Tax Stamps On Carte De Visite Photos
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Why do some old photographs have a stamp on the back?
If you've been collecting carte de visite photos (CDV for short), you've no doubt come across one that has what looks like a postage a stamp on the back, but what was this stamp used for?
The stamp on the backs of some carte de visite photos was actually a tax revenue stamp which was used by the US government to raise funds needed to fight the Civil War.
In the begining of the Civil War the Union government passed the Revenue Act of 1862 which taxed all kinds of luxury goods including such things as playing cards and telegrams.
In 1864 as the war raged on and funding became thinner theCongress passed an act that also taxed photographs, ambrotypes, and daguerreotypes. Photographers were required to collect the tax, apply the stamp showing that the tax had been paid, and then cancel the stamp by initialing and dating it.
Although photographers were given clear instructions on how to cancel the stamps and most of them obeyed the law, some photographers decided to be more creative and canceled the stamps with rubber stamps and other various marks.
Tax stamps came in varying denominations but the amount of tax paid for the photograph was determined by how much the purchaser paid for the image. The most common stamps you will find are the 2 cent and 3 cent stamps because most cdv's and tintypes cost between 25 cents and 50 cents.
The 2 cent stamp is either blue or orange and was used for images costing up to 25 cents. The 3 cent stamp is green and was used for images costing from 25 cents up to 50 cents.
There were other denominations including 50 cents to one dollar tax stamp which was red, but you are more likely to find a 2 or 3 cent stamp. Most of the 2 and 3 cent tax stamps show the bust of George Washington, but there are other designs. The most common stamp is the orange 2 cent stamp.
In 1865 congress reduced the tax on images costing under 10 cents to a 1 cent tax, which produced a very rare 1 cent stamp in red color. The tax on photographs was repealed in 1865 and tax stamps on photographs were no longer required, so you will not find tax stamps on any photograph made after 1865.
Tax stamps on carte de visite photos and other photographs help date the image to the Civil war era and therefore it is more desirable to some to have a photograph with a stamp, but to us at Old Photographic it doesn't matter if the photo has a stamp as long as it's a great image.
Tags: photos, visite, carte, union, civil, stamp, you've, revenue, government, 1862, passed, begining
"A true portrait should, today and a hundred years from today, the Testimony of how this person looked and what kind of human being he was."
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