Wanted posters have been issued by law enforcement agencies since the earliest times.
The FBI issued its first identification order on December 15, 1919. Identification Order No. 1 was the FBI's first wanted poster. It was issued for William N. Bishop, a soldier who escaped from the stockade at Camp A. A. Humphreys -today's Fort Belvoir- in northern Virginia.
Within a few years, the identification order - or what soon became known throughout law enforcement as an - IO had become a staple of crime-fighting. By the late 1920s, these wanted flyers were circulating not only throughout the U.S. but also Canada and Europe (and later worldwide). The IO evolved into a standard 8x8 size. By the 1930s, IOs were displayed in post offices around the nation, enlisting the eyes of the public in the search for fugitives.
Since 1919, the FBI issued more than 5,400 IOs. Today, the printed copies have been replaced by online versions.
In addition to FBI wanted posters, many other federal and local agencies have issued posters.
This information may lead some to believe that the posters are common and of little value. While many have been issued and distributed widely, it is difficult to determine how many specimens of each exist. Some may be quite rare.