Lot Details

June 2023

"Erivan" Collection Part IX and Canal Zone Stamps and Covers

June 20-21, 2023 in New York City

Our June sales include Part IX of the "Erivan" Collection of United and Confederate States Postal History and a catalogue of Canal Zone stamps and covers featuring the collections of James W. Crumpacker and Paul F. Ammons.

LOT# : 5
Date: June 21, 2023

St. Louis, MO

11X3, St. Louis, MO, 1845 20c Black on greenish,

positions 1 (right) and 3 (left), originally a vertical pair, used with 10c Black on gray lilac (11X5) on 1846 folded letter to Philadelphia (Charnley & Whelan correspondence), margins large except one 20c touched at bottom and 10c touched at top, tied by neat manuscript cancel, red "St. Louis Mo. May 21" datestamp and two strikes of matching straightline "Paid" alongside, manuscript "50" rate, one 20c slightly wrinkled at bottom prior to use, trivial horizontal filefold away from stamps, extremely fine, the highlight of our 1948 Charnley & Whelan sale and widely considered to be the most important St. Louis Bears cover in existence, 2023 Philatelic Foundation certificate

The Charnley & Whelan find of St. Louis Bears was the fifth major find of these celebrated stamps. Although the story has been told many times over the intervening years, it deserves to be revisited once again. According to our 1948 sale catalogue:

In December 1912, the well-known business house of Charnley and Whelen of Philadelphia decided to have their basement cleared out. 

A paper manufacturer was approached and contracted to remove from the basement the accumulation of waste paper and records.

In clearing the paper, he discovered a number of entires with stamps upon them and, although no philatelist himself, he had read and heard sufficient to know that these letters might be of some commercial value. When he finally made enquiries he was amazed and delighted to learn that he had a veritable philatelic gold-mine.

The news—and news it certainly was—soon circulated and in due course legal proceedings were taken for the recovery of this "paper" which had become "gold." Judgement was given however that the contractor was the rightful owner. The further publicity arising from the litigation brought enquiries from the philatelic world and at least one tempting offer.

This offer, made in 1933, was however refused, the owner writing on the envelope containing the entires "I did not know what to do with the money."

No happier answer to his question could be his final decision to bequeath the "Find" on his death to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennyslvania for the use of its Masonic Homes at Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

Over the course of 42 lots bearing a total of 71 St. Louis Bears, the Charnley and Whelen sale realized a grand total of $43,220. The highest price for a single lot was this cover (lot 26), which sold for $4,600. 

The St. Louis Bears were produced from a single copper plate of six subjects, arranged two across and three down. This plate was altered twice, for a total of three states. Additionally, the St. Louis Bears were produced on three different papers: greenish wove, gray lilac wove, and bluish pelure. An understanding of these states and papers will explain the great rarity of the 20c on greenish offered here.

The first state of the plate had three 5c stamps (left column) and three 10c stamps (right column). This original state was primarily printed on green paper. It was then determined that there was a need for 20c stamps, so the top and center 5c stamps (positions 1 and 3) were altered. This second state (first alteration) therefore produced one 5c stamp, three 10c stamps, and two 20c stamps, and was primarily printed on gray lilac paper. Eventually it was determined that the demand for 20c stamps was inadequate, and positions 1 and 3 were converted back to 5c. This third state (second alteration) was primarily printed on bluish pelure paper. 

Although the three states roughly correspond to the three paper types, evidently a small number of stamps from the first alteration were printed on greenish paper, resulting in the extremely rare 20c on greenish. Only five examples of this stamp are recorded: three off-cover singles, and the two stamps on the cover offered here. 

Scott 11X3
Starting Price: $50,000
Hammer Price: $230,000