By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

‘Double pony express’ cover fetches $9,775 in Rumsey sale

January 29, 2016 03:49 PM

  • This “double pony express” cover, the only known example of a Wells Fargo Virginia City cover passed on to another pony express company (Kenson’s Pony Express), sold for $9,775 in the Schuyler Rumsey auction Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco.
  • Featured in the December Rumsey sale was this splendid cover mailed in 1856 from Rhode Island to Hong Kong. The three-color franking no doubt motivated the top bidder, who paid $54,625 for it.

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

Schuyler Rumsey held three sales of United States classic and Western postal history and private die medicine stamps on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco. The sales were previewed in Linn’s issue of Dec. 7.

The Western postal history sale included abundant covers documenting the private couriers and express companies that carried mail in the pioneer days of the western United States.

One of the most remarkable items was a “double pony express” cover, carried by Wells, Fargo & Co. out of San Francisco on its Virginia City, Nev., route. The letter was handed off in Aurora, Nev., to another company named Kenson’s Pony Express for delivery to a mining settlement near Owens Lake, Calif. It represents the only known example of a Wells Fargo Virginia City cover handed off to another pony express company.

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The cover consists of a U.S. 3¢ stamped envelope (Scott U34), with a printed Wells Fargo frank and a 25¢ blue Wells Fargo adhesive (143L8) of 1862 next to the indicium, tied by a blue Wells Fargo San Francisco handstamp dated Sept. 17.

The letter left San Francisco by steamer across the bay and up the river to Sacramento, and then went onward by train to Placerville, Calif. From there, it was taken by pony over the Sierra Nevada mountains to Carson City, Nev., and down to Aurora — a town then just recently reassigned from California to Nevada as a result of more accurate surveying.

From Aurora, Kenson’s carried it back down into Inyo County, Calif., to the mining camp of Willow Springs.

A manuscript “Coll. 2/-“ near the address indicates the recipient had to pay two bits, or 25¢, charged by the second carrier. The envelope is docketed “Rec’d Oct. 15,” indicating that the journey of almost 500 miles — some 360 of it by pony over arduous and undeveloped terrain — took less than a month.

The cover sold for $9,775, including Rumsey’s 15 percent buyer’s commission.

A very pretty cover sent from Rhode Island to Hong Kong in 1856 was part of the Donald Richardson collection documenting U.S. postal rates from 1851-1863.

The cover, colorfully franked with a 3¢ dull red Washington (Scott 11A), a 5¢ red-brown Jefferson (12) and a strip of three of the 10¢ green Washington type II (14), illustrates the 38¢ rate for the Prussian closed mail that carried the letter halfway around the world.

The cover was estimated at $15,000 to $20,000; its new owner paid $54,625 for it.