Regency-Superior kicked off the new year with a stamp and postal history auction in conjunction with the Orcoexpo Stamp Show in Anaheim, Calif., on Jan. 10-11. The sale was previewed in Linn’s Dec. 29. (A sale Jan. 7 at their offices in St. Louis consisted mostly of space memorabilia and autographs.)
An imperforate pair of the world’s first stamp specifically designed for the purpose of franking airmail, the semiofficial 5¢ Buffalo Balloon stamp of 1877, was among the top items.
The stamp was privately produced, designed by John F.B. Lillard, a clerk for the Nashville firm that printed the stamps, for a flight by a balloon named Buffalo that carried a small quantity of mail from Nashville to Gallatin, Tenn. The stamp was possibly used for other Buffalo flights as well. It is listed in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers as CL1.
Balloon flights carried mail prior to this one, most famously during the siege of Paris in 1870. Early attempts at balloon mail in the United States included a 1793 flight from Philadelphia to New Jersey, carrying a letter from George Washington. In 1859, the balloon Jupiter flew from St. Louis to Henderson, N.Y., and later from Lafayette, Ind., to Crawfordsville, Ind., an event commemorated on a 1959 U.S. 7¢ airmail stamp (Scott C54).
However, no contemporary stamps were issued for any of those flights.
The 1877 Buffalo stamp was engraved by John H. Snively and printed by Wheeler Bros. of Nashville in tete-beche pairs, with the designs inverted toe-to-toe in relation to one another (Scott CL1a). Some 300 stamps reportedly were printed, with about a dozen pairs said to survive. The Scott catalog states that 23 of the stamps were used. Just three covers are known, one of them likely not flown.
The pair of stamps in the Regency sale, with some faults and no gum, sold for $15,000, including the 20 percent buyer’s premium charged by Regency-Superior on all lots.
Among revenue stamps in the sale, an unused 1873 $5 green and black proprietary stamp on violet paper (Scott RB10a) with original gum and described as “one of only 3 or 4 known unused examples” sold for $7,200. The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog prices the stamp only in used condition.
A 21st-century Canadian error known as the “missing moose,” a 2003 $5 stamp with the intaglio-printed brown and green colors missing (Scott 1693a), sold for $4,200. Somewhere between eight and 12 panes of four of the rather spectacular error have surfaced.
The absent colors affect not just the stamp design but also the Native American petroglyph drawing of a moose that should appear on the corner selvage.
Regency-Superior’s next sale takes place March 27-29 at the St. Louis Stamp Expo.
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