Trio of ‘Hindenburg’ crash covers in Oct. 11-13 Kelleher auction of Commander’s collection of zeppelin flights

Sep 22, 2023, 9 AM
The Commander’s collection of zeppelin flights, to be sold Oct. 11-13 by Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions, features three crash covers from the May 6, 1937, fire that destroyed the German airship Hindenburg.

By Charles Snee

Collectors of zeppelin mail will have not one but three chances to acquire a Hindenburg crash cover when Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions offers the expansive Commander’s collection of zeppelin flights and related memorabilia in a sale to be held Oct. 11-13 at its gallery in Danbury, Conn.

Each day’s session will begin at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. In-person viewings prior to the sale are by appointment only, according to Kelleher.

In the introduction to the catalog for the 1,359-lot sale, David M. Coogle, co-chairman of Kelleher Auctions, comments that “the scope and depth of this collection … are astounding.”

Coogle then provides a summary of highlights from the collection:

Three Hindenburg Crash covers are the most obvious highlight. You will find Pioneer Flights and Early Zeppelin Flights, which include Nobile’s Norge N-1, credited as the first aircraft to fly over the North Pole; Rhein-Main Flights; German Military Airships; USS Akron, USS Macon, USS Shenandoah and USS Los Angeles dirigibles, along with others. The Zeppelin markings contain many scarce to rare postings, frankings, destinations and routes, with several of the difficult to impossible to find Treaty State uses. Lastly, you will find some incredible memorabilia: the Zeppelin Oil Can, Harmonica, Pipe and J.A. Henckels sterling silver barware set, just to name a few of our favorites.

Cheryl Ganz, an expert on myriad aspects of airship and zeppelin flights and their associated postal history, also affirmed the importance of the collection.

“The Commander Collection is special not only for depth and breath, but because it encompasses the entire reach of the ardent zeppelin collector, including mail, ephemera, artifacts, and library,” Ganz told Linn’s Stamp News. “There are many items that will appeal to collectors of postal history, country collections, topicals, and display class. It is truly a lifetime work.”

(Ganz’s 2021 book, U.S. Zeppelin and Airship Mail Flights, chronicles mail services from airships in the U.S. military, private airships and commercial airships.

She currently serves as a member of the U.S. Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee and is a signatory of the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists.)

The three Hindenburg crash covers will be offered one after the other as lots 2205, 2206 and 2207 on the third day of the auction, Friday, Oct. 13.

All three represent surviving postal history from the ill-fated German airship LZ 129 Hindenburg, which caught fire and completely burned in less than a minute as it attempted to dock with the mooring mast at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, N.J., on May 6, 1937.

Of the 97 people on board at the time, 35 lost their lives. One of the survivors, Mathilde Doehner, sent the postcard pictured here, which was postmarked May 4 while the Hindenburg was en route from Germany to New Jersey. The card is addressed to Doehner’s friend, Frida Schiele of Niles Center, Ill.

Doehner’s two sons, Walter and Werner, also survived. Her husband, Hermann, died in the crash, and Irene, her daughter, died in a hospital.

In the lot description, Kelleher provides key details regarding the card’s handling in the days before the disaster.

The card “was placed in the metal integrated mailbox in the Reading and Writing Room on passenger A-deck; the On Board postmark was applied by Navigator Max Zabel who also functioned as the Hindenburg postmaster,” according to Kelleher.

Kelleher notes that although the card is visibly damaged from singe marks and oil stains, the purple circular datestamp is legible.

Accompanying the cover is an “ambulance envelope” franked with a pair of United States 1919 post office seals (Scott OX21), Kelleher said.

This card is listed in the German-language Sieger Zeppelinpost Katalog as No. 454Ba. It is also described and illustrated in Dieter Leder’s LZ-129 Hindenburg Zeppelin Crash Mail.

Kelleher is offering this historical artifact of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster with an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.

On Stamp Auction Network, the online bidding platform used by Kelleher for its auctions, the card is listed with an opening bid of $5,000 as of Sept. 20.

Kelleher has prepared a single catalog for its auction of the Commander’s collection of zeppelin flights that is available for viewing and download on the firm’s website, with online bidding options available on Stamp Auction Network.

For additional information, contact Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions, 22 Shelter Rock Lane, Unit 53, Danbury, CT 06810.

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