Auctions

Michael Baadke

Rumsey’s Dec. 13-14 auctions offering U.S. classics and more, including Civil War-era stamps, covers

November 22, 2017 11:59 AM

  • One of just seven known covers bearing the United States 1860 90¢ blue George Washington stamp. The large package front is being offered during the Dec. 13-14 auction by Schuyler Rumsey in San Francisco, Calif.
  • The 1861 5¢ red and blue Greenville, Ala., Confederate postmaster’s provisional stamp, one of only six recorded examples. This unused stamp will be offered at auction by Schuyler Rumsey.

By Michael Baadke

Schuyler Rumsey Philatelic Auctions has two sales scheduled for Dec. 13-14 at the firm’s offices in San Francisco, Calif.

The Wednesday Gems of Philately sale features mostly United States classic stamps and covers plus a selection of international material. The sale on Thursday offers more than 700 lots of Civil War and Confederate States stamps and covers, including postmasters’ provisionals and prisoner-of-war covers.

The offerings in the first sale include a large package front franked with the United States 1860 90¢ blue George Washington (Scott 39), one of just seven recorded covers bearing the 1860 90¢ stamp.

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The stamp accompanies two 1¢ blue Benjamin Franklin singles (Scott 24), a 3¢ dull red Washington (26), and two 12¢ black Washington singles (36B). The stamps are grouped together and tied by multiple grid cancels.

Addressed to Amelia County C.H., Va., the cover is also one of just two known bearing the 90¢ stamp and addressed for domestic delivery. The 90¢ stamp was typically used on heavier multiple-rate trans-Atlantic mail.

A Richmond, Va., circular date­stamp from Jan. 16, 1861, is struck on the front of the cover.

In the auction lot description, Rumsey explains that the stamp is rarely found on cover because of its high denomination and relatively short life. All U.S. stamps were demonetized in August 1861 as a measure designed to preclude the sale of stamps from Southern post offices during the Civil War.

The auction lot description notes some stamp faults and cover staining, but points out that the 1860 90¢ stamp on cover is valued at $225,000 in the 2018 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

The cover in this sale, which is accompanied by a 2017 Philatelic Foundation certificate, is offered with an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.

A different 90¢ blue Washington stamp from around the same time period is found on a solo franking mailed to Hawaii: It is the 1861 stamp bearing the same portrait as the 1860 issue but within a different frame (Scott 72).

The cover is struck with a red Boston, Mass., circular datestamp; the Oct. 28 date is clearly visible, but without a year date.

This very cover was the subject of an analysis by philatelic researcher and longtime Linn’s Stamp News contributor Richard B. Graham in an essay published in the 1983 first volume of the Philatelic Foundation’s Opinions series.

Considering the rates that the single stamp could have paid and the contents the envelope could have contained, Graham concluded that the cover was mailed in 1861 or 1862, and is genuine in all respects.

This is the only recorded cover to Hawaii bearing the 1861 90¢ stamp, Rumsey notes. With 1980 and 2004 Philatelic Foundation certificates, the cover is offered with a $30,000 to $40,000 estimate.

Along with a substantial array of U.S. postal history, the Gems of Philately sale offers a number of highly graded U.S. stamps.

One example of these is an original gum never-hinged 1912 $1 violet brown Benjamin Franklin stamp (Scott 423) that has been graded superb 98 jumbo, with 2015 graded certificates from Philatelic Stamp Authentication and Grading, and Professional Stamp Experts.

Rumsey notes that the 98J grade is “the highest grade awarded to this rare stamp,” and that the stamp on offer is “the sole example to achieve this grade.”

Although the Scott catalog value for a mint 1912 $1 violet brown is $950, that value is specifically for a stamp grading very-fine 80.

The 2018 Scott Stamp Values-U.S. Specialized by Grade, an expanded valuing table found within the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog, assigns a value of $17,750 to a mint example of this stamp grading superb 98.

The jumbo designation for the stamp — which PSE describes as signifying “exceedingly large margins in comparison to the average of that stamp” — and its “pristine Post Office freshness” further add to its desirability.

An 1845 postmaster’s provisional stamp from St. Louis, Mo., is described by Rumsey as “without question one of the finest mint examples.”

The 10¢ black on greenish St. Louis Bears stamp (Scott 11X2) has large beautifully balanced margins, with deep color enhancing a crisp detailed impression of fresh pristine paper, according to the auction lot description.

The stamp is accompanied by 1969 and 2000 Philatelic Foundation certificates, and a 2008 Professional Stamp Experts certificate grading it as extra-fine 90. It is listed by Rumsey with the Scott catalog value of $50,000 for no gum.

The Thursday sale will offer some 700 lots of philatelic material from the U.S. Civil War, with Union and Confederate patriotic covers, Confederate stamps both on cover and off, advertising covers, blockade covers and much more.

Several dozen postmasters’ provisional stamps are being offered during this sale, including one of the six known examples of the 1861 5¢ red and blue Greenville, Ala., stamp (Scott 33X1).

This rare unused issue is described as having “ample margins to touched, rich colors and strong impressions of the blue ornamental border and red town name and denomination, without gum as usual, trivial small corner creases at top and bottom left.” With Philatelic Foundation certificates dating from 1952 and 2006, the bicolor stamp is listed by Rumsey with its Scott catalog value of $25,000.

The auction also includes two examples of another bicolor stamp, the 1861 5¢ green and carmine “crisscross border” Baton Rouge, La., provisional (Scott 11X3). The single lightly postmarked stamp has a Scott catalog value of $4,000, and the second stamp, on cover with a Baton Rouge circular datestamp, is listed by Scott at $10,000.

The Schuyler Rumsey auctions can be viewed at the website, with online bidding options available.

For additional information contact Schuyler Rumsey Philatelic Auctions, 47 Kearny St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94108.