Easy Identification
1867- 1868 Grills

By Bill Weiss and Don Denman

The 1867-73 grills were a group of parallel rows embossed into the stamps, the intent being to allow canceling ink to absorb into the paper making the removal of the ink impossible or very difficult, thus preventing the re-use of the stamp.

Identifying the various grills is much easier than most collectors realize. Rather than struggling with exact measurements of the grills, all can be positively and quickly identified because each of them has one trait that is unique to only that one grill.



Points Up
Ink and the peaks of the grill

POINTS UP GRILLS (points protruding upward from the front of the stamp);
  • "A" Grill - Covers entire stamp. Points are "up" (protruding up from the front of the stamp); similar essay grills exist;

  • "B" Grill - only four copies exist, largest grill that doesn't cover entire stamp, points up;

    "C" Grill - Has 17 vertical rows and points "up";





Points Down
Ink and the valleys of the grill

POINTS DOWN GRILLS (points protruding downward from the back of the stamp);
  • "D” Grill - Has 15 vertical rows;

  • "E" Grill - Has 14 vertical rows and the points run vertically, like this; IIII;

  • "Z" Grill - Has 14 vertical rows and the points run horizontally, like this; ---- ;

  • "F" Grill - Has 12 or 13 vertical rows (usually 12). The smallest 1867-8 grill;

  • "G" Grill - Used only on the 1869 Issue;

  • "H" Grill - About the same size and configuration as the "F" grill but only used on 1870 Banknote Issue;

  • "I" Grill - Used only on some 1870 Banknote values, is smaller than the "H" grill, usually 10 vertical rows only;

  • "J" Grill- Probably not regularly issued, smaller than the H" or "I" but always very heavily impressed such that some points will break through the paper.


Complete List of All US Grill Stamps

Image Scott Point Count Points Grill Type Rarity
79 Entire Stamp Up A Rare
80, 80A Entire Stamp Up A Only a few examples of the 5c “A” grill exist
81 Entire Stamp Up A Only eight examples of the 30c “A” grill are reported.
82 22 columns X 18 rows Up B Since only four copies of the “B” grill 3c exist, it is again unlikely that you will ever encounter this stamp.
A partially erased “C” grill can be confused with a “B” grill, but that variety is rare as well, with a current Scott
price (used) in 2013 of $2,750.00.)
83   16 or 17 columns X 18, 19, 20 or 21 rows   Up C Rare
84 15 columns X 17 or 18 rows Down D Rare
85 15 columns X 17 or 18 rows Down D Rare
85A 13 or 14 columns X 18 rows Down Z The 1c “Z” grill is considered the rarest United States stamp, with only two copies recorded, only one
being in public hands. Currently priced at $3,000,000. It is highly unlikely that anyone will ever encounter a copy,
except on the rare occasions that one of them is exhibited.
85B 13 or 14 columns X 18 rows Down Z Rare
85C 13 or 14 columns X 18 rows Down Z Rare
85D 13 or 14 columns X 18 rows Down Z Only six examples of the 10c “Z” grill exist
85E 13 or 14 columns X 18 rows Down Z Rare
85F 13 or 14 columns X 18 rows Down Z Only two examples of the 15c “Z” grill are recorded (2013 Scott $2,000,000.)
86 14 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down E Uncommon
87 14 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down E Uncommon
88 14 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down E Common
89 14 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down E Uncommon
90 14 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down E Uncommon
91 14 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down E Uncommon
92 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Uncommon
93 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Common
94 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Common
95 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Uncommon
96 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Fairly common
97 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Fairly common
98 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Fairly common
99 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Uncommon
100 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Uncommon
101 11 or 12 columns X 15, 16 or 17 rows Down F Scarce
112-122 12 columns X 11 or 11½ rows Down G Common to scarce
134-144 10 to 13 columns X 10 to 16 rows Down  H     Fairly common to rare  
134-144 10 to 13 columns X 10 to 16 rows Down I Fairly common to rare 

Detecting Fake Grills
Grills must have the correct number of rows as listed here AND the grill rows must be perfectly straight in alignment, unless some natural deviation is caused by a paper fold, for example. Otherwise this is the most important factor for you to observe.

Building A Reference Group
Counterfeit grills are fairly common so it is important to be able to identify genuine grills. Owning certified reference copies of the better grills is a good idea, but non-certified copies of the cheaper grills can be easily acquired which can then be used as your template 

Choose a Scott #94 used for your “F” grill reference copy and Scott #88 for your “E” grill reference, then buy certified copies of the others. Those with small faults can usually be picked up at 20-30% of Scott value. A complete set of reference grills (based on the lowest-priced copies (minus the rare “B” grill) of each would be; #79(“A”), #83(“C”), #85(“D”), #85B(“Z”), #88(“E”) and #94(“F”).

Using Graphite to Study Grill Points
Here is a handy tip which can be used to detect or study grill points by transferring graphite from a pencil onto the grilled area. The graphite/lead adheres to whatever points protrude enough to allow some to stick to them, making them easier to observe.

  • 1. Take a pencil which contains softer lead and deposit graphite from the point onto a piece of paper by rubbing back and forth until you have plenty on the paper.
  • 2. Use your finger tip to transfer some graphite from the paper onto your finger tip by rubbing your finger over the grill area.
  • 3. Now rub your fingertip gently over the grill area. You should now be able to see grill points much more clearly than without the graphite enabling you to study the points and count them if you wish.
  • 4. The graphite will NOT harm the paper but keep in mind that 'less is more'. Do not over-apply the graphite, use only enough to highlight the grill. The graphite can be erased using a soft eraser but it is generally better to simply leave it in place.






Multiple or Split Grills
Occasionally during the grilling process a stamp would receive a 'split' or multiple grill impressions. These stamps are often sought out by many specialists and can command a higher price.
There are still questions regarding the grilling process and how multiple grills might have occurred. It is unclear if the the sheets of stamps could travel back and forth in the same grilling pass or if the sheets were re-fed multiple times.






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