90¢ Blue (39), bright color, well-centered, used with 12¢ Black, Plate 3 (36B) and 30¢ Orange (38), tied by New York City red grid cancels on bluish gray cover addressed to Mackillop, Stewart & Company in Calcutta, India, sender's directive "p Overland Mail via Marseilles", red "E. Pavenstedt & Co. New-York" sender's oval handstamp on back, clear strike of red "New York Am. Pkt. Jan. 26" (1861) circular datestamp, red London transit backstamp (February 8), manuscript "2/11" 2sh11p debit marking, "Calcutta Steam Letter" framed backstamp (March 16) with manuscript "1/8/9" total due in Indian currency, half of this marking was on top flap, which is no longer present
Carried on the Inman Line Edinburgh from New York on January 26, 1861, arriving Liverpool February 7; from Marseilles February 13 on the Peninsular & Oriental Vectis, arriving Alexandria February 19; from Suez February 21 on the Peninsular & Oriental Nemesis, arriving Galle, Ceylon, March 9; finally arriving by steamer at Calcutta March 16
Letter weighed 1 to 1.25 ounces, requiring $1.62 postage for this weight increment via Marseilles route (the progression was 39¢, 45¢, 84¢, 90¢, $1.62); $1.32 in stamps based on 4 x 33¢ rate for British Mail via Southampton, but directed to go via Marseilles, thus underpaid; treated as fully prepaid for British Open Mail by American Packet, with 72¢ due from addressee for British postage charges; British post office debited 36p and only deducted the single-rate 1p British Colonial credit (36p-1p=35p=2sh11p, manuscript "2/11"); the Calcutta office added the full 2p to 35p and marked the cover due 1 rupee, 8 annas, 9 pies, which is approximately 37p (74¢)
Sefi, Pemberton & Co., London (sold privately to Armitage, 1920s)
George W. Armitage, the British collector for whom the cover is named (sold privately to Lapham through Frank Godden, 1930)
Henry G. Lapham (and his son, Raymond)
Warren H. Colson (bought and sold privately)
Reportedly Jack Dick (bought and sold privately)
Steven C. Walske (bought privately)
Bennett sale, 11/13/2004, lot 2048, to William H. Gross
CENSUS, LITERATURE AND EXHIBITION REFERENCES
TIPEX 1936 (Lapham)
Jonathan W. Rose, The First United States Perforated Stamps--The 1857 Issue (p. 95)
The Philatelic Foundation (1955 and 1998)
Very Fine; top backflap removed
Small "W.H.C." handstamp at lower right (Warren H. Colson)
HISTORY AND COMMENTARY
The Rare 90¢ 1860 Issue Covers
The presence of a 90¢ 1860 stamp on a cover has been recognized as something extraordinary since the early 1900s and possibly before that by a few prescient philatelists. To date, only six intact covers and one front are recorded:
1 September 11, 1860, Boston to Shanghai, China, to Augustine Heard & Co., single for double 45¢ rate, stamp has sealed tears, ex Gibson, Hindes, Dr. Kapiloff
2 November 3, 1860, New York to Barcelona, Spain, used with 5¢ and 10¢ for 5-times 21¢ rate, ex Caspary, Rust, Dr. Kapiloff
3 November 9, 1860, Boston to Shanghai, China, to Augustine Heard & Co., used with 3¢, 5¢, 10¢ and 30¢ pair, $1.68 rate, 90¢ reperfed on all four sides, ex Needham, Paliafito, Ishikawa, Myers
4 January 8, 1861, Cincinnati, Ohio, to Peoria, Illinois, single on legal-size cover to Circuit Court, 30 times 3¢ rate, ex Filstrup, Grunin, "Lake Shore," Kramer
5 January 16, 1861, Richmond to Amelia C.H., Virginia, to Saml. R. Seay, used with 1¢ (two), 3¢, 12¢ (two) on package wrapper front only, total $1.19, stamps and front have faults, Rumsey Auctions, Sale 76, lot 79
6 January 26, 1861, New York to Calcutta, India, to Mackillop Stewart & Co., used with 12¢ and 30¢, ex Armitage, Lapham, Colson, Dick, Walske, the cover offered in this sale
7 July 16, 1861, Boston to Cape of Good Hope, to Edwin Howland, used with 1¢ pair, 3¢, 10¢ and 30¢ for quadruple 33¢ rate, ex Jacobs, Ashbrook, Emerson, Newbury, Phillips, Ishikawa, Gross
Pavenstedt & Co. (sender) was a merchant firm in New York City, and Mackillop, Stewart & Co. (addressee) was located at 13 Old Court House Street in Calcutta. The letter was directed to go by the faster Marseilles route, requiring 39¢ for a quarter-ounce letter. The sender evidently misread the rate chart and affixed $1.32 postage, which fits the quadruple 33¢ rate via Southampton, not Marseilles.
The New York foreign-mail office, noting the Marseilles routing, treated this as a British Open Mail letter and did not credit Great Britain with any of the postage. If sent by American Packet, the Open Mail via Marseilles rate was 21¢ per quarter-ounce, with the British postage for transport to India collected from the addressee. The British post office routinely deducted 1p per half-ounce from the amount due on letters to Asia as a means of applying the British Colonial credit. In this instance, they only deducted the single-rate 1p credit, marking the cover 2sh11p, but the Calcutta office added 2p to the 2sh11p debit amount and collected the equivalent of 37p (74¢) from the addressee.
VERY FINE ORIGINAL-GUM EXAMPLE OF THE 90-CENT 1860 ISSUE, WITH A DOUBLE TRANSFER AT TOP.
With 1981 P.F. certificate
90¢ Blue (39), block of nine, original gum, lightly hinged, deep rich color and proof-like impression, bright fresh paper, exceptionally choice centering and well-balanced margins throughout
Alfred H. Caspary, H. R. Harmer sale, 1/16-18/1956, lot 816, to Weill (for Phillips)
Benjamin D. Phillips (Phillips collection sold privately to Weills, 1968)
Siegel Auction Galleries, 1969 Rarities of the World, 3/25/1969, Sale 350, lot 59
Louis Grunin, H. R. Harmer sale, 12/14-15/1976, lot 2667
Peter G. DuPuy, Siegel Auction Galleries, 12/8/2010, Sale 1000, lot 1026, to William H. Gross
The Philatelic Foundation (1987)
Extremely Fine; trivial natural gum bend in left vertical row, a few perf separations reinforced with tiny hinge slivers (certificate simply reads "genuine, previously hinged")
SCOTT CATALOGUE VALUE (2019)
$90,500.00 as block of four, pairs and single
HISTORY AND COMMENTARY
Young General Washington as Portrayed by Trumbull
In May 1860 President Buchanan's postmaster general, Joseph Holt, issued a new order requiring prepayment by stamps on transient printed matter, and on all foreign and domestic mail, except letters permitted to be sent unpaid by international postal conventions. Holt's order sparked public demand for stamps, especially in denominations greater than 12¢, the top value in circulation at the beginning of 1860. In response to a letter received from the Philadelphia postmaster, the new Third Assistant Postmaster General, Alexander N. Zevely, contacted Toppan Carpenter about producing new high-denomination stamps.
The 90¢ stamp was the first denomination of its kind and the highest issued in the United States from 1847 to 1893, when the dollar-value Columbian stamps were issued. The reason for a 90¢ stamp--30 times the 3¢ domestic rate--is explained in a letter from Zevely, who thought it was "necessary to have a stamp in the denomination of Ninety Cents--not only to suit that particular rate of postage, but to prepay packages, to the amount, sometimes, of several dollars." Toppan Carpenter and Zevely engaged in some back and forth discussion about the design. The printers based their engraving, a three-quarter portrait of a youthful Washington in military uniform, on one of several similar full-length portraits painted by John Trumbull. Zevely did not like it, but soon acquiesced and approved the novel design and chose the color blue, which was described as "the handsomest of them all." Philatelists agree.
The 90¢ stamps issued in August 1860 were one of the Civil War's early casualties. In August 1861 the federal government demonetized all previous issues of postage stamps and replaced them with new stamps that would be distributed only to post offices in loyal states. The purpose of demonetization was to prevent the South from using stamps as a medium of exchange. Demand for the high-denomination stamps in 1860 was limited, and the Civil War demonetization policy cut their lives short. Unused examples would be great rarities today if not for a cache of sheets discovered in Washington, D.C., which had been found in Southern post offices after the war and returned to the Post Office. These sheets were sold and traded to stamp dealers, and many of the unused 1859-60 issues come from this source.
There are three recorded original-gum blocks of nine of the 90¢ 1860 Issue, which survive as the largest recorded multiples following the division of the Caspary block of 21. The Caspary block (lot 817 in the 1956 sale) was still intact when it was part of the Benjamin D. Phillips collection, which the Weills acquired in 1968. Sometime after then, this block was divided into a block of nine from the center, two blocks of four from the bottom left and bottom right corners, and singles or pairs from the corners.
The block of nine offered here was also in the 1956 Caspary sale (lot 816), where it was acquired by the Weills for Phillips. It appeared in the Siegel 1969 Rarities of the World sale. In March 1987 the block surfaced in Switzerland at a Corinphila auction, where it was acquired by Peter G. DuPuy. It was sold by the DuPuy estate in Siegel Sale 1000 (lot 1026) to Mr. Gross. The third recorded block of nine was also offered on behalf of the DuPuy estate in our Sale 1000 (lot 1027).