US Stamps

Covers sent from stamp dealers do not deserve the bad rap they receive

May 17, 2018, 1 PM
Stamp dealer Jack Molesworth (1925-2007) mailed this registered cover in 1978 from his store in Boston to Syracuse, N.Y. The cover is franked with $7.98 in postage, including a two $1 Eugene O’Neill stamps and a single $5 John Bassett Moore stamp.

Dollar-Sign Stamps — By Charles Snee

Purists in the world of postal history sometimes look down their noses at covers from stamp dealers, dismissing them because the stamps affixed don’t represent a “commercial” use.

Fair enough, but such covers are starting to capture more attention from collectors.

Consider this registered cover, which Jack Molesworth (1925-2007) sent in June 1978 from Boston to Syracuse, N.Y. Backstamps (not shown) indicate the cover took two days to reach its destination.

Two $1 Eugene O’Neill coil stamps (Scott 1305C) and a single $5 John Bassett Moore (1295) combine with a block of four 24¢ Americana stamps (1603) and a 2¢ Frank Lloyd Wright (1280) to pay the $7.98 postage: 28¢ for a 2-ounce, first-class letter, plus the $7.70 registry fee for contents valued at up to $8,000.

Note that this represents an in-period (albeit late) use of the $5 Moore, because the $5 Americana stamp (Scott 1612) would not be issued until Aug. 23, 1979, more than one year later.

Given the rather robust indemnity, it is tantalizing to ruminate a bit about what the envelope once contained.

An esteemed expert on and student of Confederate States philately, Molesworth ran a brisk business from his Beacon Street store in Boston. Covers such as this — bearing his distinctive “Jack E. Molesworth, Inc.” corner card (return address) — are not hard to find.

This cover sold online in mid-April for a modest $16, attracting 11 bids from seven bidders.

A similar philatelic registered cover from dealer Lowell Donald in Vermont, also franked with a $5 Moore stamp and mailed in 1979, sold online around the same time for about $50.

Why the big difference in price? The answer likely lies in how the two sellers described the covers.

For the Molesworth cover, no mention was made either of the $5 Moore stamp or its Scott number in the description.

Savvy seller No. 2 began the description of the Lowell Donald cover with, “$5 Moore #1295” and included the word “registered.” Not one of these important cues was used to tout the Molesworth cover.

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All of which means the buyer of the Molesworth cover picked up a nice bargain.

By the way, there is another, more subtle reason why I liked this cover when I first saw it: I turned 12 June 28, 1978, the day it arrived in Syracuse.