US Stamps

A purple handstamp mystery

Nov 1, 2022, 9 AM
This 1886 mourning cover bears an inverted purple handstamp that reads “the initiatory Catalogue Tax of $1.50.” Could this have any postal meaning?

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

Purple is the color most often seen for post office handstamps. Most private handstamps are in black. So what are we to make of the inverted purple handstamp on the 1886 cover pictured here?

The handstamp reads, “the initiatory Catalogue Tax of $1.50.” What possible postal purpose would that have served?

In the days when postage from New York to Florida was a mere 2¢, $1.50 was a lot of money. Could the marking have anything to do with the fact that this is a mourning cover?

I’m stumped, any thoughts from Linn’s readers would be welcome. Contact me, John Hotchner, at

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