Siegel begins sale of Grant Inman Collection with 19th century newspaper stamps

Jul 30, 2016, 10 AM

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries held a pair of auctions in June, featuring less frequently seen United States material that illustrates the depth and richness philately offers when taken to a more advanced level.

June 21 saw the first part of the Grant Inman sale, with 19th-century stamps for newspapers and periodicals, while June 22 brought stamps and postal history of the U.S. Civil War, including the Confederate States of America.

The United States issued stamps for bulk payment on newspapers and periodicals beginning in 1865; after several issues (including special reprints), this category of stamps was discontinued in 1898.

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Unlike those in other countries, newspaper stamps in America were not applied to the individual newspapers being mailed. Instead, they were affixed to receipts, and generally retained by the post office. They tended to be canceled, if at all, with brush or pen strokes, or a cork handstamp. 

The first three U.S. newspaper stamps were typographed and embossed, measuring 2 inches wide by 3.75 inches high, making them among the largest stamps ever issued by any nation. Their unique designs served as the inspiration for the U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamps honoring World Stamp Show-NY 2016.

Beginning in 1881, a new series of engraved newspaper stamps featured allegorical female figures.

Along with other 19th-century U.S. stamps, newspaper stamps were reprinted in 1875 for the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition. Thanks to their extremely high face values, ranging up to $60, the top denominations of these ungummed reprints practically didn’t sell at all, and only one or two examples survive.

The $9 Continental Bank Note Co. special printing (Scott PR51) is one such rarity. Only a single example is recorded, making it one of the rarest of U.S. stamps. Although 500 were printed in 1875, a decade later the government still had 496 on hand: Two had been bought by a German dealer, and one apiece were purchased by Stanley Gibbons and a Mr. Anthony. Over time, sadly, three of those four have been lost to philately.

The unique brilliant yellow-orange stamp depicting the Roman goddess Minerva, well-centered on bright white, ungummed paper typical of special printings, found a new owner for $356,500, including the 15 percent buyer’s premium added by Siegel to all lots.

The next denomination, a $12 green showing the goddess Vesta (Scott PR52), is one of just two known, having previously been part of a pair. Five examples of this stamp were originally sold; again, three are lost. This stamp sold for $172,500.

Imperforate examples of the special printing stamps also exist, and are mentioned (though not listed) in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, with a value of $60,000 assigned to the set.

The imperfs originally were acquired as strips of five by the famous 19th-century collector James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford, although it is not known exactly how he came by them. After his death, the strips were broken up and three full sets are known to survive, together with a partial set (from $1.92 upwards) in the Inman collection.

This partial set of nine sold for $28,750, an amount that seems a bargain given the imperfs’ rarity.

When the contract for printing U.S. stamps passed to the American Bank Note Co., the same newspaper-stamp designs were printed by that firm in 1879 for regular use.

A mint, never-hinged example of the $9 (Scott PR74) sold for $862.50, while an exceptional mint example of the $12 (PR75), one of less than a handful known and perhaps the finest of those, went for $5,750.

The government’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing took over the production of stamps in the early 1890s, and reissued many of the denominations up to $6. Only small quantities survive. 

A sound, well-centered, original-gum example of the $6 Bureau issue of 1894 (Scott PR101), one of just 15 unused and one used surviving of this stamp, sold for $28,750.

Inman, a West Coast investment manager and a stamp collector since 1978, previously sold his collection of U.S. regular issues through Siegel for several million dollars. The sale of his back-of-the-book collection will continue in several more parts.