By Michael Baadke
Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries of New York City will conduct three auctions of United States material over the course of three days, Dec. 13-15.
The offerings come from a very wide range of American philatelic history, including 17th-century stampless covers and 21st-century color-missing errors.
Classic U.S. stamps and covers are offered in the first sale, on Tuesday. Almost 250 lots are gathered, with the proceeds to benefit the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.
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The vast majority of these are selected items donated by Gordon and Ronda Eubanks from Gordon’s award-winning collection of 1851-56 stamps and covers, plus additional items donated by Mark Schwartz and Robert Rose.
“This sale should create momentum for the campaign to create a substantial multi-million dollar endowment fund,” wrote Siegel president Scott Trepel in the introduction to the Dec. 13 sale catalog. “We urge bidders to bid even more enthusiastically, with the knowledge that the proceeds will benefit philately’s most important museum.”
The lots in this auction mostly represent the stamps in their many varieties that were first issued in 1851 as new postage rates were put into effect by Congress: the 1¢ blue Franklin, the 3¢ orange-brown Washington, the 5¢ red-brown Jefferson, the 10¢ green Washington, and the 12¢ black Washington. These are the nation’s earliest stamps after the 1847 5¢ and 10¢ issues (Scott 1-2).
Most of the cataloged types of the 1¢ Franklin are offered, including the coveted type III from position 99R2 (Scott 8), which displays the widest breaks in the frame lines that are characteristic of this type.
It is one of three type III stamps offered in this sale, all used, with the other two originating from position 67R4 and position 99R1E.
The position 99R2 stamp is described in the Siegel catalog as having an extremely fine appearance.
“Three huge margins including part of adjoining stamp at top and sheet margin at bottom, mostly large at left (just clear of upper ornament), gorgeous dark shade and proof-like impression, neatly struck circular datestamp leaves the characteristics of this distinctive position clearly visible, small scissors-cut in margin at top left.”
The stamp is ex-Wagshal and Merlin, and is accompanied by a 2010 Philatelic Foundation certificate. It is listed with the Scott catalog value of $12,500.
The museum benefit sale includes a selection of postal history items franked with stamps from the 1851-56 issue, including propaganda and campaign covers, Indian territory and Western covers, carriers and locals, railroad and waterway markings, steamship mail, and foreign mail.
Some of the multiple frankings are dramatic, including an 1855 blue folded cover mailed from New Orleans to Bordeaux, France, with a strip of seven 3¢ Washington stamps paying the postage. The total franking agrees with a blue pencil “21” marking, but apparently overpay by 1¢ the 20¢ American Packet Direct rate to France via New York-Havre Line.
The cover is ex-Caspary, estimated at $2,000 to $3,000.
The remaining two sales in this auction series are neatly divided between U.S. stamps on Wednesday, and U.S. and Confederate postal history on Thursday.
The Wednesday stamp auction opens with two particularly nice examples of the 1845 5¢ black George Washington postmaster’s provisional stamp, one used with ACM initials and red “PAID” marking (Scott 9X1)and one unused without signature (9X1e).
A good selection of classic U.S. stamps is sprinkled with some error varieties, such as two different vertical pairs of the 1894 5¢ chocolate Ulysses S. Grant stamp that are imperforate horizontally (Scott 255c).
A dedicated run of some 240 modern error lots begins with perforation varieties from the Fourth Bureau issue — the 1922-25 definitive series — and continues into the 21st century.
The 1981 Space Achievement set of eight is represented with a mint never-hinged imperforate block of eight (Scott 1919b), which is listed in the Scott Catalogue of Errors on U.S. Postage Stamps by Stephen R. Datz with just four to six complete imperforate blocks known.
“This is the first example we have offered since keeping computerized records,” the Siegel catalog listing notes.
The dynamic block is listed with its Scott catalog value of $6,500, which Scott presents in italics to denote an item that trades infrequently or which can be difficult to value accurately.
The Dec. 15 postal history auction is described as featuring the Calvet M. Hahn collection of colonial and early American postal history, and a further selection from the Irwin Weinberg inventory.
“Calvet M. Hahn, one of the most prolific research authors on stamps and postal history during the past 35 years, was also an avid collector,” Siegel announced previously. “Mr. Hahn’s desire to have his collection of covers auctioned over several years in well-described catalogues will be fulfilled by the Siegel firm.”
Hahn, who died in 2004, was inducted into the philatelic writers hall of fame in 2001, and the American Philatelic Society hall of fame in 2006.
Weinberg, a well-known stamp dealer and collector who died May 2, was once part of a small group that owned the famed 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta stamp.
Siegel has previously auctioned material from both the Hahn collection and the Weinberg inventory.
The Thursday auction begins with a long selection of free franks and autographs, including numerous presidential free franks, and some autographs on folded letters and other documents.
The Hahn postal history material begins with a folded letter mailed in 1673 from Boston to London.
“Apart from the 1651 datelined letter we offered in our 2012 Rarities of the World sale (realized $30,000 hammer), this is the earliest Boston datelined letter we have encountered since keeping computerized records,” the auction description notes.
This example is listed with an estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.
A colonial-era item offered from almost a century later is a 1769 folded cover originating in Waterbury, Conn., and addressed to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Westminster, England.
It is described by Siegel as an outstanding and rare cover with the “American Postage Paid” shipletter handstamp rarely applied to outgoing mail from the American colonies.
“We have not offered another example since keeping computerized records,” Siegel notes, providing an estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.
The numerous appealing markings on this letter include a “3/MR” (March 3) Bishop’s receiving mark.
Along with the extensive colonial period material, the auction offers first-day covers, airmail and flight covers, back-of-the-book issues, carriers and locals on cover, Western express covers, plus possessions and a significant selection of Civil War material.
All three auction catalogs are available for viewing online or for download as PDF documents. Online bidding options are available as well, or contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, 60 E. 56th St., Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10022, for additional information.