Confederate postmaster’s provisional sells for $108,000 at Christoph Gaertner sale

Jul 2, 2016, 7 AM

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

They came, they saw, they raised their paddles.

For the tens of thousands of visitors attending World Stamp Show-NY 2016, a remarkable string of auctions by five different firms over six days brought excitement and opportunity during late May and early June.

Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries kicked off the action on Sunday, May 29, with a pair of big-name sales: the William H. Gross collection of Hawaii, and the second part of the Steven Walske collection of trans-Atlantic mail between the United States and France.

Christoph Gaertner, of Germany, picked up the gavel on Monday, May 30, with a day-long session devoted to worldwide rarities that included an impressive selection of U.S. and Confederate postmasters’ provisionals.

Siegel resumed on Tuesday, May 31, with a record-breaking sale of the highest-graded example of the iconic American airmail rarity, the Inverted Jenny, followed by other U.S. rarities.

Wednesday, June 1, saw Schuyler Rumsey celebrate his firm’s 20th anniversary with a sale of U.S. and worldwide rarities, including U.S. Official issues collected by Robert L. Markovits, while Thursday saw the Daniel F. Kelleher firm’s offering of the Alfred J. Capurro collection of worldwide, mostly mint stamps.

H.R. Harmer, a member of the Global Philatelic Network, wrapped things up on Friday, June 3, with the award-winning Erivan Haub collection of U.S. and Confederate postmasters’ provisionals, among many other items.

Linn's Stamp News is breaking them all down in a multi-part U.S. Auction Roundup series:

Robert A. Siegel, Part I, May 29 Robert A. Siegel, Part II, May 31 | Schuyler Rumsey, June 1 | H.R. Harmer, July 3

Among the highlights of Gaertner’s daylong sale were some rare Confederate postmasters’ provisionals. 

Not long after Southern states began seceding from the United States at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, the North declared that all U.S. stamps remaining in Southern post offices would be invalid for postage. As it took the Confederate government a while to produce its first national stamp issue, local postmasters stepped in and produced their own. 

The great majority were crudely made by repurposing postmarks and other available handstamps, but a few were somewhat fancier, printed in local type shops using movable type and typographic ornaments. 

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Baton Rouge, La., fell into the latter category, with charming 2¢, 5¢ and 10¢ designs in a square format. The 10¢ (Scott 11X4) is known from only three examples — one on cover and two off — with only one of the off-cover stamps, the one offered by Gaertner, being sound.

It sold for €97,600, including the 22 percent buyer’s premium added by Gaertner to all lots, or about $108,000. (Amazingly, the sole on-cover example was offered in another sale later in the week.)

A 10¢ provisional stamp from Goliad, Texas, on a small piece with town postmark alongside, also one of just three known, sold for $27,000.

The Confederacy was not the only entity to see provisional stamps issued by postmasters. Less than 20 years earlier, after Congress had authorized new, reduced national postage rates but before the government in Washington had issued any stamps, postmasters in numerous cities and towns across the United States had taken similar interim steps.

St. Louis was once such place. Three stamps featuring a quaint rendition of Missouri’s heraldry, with a pair of bears holding a shield, were issued from 1845-47. 

A 20¢ St. Louis Bears stamp on gray-lilac paper (Scott 11X6), canceled with a pair of pen strokes and described as “a most attractive and fine copy,” sold for $32,400, while a similarly used 5¢ (11X4) with copious margins brought $28,350.

Among postal history, an 1862 cover to Shanghai stood out for its high franking. The letter was paid with a 90¢, 12¢ and two 3¢ stamps of the 1861 issue (Scott 72, 69, 65), totaling $1.08 for a letter weighing between ½ and ¾ ounces sent via American packet ship to England. 

A red datestamp reading “N. York Am. Pkt. Paid/Jun 21” shows when it left the United States. It passed through London on the Fourth of July, then proceeded via Marseilles and on to Hong Kong, reaching Shanghai on Aug. 24. 

Covers bearing Scott 72 are scarce; covers to China with Scott 72 even more so. The one in the Gaertner sale sold for $35,800.

After you finish the U.S. Auction Roundup, check out our International Auction Roundup: 

Christoph Gaertner’s WSS-NY 2016 auction totals $5.74 million

‘Possibly the rarest classic imperforate stamp of British North America’ highlights Schuyler Rumsey WSS-NY 2016 sale

Kelleher’s WSS-NY 2016 sale topped by high-denomination World War I-era overprint

H.R. Harmer sells first piece of mail from the first German expedition to Antarctica