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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Rare Stamps

( Orginally published 1962 )



If there is a businessman who doubts the advisability of collecting stamps, it might be well to quote him a price brought in the recent auction of one of the great stamp collections.

The collection was so large that it was sold in sixteen different phases. The total stamps and covers had brought in $2,895,146. In any language this spells big business.

Part of this big business can be the treasure hunter's-if he knows what to look for!

Like the twenty-four-cent airmail issue of 1918. Each of the stamps of this issue is worth around $4,000-and there are thirteen of them missing. If you find one, look at the airplane in the corner. It is upside down.

Or watch for examples of the postmasters' provisionals, which were issued between March 3, 1845, the date on which Congress determined on rates of postage, and March 3, 1847, the date on which Congress determined that the Postmaster General should issue stamps.

Between these two dates the local postmasters issued their own stamps. These are the provisionals, which can make a fortune for you-if you can find them.

Watch for provisionals from such places as St. Louis, Mo.; Alexandria, Va.; New Haven, Conn.; Annapolis, Md.; Millbury, Mass.; Baltimore, Md.; Lockport, N.Y.; Boscawen, N.H.; Brattleboro, Vt., and New York, N.Y. Prices for provisional stamps and envelopes from these cities can range from a few dollars to $15,000, depending on condition, etc.

If you are lucky enough, you might find stamps worth thousands -just by remembering what to look for.

Stamp collecting is not just a hobby-it has become a national pastime. Today, in America, there are more than ten million stamp collectors. If you find a stamp, there is a buyer for it somewhere in America.

Remember, however, that with stamps, condition is the most important factor. To get a good price a stamp must be in fine condition. Also, if possible, retain the envelope. Often, the addition of the original envelope raises the value of the stamp.

Watch for any early stamp, and remember that it has not been too many years since the whole idea of postage stamps started.

Early stamps, stamps with errors in them, are all worth watching for. However, only the experts can tell whether or not a stamp is valuable. You can get some idea from stamp catalogues, but only the expert can tell whether or not the stamp you have is exactly the same and is in good enough condition to warrant the high values listed in the catalogues.

Also keep in mind the possible variation between the opinions of the experts. One stamp which I know about was valued by one expert at $1,000. Another expert valued the stamp at $750 and still another expert placed its value between $35 and $50.

If you have a stamp which you think might be valuable, take it to several experts and get all of their opinions. Needless to say, the thing to do then is to sell to the highest bidder.

Anyone can find a stamp. It takes no training or experience or courage, as some of the more adventuresome lost treasures do, such as the hidden pirate treasures or sunken ships. And you do not need to travel to find stamps. They could be anywhere--in your attic, in your basement, or stuck between the pages of a book.

Look again at any old envelope which you might find. Look through the old boxes you see at neighborhood auctions. It does not matter where you look; everyone has seen old letters and old envelopes lying around-and thrown them away thoughtlessly-and no one knows how many thousands of dollars worth of stamps have been destroyed or incinerated when disposing of "that old junk."

It might help in recognizing valuable stamps, if you can attend some of the stamp shows which are held from time to time in almost every town of any size in America. Look at the stamps on display which have value-and remember them. Buy a catalogue and check every odd or strange stamp against the displays on its pages.

Watch for errors. Sometimes, though not always, the fact that an error appears on a stamp indicates that it is valuable, and it is at least a good indication that the stamp might have value.

Above all, remember the rarest of the American stamps, among which are the twenty-four-cent airmail of 1918 with the upside down airplane and the postmasters' provisionals. Any early stamp can have value-like the 1869 fifteen-cent stamp with an upside down picture, which can be worth as high as $10,000. Or the 1869 thirty-cent stamp which has inverted flags in its design. This one can be valued as high as $8,000.

Prices, of course, depend upon age, rarity, right issue, etc., but there are so many stamps worth a great deal of money that it would be impossible to enumerate them all here.

Just remember that there is a fortune in those little pieces of paper you see on envelopes every day of the year-if you can find the right ones.

There are missing stamps which are worth $100,000 apiece-if you can find them. These are the fabled British Guianas.

Issued in 1856, these stamps are square. On the front appears a four-word inscription, easily identified if you find one.

Strangely enough, however, the best-known copy of the stamp has had its corners clipped off. And there is another strange fact about this extant British Guiana: no one knows who owns it! The possessor of the stamp wishes to remain anonymous. There was a time when rumors flew thick and fast about the stamp having been a gift to President Roosevelt, one of our most famous stamp collectors.

The President denied the rumor, and the identity of the owner still remains a mystery! Originally this unique stamp was located by a schoolboy, who sold it to an English dealer for five shillings! The stamp, however, did not rest here-or at this value. It was sold and sold again until it became a part of the world-famous Ferrary collection.

Yet once more the stamp moved on. It was willed to the Berlin Postal Museum and because of this the French government confiscated it. At that time funds were needed to finance the reparation debt of the Germans, and the French placed the British Guiana on the auction block.

Present at this now famous auction were two men, a M. Burrus, a French tobacco merchant, and Arthur Hind, an American manufacturer. Tension filled the room as other bidders fell by the wayside until only the bidding of Hinds and M. Burrus could be heard.

In total silence the bidding went higher and higher, and, when the price had reached $32,500, Hinds, the American, had won. He walked out of that auction the owner of one of the rarest stamps in the world.

He kept the British Guiana for the rest of his life, and, when he died, his wife placed it in the hands of an American stamp store. They sold it for an undisclosed price rumored to be more than $45,000.

The man who bought it now has a stamp valued at $100,000; yet, like many collectors, he remains anonymous, his name undisclosed to the public.

In his hands, anonymous though he is, is this copy of one of the rarest stamps in the world-yet there is a chance you might find another one if you look hard enough at those old envelopes in the attic trunk or in that old box of papers in the basement. You might even find it in an envelope stuck between the pages of a book as a marker. Certainly stranger things have happened in the world of philately.

The British Guiana, however, is not the only stamp to watch for. There are, for example, the Mauritius one- and two-penny stamps which are inscribed with the words "Post Office" instead of "Post Paid."

Just one of these Mauritius stamps has a value of approximately $20,000, depending on condition, etc. One collector is lucky enough to be in possession of an envelope which bears two of the Mauritius stamps. This envelope with its precious stamps is valued at $75,000.

Maybe you might be this lucky-if you look hard enough for one of these stamps which were originally issued at the direct order of a Governor's wife. Lady Gomm needed stamps with which she might frank party invitations-and so the Mauritius one- and two-penny stamps were issued.

The stamps, however, carried an error. Where the engraver should have put "Post Paid" he put "Post Office." The error was eventually corrected, but stamps that contain the error are now listed as being among the most valuable stamps in the world -worth approximately $20,000 apiece.

There are also other stamps which can reach this value! Such as the "Missionaries," which range in value from $2,000 to $20,000, depending upon the original value of the stamp (two-cent, threecent, etc. ) and upon its condition.

These stamps were issued in the Hawaiian Islands and were called "Missionaries" obviously because the people who made the most use of them were missionaries. And they are listed as among the rarest stamps in the world-and therefore should be among the first of the stamps for the treasure hunter to watch for.

Also watch for the Swiss Cantonal stamps issued between 1843 and 1850, stamps which are ranked high in the list of most-wanted stamps.

Did you know that there are Confederate stamps which are worth fortunes?

There are many of these rare and valuable stamps to be found on envelopes dating from the Civil War, stuck in an old desk or hidden in great-great-grandma's trunk. Certain "rebel" stamps are today considered to be among the most valuable in the philatelic world despite the fact that most Confederate stamps can today be bought for practically nothing. The Confederate government printed many stamps and today most of them are interesting to us only historically. Only a certain few have attained the status of rare stamps. They are the Confederate provisionals.

These stamps may be found hand-stamped or press-printed on many kinds of envelopes-symbol, perhaps, of a south at war. They may be found on commercial as well as homemade envelopes. Sometimes these homemade envelopes were made of maps, printed forms, or even wallpaper.

If you have a stamp on an envelope, however, that envelope should show postmarks of the town of issue. Local postmasters in the south had answered the need for Confederate stamps by issuing their own between June 1 and October 14, 1861. These stamps issued through the necessity of war are called the confederate provisionals.

Provisionals were printed wherever proper workmen and materials were available. Everyone who could print, it seems, wanted to get into the act.

On June 1, 1861, the south stopped using the stamps made by the Yankee government. It was not, however, until October 14 of that same year that their own confederate stamps appeared. It was, therefore, necessary to obtain stamps from somewhere to keep communications open. So the local towns and cities made their own. These are the Confederate Provisionals.

The states had seceded from the Union, men drew swords to fight their brothers-and Abraham Lincoln served as President! Bitterness reigned and ripped apart a nation. There were big problems but there were also little ones! For example! How do you mail a letter without having to use a hated Yankee stamp?

J. H. Reagan, a Texan, was the confederate postmaster-general and he urgently needed workers for his new post office. By the simple expedient of writing to the Yankee post office in Washington and asking a number of clerks in the post office department there if they would not much rather work for the confederacy, he got his staff. All but two of the gentlemen accepted!

It was Mr. Reagan who set the June first date as the last day on which the southerners would use the Yankee stamp. All postmasters had to render their accounts as of that date. On the same day the postmaster-general of the Union suspended Yankee postal service in the south.

By October 14, proper Confederate stamps were available for use, yet even after this date, sometimes, these Confederate provisionals were used when the supply of regular stamps ran out.

These Confederate provisionals today bring in value "what the market will bear." But at the same time there are certain price ranges wherein a stamp may fall. A stamp is valuable depending on its rarity, its condition, and the desirability it has for the buyer. Its value can depend on many things. That is one reason why no set value can be placed on a stamp; yet it is certain that you should keep an eye out for Confederate provisional stamps and envelopes from:

Athens, Georgia; Autaugaville, Alabama.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Beaumont, Texas; Bridgeville, Alabama.

Danville, Virginia.

Emory, Virginia.

Franklin, North Carolina.

Goliad, Texas; Gonzales, Texas; Greenville, Alabama; Grove Hill, Alabama.

Helena, Texas.

Jetersville, Virginia.

Knoxville, Tennessee.

Lenoir, North Carolina; Livingston, Alabama.

Macon, Georgia; Marion, Virginia; Mt. Lebanon, Louisiana.

New Smyrna, Florida.

Pittsylvania C.H., Virginia; Pleasant Shade, Virginia.

Salem, Virginia; Liberty, Virginia; Salisbury, North Carolina; Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Uniontown, Alabama. Victoria, Texas.

Prices for some of the above stamps range from $1,000 to $15,000 apiece, depending on the original face value of the stamp, condition, etc. Of course there are more locales of this period which also issued valuable stamps but which are not listed, so if you have any southern stamp dated between June 1 and October 14, 1861, have it checked by a competent authority.