Brazil’s Bullseyes

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Brazil’s Bullseyes (so-named because they resemble the animal’s eyes) have the distinction of being the second set of adhesive postage stamps introduced by any country. Issued August 1, 1843, they were second only to Great Britain’s Penny Black and 2 Pence Blue. It is true that the New York City Dispatch released stamps in 1842, and the Zurich Numerals were issued in March 1843. Those, however, had local status, while the Bullseyes were released by a recognized stamp-issuing nation.

It is believed that the designs of the 30 reis, 60r and 90r stamps of Brazil were taken from a bank note that was used by the Imperial Bank of Brazil prior to 1842. Because this Bank note was engraved and printed by Perkins, Bacon & Company, in London, it was assumed for a long time that the stamps also were printed in London. Most experts thought that the Brazilian Mint did not have an engraving press to produce the stamps in 1843.

Then, Dr. Jose Kloke set the record straight in his book, Bullseyes, explaining that the Brazilian Customs authorities had seized an engraving press in 1841. The press was confiscated and put in use by the Brazilian Mint. The preparation of the plates, as well as the printing of the stamps, actually took place at the Brazilian Mint in Rio de Janeiro.

The first two plates were composed of 54 stamps – 18 of each value in three panes, each containing three horizontal rows of six stamps. Among the greatest rarities of this issue are pairs of the 30r and 60r, or 60r and 90r stamps. Because a greater number of the 30r and 60r denominations were needed, a third plate of fifty-four 30r, a plate of sixty 30r, and two plates of sixty 60r were sent to press. The total printing quantities were 1,148,994 – 30r, 1,502,142 – 60r, and 349,182 – 90r.

These stamps have since taken their place among the world’s philatelic rarities. One reason for their scarcity is that on March 30, 1846, the remainder of the Bullseyes (466,711 copies) were burned in the courtyard of the Brazilian Mint, following their replacement by the new Slanting Figures issue. Another reason is that the Bullseyes frequently were placed on the flap to seal the envelope; therefore, many were destroyed upon the opening of correspondence.

In May 1978 a full sheet of sixty 60r was sold at a Stanley Gibbons Merkur’s auction in Frankfurt/Main, Federal Republic of Germany, for approximately $52,500. Current unused and used Scott catalog 2007 prices for the Bull’s-Eyes are from $240 up to $3,000. The ‘pair’ of used 30r and 60r Brazilian Bulls is valued at $300,000.00.

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