US Stamps

Try collecting encased postage stamps produced during Civil War

Apr 8, 2020, 2 PM
United States encased postage stamps from the American Civil War offer an unusual and historic collecting specialty.

Stamp Market Tips by Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

If you are looking for a different collecting specialty, you may want to consider encased postage stamps.

Hard times often cause people to hoard resources. In the current situation, it appears that many people are hoarding toilet paper.

One of the things most hoarded during the American Civil War was coins. The value of paper money might be questioned, but coins would always have at least the value of the metal used to produce them.

During the Civil War, coins began to bring a premium over paper money. As a result, they nearly disappeared from everyday business transactions.

To overcome the shortage, people began to use postage stamps to make change. Unfortunately the stamps wore out quickly as they changed hands.

In 1862 John Gault patented a method for encasing postage stamps in a brass case with a mica cover that allowed viewing of the stamp inside. The 1¢, 3¢, 5¢, 10¢, 12¢, 24¢, 30¢ and 90¢ stamps of the 1861 issue were encased and used as coinage.

For those who want to know more about encased postage stamps, an excellent book and catalog, Civil War Encased Stamps: The Issuers and Their Times by John F. Reed III, is available for around $30.

Encased postage stamps are listed and valued at the back of the 2020 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers. There are about a dozen that are reasonably priced with Scott catalog values in the $375-to-$450 range.

Prices are for an example with an undamaged case and intact mica covering. Encased postage stamps do exist with replaced mica, so it’s not a bad idea to get a certificate if the mica window is suspect.

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