Signed 1795 Thomas Jefferson letter in June 27 Siegel Rarities of the World sale

Jun 13, 2024, 11 AM

By Charles Snee

A one-page autographed letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1795 to Tenche Coxe is one of 352 philatelic items of distinction that Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries will offer during its June 27 Rarities of the World sale in New York City.

The sale will be held in two sessions that will begin at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at Siegel’s headquarters on W. 38th St. in Manhattan.

Emphasis is on classic-era United States stamps and postal history from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries.

Highlights include select covers from the Gordon Eubanks collection that bear the elusive “VIA NICARAGUA/AHEAD OF THE MAILS” two-line handstamp; a Feb. 21, 1870, cover bearing a bold strike of the famous Waterbury, Conn., Running Chicken fancy cancel; two 1918 24¢ Jenny Invert airmail error stamps (Scott C3a) from the discovery pane of 100; and a rare unused Canada 1851 12-penny black Queen Victoria (3).

In his commentary in the Rarities of the World sale catalog, Siegel president Scott R. Trepel expounds on why rare stamps are so much fun.

“In the early days of stamp collecting, major rarities were discovered all the time,” Trepel said. “The most famous discovery is the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, which was found in family papers by a schoolboy named Vernon Vaughn.”

“More modern, but perhaps even more famous,” Trepel continued, “is William Robey’s post office discovery of the 24¢ Inverted Jenny sheet.”

Best of all, Trepel reminds his audience that rarities are still being discovered today.

“Just recently a friend and longtime client called to say he had made a very surprising find,” Trepel recalled. “Attached to a sheet of paper in a 19th century notebook were several old cancelled stamps. One of them, a 15¢ 1869 Pictorial stamp [Scott 119] with pen cancels, caught his eye.”

Trepel’s friend realized he had discovered an invert.

“This newly recorded example of Scott 119b is offered in this sale as lot 4089,” Trepel said.

The signed 1795 Jefferson letter is the second lot up for bids during the 10:30 a.m. session.

According to Siegel, the framed epistle is datelined “Monticello June 1, 1795.” Following is Siegel’s transcription:

                                                                                       Monticello June 1, 1795

Dear Sir

I received a few days ago only your favor of Mar. 20, as accompanied by the Collection of your papers lately printed, for which I cordially thank you. It will enable me to turn with more convenience to pieces which I consult with pleasure & instruction.

I congratulate you on the successes of our two allies. Those of the Hollanders are new, and therefore pleasing. It proves there is a god in heaven, and that he will not slumber without end on the iniquities of tyrants, or would-be tyrants, as their Stadtholder. This ball of liberty, I believe most piously, is now so well in motion that it will roll round the globe. At least the enlightened part of it, for light & liberty go together. It is our glory that we first put it into motion, & our happiness that being foremost we had no bad examples to follow. What a tremendous obstacle to the future attempts at liberty will be the atrocities of Robespierre!—We are enjoying a most seasonable sowing after a winter which had greatly injured our small grain. Nothing can give us a great crop. I doubt if it can be made even a good one. Our first hay-cutting (clover) begins to-day. This may mark to you the difference of your seasons and ours. My clover in common upland fields which were never manured will yeild [sic] 1500. lb to the acre at this cutting, which I consider as an encouraging beginning.—I take the liberty of asking your care of two letters, both of them of importance. I have not inclosed Monroe, either to our office of foreign affairs or the Minister of France, because I thought you might possibly find a safer channel than either. It requires safety and secrecy. but adopt either of those channels, if you think them the best. I am with much affection Dear Sir

                                                                                            Your friend & servt

                                                                                                      Th. Jefferson

Tenche Coxe esq.

In its catalog description of the letter, Siegel notes that Jefferson’s writing is extremely clear.

“There is some overall toning from exposure to light that is really only evident when edges are viewed outside of the frame,” Siegel said.

According to Siegel, the letter was acquired “from a dealer in Ohio in the 1960s and held for two generations.”

“A business partner and prominent philatelist (and Jefferson aficionado) of the second generation then acquired it, several decades ago,” Siegel said. “This is the first opportunity to acquire this letter since the 1960s.”

Additional details about the letter and pivotal events (such as the French Revolution) that were unfolding at the time it was written are presented in a separate commentary following the main listing in the sale catalog.

“This letter from Jefferson to Coxe touches on important issues of the day, and is a window into Jefferson’s mind on the subject of liberty,” Siegel said. “Written at a time when Jefferson did not hold a government position and was focused on Monticello and his business affairs, this letter demonstrates Jefferson’s profound passion for democracy.”

Siegel is offering this 1795 letter signed by Thomas Jefferson with an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

The afternoon session of the sale will serve up eight notable lots of classic Hawaii stamps and covers. One of those items is the only recorded cover franked with a pair of the 1859 2¢ black Numeral on grayish paper (Scott 16).

The vertical pair is affixed horizontally at lower left on a letter that was mailed in 1863 from Lahaina, Hawaii, to Honolulu. The stamps are types IV and VI from plate 3-C, Siegel said.

A signature feature of this letter is the bold, crisp strike of the blue Lahaina Customs House seal picturing a fully rigged sailing ship that ties the pair at top and bottom.

According to Siegel, the seal “was used by Cornelius S. Bartow, the Lahaina postmaster, before he received cancelling devices ordered through the Honolulu post office. In a letter to the postmaster-general, he refers to this provisional cancellation: ‘Did you order a stamp for the department of this place? It seems to me to be very necessary, as I am now compelled to use the Custom House seal.’ ”

“The recipient, Louis Désiré Maigret (1804-82), served as the first vicar apostolic of the Vicariate Apostolic of the Hawaiian Islands, now the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu,” Siegel said.

In 1846, at the age of 42, Maigret was appointed the first vicar apostolic of the Sandwich Islands. He was ordained as a bishop in 1847.

“As bishop, Maigret oversaw the construction of what would become his most lasting legacy, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace,” Siegel said.

A single example of Hawaii Scott 16 on cover is valued at $5,000 in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

Siegel lists this 1863 letter, the sole recorded cover franked with a pair of the 1859 2¢ black Numeral on grayish paper stamp, with an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.

Full details of the 2024 Rarities of the World auction, including a downloadable version of the 220-page catalog and online bidding options, are available on the Siegel website.

For additional information, contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, 21 W. 38th St., Seventh Floor, New York, NY 10018.

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