Rumsey Dec. 14-18 auction series features U.S., worldwide stamps; philatelic gems; Boyd collection of U.S.-German mails

Dec 2, 2020, 2 PM

By Charles Snee

Schuyler Rumsey Philatelic Auctions will conduct three separate sales Dec. 14-18 at the firm’s office in San Francisco, Calif.

Leading off the five-day series is Rumsey’s Dec. 14-17 fall sale, which will offer a vast array of United States stamps and postal history, Civil War postal history, Confederate States, U.S. possessions, British Commonwealth, general foreign issues, and U.S. and worldwide collections.

Among the highlights of the general foreign offerings are four French ballon monte covers. The Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 lists these important artifacts of the Franco-Prussian War after the France airmail listings and provides a detailed note explaining their significance, part of which is given here:

“ ‘Ballons Montes’ are letters which left Paris between Sept. 23, 1870, and Jan. 28, 1871, toward the end of the Franco-Prussian War. Placed under siege by the German army, the French capital was isolated from the rest of the world. With all other means of communication severed, Parisians took to the air, inaugurating what many consider to be the world’s first air mail. Of the 67 balloons that were launched from Paris, 56 carried mail that passed through the Paris Post Office, including private letters, newspapers and official documents. While some balloons were unmanned, most carried at least a single person in addition to the 225-275 pounds of mail.”

One of the ballon monte covers in the Rumsey fall sale was flown aboard the balloon General Ulrich (Scott BM30) to Paris before being sent on to its destination in London. A French 1867 30-centime brown Emperor Napoleon III on yellowish paper stamp (34) paid the postage and is tied to the folded letter by a large dotted star handstamp.

Handstamps on the front show the cover arrived in Paris Nov. 14, 1870, and in London Nov. 23.

A 2019 Roumet certificate accompanies this General Ulrich ballon monte cover, which Rumsey estimates at $150 to $200. Ballon monte covers carried on the General Ulrich are valued at $275 in the Scott Classic Specialized catalog.

Rumsey’s Dec. 18 gems of philately sale features 365 lots and opens with the Dr. Vernon Morris collection of Philadelphia postal history. Also offered are U.S. stamps and postal history, Confederate States and U.S. possessions.

A standout item in this sale is a never-hinged bottom margin block of four of the so-called “grounded plane” variety of the 1918 24¢ carmine rose and blue Curtiss Jenny airmail stamp (Scott C3).

All four stamps show a dramatic downward shift of the blue biplane vignette, such that the wheels of the aircraft extend well into the “CENTS” inscription at the bottom.

Rumsey notes that the grounded plane variety of Scott C3 “is believed to have come from portions of only three sheets” of 100 stamps and states that the block is “one of the finest known multiples” of this variety. Rumsey estimates this grounded plane block at $30,000 to $40,000.

Last to cross the Rumsey auction block on Dec. 18 is the U.S.-German mails collection of Robert S. Boyd. The 260 lots include Confederate States blockade mail, postal history of the 1848 U.S.-United Kingdom convention (British open mail), registered mail, 1870 direct mail and closed-mail rates, and more.

Postal history of the North German Union is a key component of the Boyd collection.

One such cover was mailed Jan. 27, 1874, from Concord, N.H., to Trondheim, Norway, by North German Union closed mail via England. The term “closed” means the letter was carried in a sealed sack with other mail during transit.

In the case of this cover, the 10¢ North German Union closed-mail rate was paid with a single 1873 10¢ brown Thomas Jefferson stamp (Scott 161). This rate was effective July 1, 1873, per the convention between the United States and the Kingdom of Sweden and Norway, according to Rumsey.

The cover arrived in New York City Jan. 28, 1874, as shown by the red “New York Paid All Ger. [Germany] Transit” exchange office datestamp on the front. This New York exchange office marking was used on mail sent according to the 1873 convention.

Rumsey states the cover was carried on the Cunard Line’s Java from New York and arrived in Queenstown, Ireland, on Feb. 7. Rumsey is offering this cover from the Boyd collection with an estimate of $300 to $400.

The three auction catalogs prepared for the fall, gems of philately and Boyd collection sales can be viewed online, or downloaded from the website as PDF files. Online bidding is available through Stamp Auction Network.

For additional information, contact Schuyler J. Rumsey Philatelic Auctions, 47 Kearny St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94108.

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