United States Postmasters' Provisionals
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  • Lot# : 1 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    Alexandria, Virginia, 1X2, 1847 5c Black on blue, cut to shape (as is always the case with Alexandria provisionals), stamp cancelled but not tied by straight line "Paid," matching second strike at left, "Alexandria D.C. Nov. 25 [1847]" town cancel, addressed to "Miss Jannett H. Brown" in Richmond, Virginia; described in the first R.A. Siegel Lilly sale as having been "neatly restored," cover with some obvious sealed tears and other minor faults that do not detract from world-class rarity, still Very Fine, the only stamp of its kind either on or off cover and arguably the greatest icon of American philately, celebrated the world over by collectors since its initial discovery over 110 years ago and reappearing at public auction for the first time in 52 years

    Provenance: George H. Worthington (Private Transaction, 1915)
    Henry C. Gibson (Private Transaction, 1922)
    Alfred H. Caspary (H.R. Harmer Sale 967, 1955)
    Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. (R.A. Siegel Sale 312, 1967)
    John R. Boker, Jr. (Private Transaction) 

    The story of the Alexandria «Blue Boy,» the icon of American philately, has been told so many times that surely most collectors can recite the basic details by heart. However, it is a story so moving and so romantic that we think it would be a disservice not to recount it here once again.
    But first, a word about the stamps themselves. The Alexandria provisionals, issued by Postmaster Daniel Bryan, were printed from a typeset with two distinct settings. Although they are nearly-identical, Type I has 40 rosettes around the center inscription while Type II only has 39. Both read «Alexandria Post Office» with «Paid 5» in the center. There are six surviving examples of the Alexandria provisional printed on buff colored paper, three of each type. The unique Alexandria «Blue Boy» is a Type I stamp. It is widely believed that the stamps were printed by Edgar Snowden at the office of the Alexandria Gazette, whose office was nearby the Alexandria Post Office.

    The letter originally contained inside of this envelope was datelined November 24, 1847. Its writer, Mr. James Wallace Hooff, was a Presbyterian. Its addressee, Miss Jannett Hooff Brown, was an Episcopalian (and also his second cousin). In a real-world imitation of Romeo and Juliet, the watchful eyes of their family prevented the young lovers (then 24 and 23, respectively) from expressing their feelings openly.

    Hooff wrote, in part, "The reasons you give for not writing often, are good, for your cousin Wash. will be certain to say something, if you give him all your letters, to put in the office. But whenever you think you can write me a line without exciting the attention of your coz. Wash, do so, for it gives me a great deal of pleasure to receive a letter from you, even if it is only a short one.» Presciently, he continued, «Mother laughingly remarked «That if there was any love going on Aunt Julia was sure to find it out,' and while making that remark, I think, looked at me, but I continued reading, as if what she said did not apply to me in the least.»

    Most remarkable is the last line of Hooff»s letter, which simply reads: "Burn as Usual.» The circumstances behind Brown»s decision to keep this letter, and none other from the correspondence, only serves to add an incredibly air of mystery to what is already the most romantic of covers.

    Six years after the «Blue Boy» was sent from Hooff to Brown the couple was finally able to marry, and they went on to have three children together. For more information on the remarkable and serendipitous reunion of the «Blue Boy» envelope with its contents we recommend the indispensable The Alexandria Blue Boy: The Postmaster, the Letter, and the Legend by May Day Taylor, whose scholarship and research led to the uncovering of Hooff»s letter in 2006.

    The early history of this incredible stamp was documented in a 1923 Collectors Club Philatelist (Vol. 2, No. 1) by the man who first made the cover»s existence known to the philatelic community, J. Murray Bartels. As his is a firsthand account, we hardly feel like we can improve on his words:
    "The letter is addressed to Miss Jannett H. Brown, care of Mr. Washington Gretter, Richmond, Virginia. It was written by a Mr. [James Wallace] Hough [sic] to his fiancee Miss Brown, who later became the mother of Mrs. Fawcett (widow of Dr. Fawcett of Alexandria, well known to the writer). It was found by her about Nov. 10, 1907. Mr. Hough was at that time and for several years later in the government service in Washington, though he lived with his daughter on Prince St., Alexandria, where the stamp was found.

    "Mrs. Fawcett had heard of the successful sale of the Lambert Collection (as Mr. Lambert had lived only a few doors below in the same street) and wrote practically verbatim the following letter:
    Mr. J.M. Bartels,
    Boston, Mass.

    My Dear Sir:
    At the suggestion of a Mr. ———— of the Citizens National Bank of this city, I am writing you in regard to a rare stamp I have recently found. It is an old Alexandria stamp with Paid 5 and surrounded by a circle of stars, printed on old blue paper. It is on a letter to my mother. A local expert to whom I showed it tells me it is worth $200. If you are interested in it please let me know what you would pay for it.
    Yours truly,
    (Mrs.) Jannett B. Fawcettrn"We replied promptly, asking her to send the stamp for inspection, stating that if as described it was undoubtedly very valuable. Unfortunately we did not take the next train for Alexandria but waited until it was too late. Mrs. Fawcett sent the stamp to her cousin, a Mr. Brown in Philadelphia, requesting him to finish the transaction with our firm as he represented her in all business deals. Luck was against us. Mr. Brown happened to be also the attorney for a Philadelphia stamp concern and he naturally thought it might be much handier to have his client handle the matter than to send the stamp to a stranger in Boston.

    "After some traveling and waiting, the writer made an offer of $3,000 for the stamp. This was of immense benefit to the owner as she finally obtained this price less a modest 5 per cent. commission and Mr. Worthington became the owner shortly before Christmas in 1907.

    "The sale of this stamp was published far and wide throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mr. Worthington was overwhelmed with hundreds of letters offering him common stamps at huge prices, rare coins, antiques, grandfather clocks, old bed quilts and other miscellaneous articles. The writers had received the impression that he was a man who had more money than he could possibly spend intelligently and wrote accordingly.

    "The newspaper articles invented stories about the money furnishing a trousseau for Mrs. Fawcett»s daughter and other fanciful tales. We will cut a long story short by simply stating that the $2,850 was a great thing for the Fawcett family who were in meagre circumstances.
    In 1916 with the breaking up of the Worthington Collection this stamp was acquired at private sale by Henry C. Gibson of Philadelphia and has since passed into the possession of a collector whose name is withheld."
    The press did indeed develop a fascination with the «Blue Boy,» as Bartels claimed, and for the first half of the 20th Century it made frequent appearances in newspapers as one of the world»s rarest stamps. When the «Blue Boy» was shown at the 1913 International Stamp Exhibition in New York as part of Worthington»s collection, the press reported that it was now worth $5,000. In 1922, the New York Times stated that «if offered for sale it is believed it would bring $10,000 or more.» The stamp continued making headlines with its sale as part of the Alfred Caspary Collection in 1955, the year after it appeared in Life Magazine»s «World»s Rarest Stamps.»
    The last time the «Blue Boy» appeared at public auction was in the 1967 sale of the Josiah K. Lilly Collection by R.A. Siegel. In the ensuing half-century, the cover has changed hands several times, but always in private and often with conflicting information available.
    The uniqueness of the «Blue Boy,» combined with the incredibly unlikely and romantic story of its use and eventual preservation, make this a singularly celebrated and desirable cover in all of American philately. By all accounts, this cover should have met the match like all of Mr. Hooff»s other letters to Miss Brown; the fact that it survived the end of 1847, let alone all the way to 2019, is nothing short of miraculous.rnThe «Blue Boy» is much more than just a postage stamp. It is a story of star-crossed lovers. It is an icon of philately that has captivated generation after generation. It is a void that has plagued the albums of all but a handful of collectors. It is, in short, a thread in the fabric of American history, and the opportunity to own such items only rarely arises. We are honored to be the ones to retua this remarkable item once again to the philatelic marketplace. 

    Start Price : 1,000,000 USD
    Current Opening : 1,000,000 USD
    Hammer price : 1,000,000 USD

    Lot# : 2 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    Baltimore, Maryland, 3X1, 1846 5c Black on white, vertical pair, positions 4 and 6 of the setting of 12, full frame lines at top, left and right plus the frame line showing along half of the bottom margin, manuscript cancelled on folded letter datelined "Balt Nov 12th 1846" and addressed to "Mr. Abm. Richards, 136 Front St., New York (City)," blue Baltimore, Maryland town marking at lower left, matching straight line "Paid" and "10" in oval, Very Fine in every respect; listed as number 17 on the Hayes census; only two covers known franked with a pair, this being the finer of the two; 1989 Philatelic Foundation certificate (Scott $150,000)

    Provenance: Henry C. Gibson (Philip H. Ward Sale 12, 1944)

    Alfred H. Caspary (H.R. Harmer Sale 967, 1955)

    Weill Brothers Stock (Christie's Sale, 1989)

    According to the census published by the United States Philatelic Classics Society, there are only two pairs of the 5c Baltimore provisional, both on white paper and both on folded letters. The other cover (which has a pre-use crease between the stamps) was postmarked March 21, 1847 and is addressed to a Miss Mary Floyd in Port Tobacco, Maryland. Both covers were referred to by J. Murray Bartels in a 1928 article in the Collectors Club Philatelist (Vol. VII, No. 3); since that date, not a single additional example has been discovered. All double-rate covers bearing Baltimore provisionals are exceedingly rare; the Siegel Census for the 10c issues records only six covers (five on white paper, one on bluish) and one piece (on bluish). This cover has long been recognized as one of the most spectacular items not just amongst Postmasters' Provisionals but in all of United States philately.

    Start Price : 50,000 USD
    Current Opening : 50,000 USD
    Hammer price : 50,000 USD

    Lot# : 3 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    Baltimore, Maryland, 3X3, 1846 5c Black on bluish, single, position 8 of the setting of 12, ample to large margins and showing portions of the frame lines on all sides, tied by blue straight line "Paid" at upper right of cover with matching "Baltimore Md Aug 11" town marking at the left, addressed to "Miss Eugenia McDonald/ Wm. J McDonald, Capitol Hill, Washington DC," stamp with some faint toning and staining, cover with a small tear at top center and light crease at upper left, otherwise Very Fine; listed as number 2 on the Hayes census; 1980 Philatelic Foundation certificate (Scott $13,500)

    This is the second earliest usage of the 5c Black on bluish (Scott 3X3), as well as the second earliest usage of any Baltimore provisional stamp. Based on known dates of use, it appears that the Baltimore provisionals on bluish paper predated the printings on white paper by at least several months (stamps on white paper do not appear until January, 1846). Postmaster James M. Buchanan was one of the earliest adapters to the use of adhesive stamps, with Baltimore's stamps being issued mere weeks after the postal reforms of 1845 took effect. Between the early date, attractive margins, and tying cancel, this cover is, in our opinion, one of the most desirable examples in existence.

    Start Price : 4,000 USD
    Current Opening : 4,250 USD
    Hammer price : 8,000 USD

    Lot# : 4 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    Baltimore, Maryland, 3XU1, 1845 5c Blue on buff entire, bearing blue "Baltimore Md. May 21" town marking at the left, addressed to "Miss Susan Julia Mayer" care of Geo. M. Keim in Reading, Pennsylvania, entire with trivial light creasing and without the wax seal stain found on several covers in this correspondence, Very Fine; listed as number 21 on the Hayes census and the earliest usage of the 17 covers from this correspondence; Philatelic Foundation certificate 12,273 which is not included (Scott $6,500)
    Start Price : 2,000 USD
    Current Opening : 2,000 USD
    Hammer price : 2,100 USD

    Lot# : 5 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    Baltimore, Maryland, 3XU3, 1845 10c Blue on buff entire, bearing blue "Baltimore Md. Mar 1" town marking with accompanying blue "Paid" and "10" in oval handstamps, addressed to "Thomas B Cooper, Esq, Cedar Bluff, Ala.," "1st March 1847" docketing at left, Very Fine; listed as number 50 in the Hayes census with this being the latest usage of the 10c blue entire of the six recorded in the US Philatelic Classics Society census; green "In My Opinion This Cover is Genuine in Every Respect, Stanley B. Ashbrook" handstamp on back flap and signed by Ashbrook (Scott $20,000)
    Start Price : 7,000 USD
    Current Opening : 7,000 USD
    Hammer price : 10,500 USD

    Lot# : 6 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    Brattleboro, Vermont, 5X1, 1846 5c Black on buff, single, position "C" of the setting of 10, clear to ample margins except touching at lower left, cancelled by straight line red "Paid" but not tied on bronze illustrated Valentine bearing matching "Brattleboro Vt Feb 15" town marking and «Paid» handstamp at left, addressed to "Miss Sarah Clark, Pittsfield, Mass," the stamp with trivial scuffing, cover without top back flap and without the right back flap, Very Fine and attractive; 1969 Philatelic Foundation certificate (Scott $27,500)

    Provenance: Arthur Hind (Charles J. Philips Sale 1, November 1933)

    The US Philatelic Classics Society census records only 19 examples of the Brattleboro stamp used on cover, and this is the only illustrated cover with a Brattleboro provisional. As these stamps were printed on very soft paper nearly all surviving examples both on and off cover have minor faults. With the exception of the unique cover with two Brattleboro stamps we believe this to be the most desirable of all Brattleboro provisional covers, and certainly one of the most attractive of all covers bearing a United States provisional stamp.

    Start Price : 7,500 USD
    Current Opening : 7,500 USD
    Hammer price : 17,000 USD

    Lot# : 7 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    New York, New York, 9X1, 1845 5c Black on bluish wove, “ACM” connected, horizontal strip of three, positions 6-7-8 of the setting of 40 with the center stamp showing a significant double transfer at the top, clear to large margins, tied by red "Boston Mass. Feb 1" town marking on large piece with the correct arced "Paid" and manuscript "15," the stamps with a horizontal crease through the center of the strip, Very Fine (Scott $5,000 for used strip of three), illustrated in Stanley M. Piller's The New York Postmasters' Provisional (page 71)

    Provenance: Alfred H. Caspary (H.R. Harmer Sale 967, 1955)

    The US Philatelic Classics Society census records only three covers and one piece (this piece) with a strip of three. Additionally, the census records only 19 covers and four pieces used from Boston. A rare and attractive showpiece for the most popular and obtainable of all United States provisional stamps.

    Start Price : 1,000 USD
    Current Opening : 1,000 USD
    Hammer price : 5,250 USD

    Lot# : 8 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    New York, New York, 9X1e, 1845 5c Black on bluish wove, Without signature, single with ample to large margins tied by arced red "Paid" (additional strike alongside) and matching "New-York Jul 15" town marking on 1845 folded prices current addressed to London and redirected to Trieste, proper British and French transit markings, the folded cover with a small erosion spot at the lower left and a long business letter written on the blank portion of the cover, which then required 5c for the inland postage, Very Fine (Scott $27,500 for a single on cover postmarked July 15, 1845)

    Provenance: Stephen Brown (Harmer Rooke & Co., 1939)

    J. David Baker (R.A. Siegel Sale 526, 1978)

    While the stamp was thought to be available for sale prior to the date on this cover (it was delivered to the post office on Saturday, July 12), July 15 is the earliest documented date of usage for the New York provisional (all known examples from this date are 9X1e, without a signature). The US Philatelic Classics Society census lists at least 14 covers postmarked July 15: three domestic, four to England, three each to France and Germany, and one to Scotland. However, this is the unique first day cover of the New York provisional forwarded to Trieste (then a part of Austria), an exceptional destination that places this cover in the upper echelon of all New York provisional covers. In 1988 Philip T. Wall wrote, "Mr. Baker once wrote me that although he had sold his general collection of U.S. Postmasters many years before the theft of his other collections, this cover was the favorite of all of his provisional covers and he had decided to keep it" (Chronicle Vol. 34, No. 1).

    Start Price : 5,000 USD
    Current Opening : 5,000 USD
    Hammer price : 5,000 USD

    Lot# : 9 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    St. Louis, Missouri, 1846 10c Black on greenish (Scott 11X2), single with ample to large margins tied by red "St. Louis Mo. Dec 18" town marking on folded letter datelined "St. Louis, December 17/45" and addressed to "Messrs P. A. Breithau New York," matching straight line "Paid" and manuscript "Paid 10" at upper right, cover with light soiling and file folds which do not affect the stamp, Very Fine; listed as cover number 27 on the Faiman census; 1972 Wolfgang Jakubek, 1974 Willy Balasse, and 2019 Philatelic Foundation certificates (Scott $14,000)

    Provenance: John F. Seybold (Purple handstamp on reverse)

    The "St. Louis Bears" provisional stamps were initially only issued in 5c and 10c values; the plate was later modified to include a 20c value, which was then removed from the third setting. The three states of the plate roughly correspond to the three different colors of paper used (Greenish, Gray lilac, and Bluish pelure). Of all the designs of United States provisional stamps, there is perhaps none more celebrated than the "Bears," which incorporates the Great Seal of Missouri.

    Start Price : 3,000 USD
    Current Opening : 3,250 USD
    Hammer price : 7,500 USD

    Lot# : 10 Postmasters Provisionals Covers

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    St. Louis, Missouri, 11X7, 1847 5c Black on bluish pelure paper, two singles, positions 1 and 3 of the setting, each with ample to large margins tied by lightly struck red St. Louis town marking on January 7, 1847 folded letter sheet addressed to "Thomas H. Benton Esq., Merchant, Dubuque Iowa," matching straight line "Paid" and manuscript "10" at upper left, the stamps have been lifted to remove manuscript cancellations and replaced on this cover of origin, cover central vertical light file not affecting stamps or markings, a Fine use; listed as cover number 121 on the Faiman census; 1989 Philatelic Foundation certificate (Scott $37,500 for two single stamps on cover)

    Provenance: Alfred H. Caspary (H.R. Harmer Sale 967, 1955)

    Weill Brothers Stock (Christie's, 1989)

    Start Price : 7,500 USD
    Current Opening : 7,500 USD
    Hammer price : 8,500 USD
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