (what we call Parcel Post today) to receive the same service as first class mail. On April 11, 1925, the 25˘ stamp was issued. It is Scott #QE4. New rates went into effect in July 1928, so the 10˘, 15˘, and 20˘ stamps (Scott #QE1-#QE3) were issued.
A close analogy to the Special Handling rate is what Priority Mail is today. You can mail heavy items at the Priority Mail rate which is generally delivered within 2 days time depending on the distance.
What items were important back in 1925? Back then, it was possible to mail things like eggs or baby chicks through the post office (try doing that today. HA!). Obviously, those items had to be delivered quickly. Hence, the Special Handling stamps met that need.
Check your copies of Scott #QE4. There are two plate varities that are much more valuable. Both come from plate number 17103. On one variety, the “A” and second “T” of “STATES” are joined at the top. On the second variety has this same plate variety. However, the second variety also has the “T” and “A” of postage joined at the top too.
I hope you learned something new today. You learned why Special Handling stamps were issued. And you learned about two scarce plate varieties on #QE4 that are moderately expensive ($70 and $110 catalog value for mint copies, $30 and $100 for used copies). Stamp collecting should be a learning experience.