15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), deep rich colors and proof-like impression, well-centered, used with 2¢ Brown (113) and 3¢ Ultramarine (114), cancelled by matching circular cork cancels, "Phillipsburg (N.J.?) Apr. 20" (1870) duplex datestamp on buff cover to Burgdorf, Switzerland, "New York Br. Transit Apr. 21" circular datestamp, "INSUFFICIENTLY PAID" straightline handstamp, blue crayon "2" indicates double rate, matching "50" next to stamps indicates 50 centimes (10¢) deficiency, "VIA OSTENDE" straightline handstamp, red "70" centimes crayon due, Basel and Burgdorf backstamps, Extremely Fine and colorful, from April 1868 through April 30, 1870, the rate to Switzerland via British Closed Mail was 15¢; effective May 1, 1870, eleven days after this was mailed, the rate was lowered to 10¢; there was also a 20¢ rate via NGU Closed Mail which ended two years earlier in April 1868; the sender affixed 20¢ postage on this cover, either for the old NGU rate or for a double-rate letter at the soon-to-be-implemented 10¢ British Closed Mail rate, the deficiency as a double 15¢ rate letter was detected at the New York exchange office and the blue "50" marking next to the 2¢ stamp indicates the 50 centimes underpayment (U.S. 10¢), a 20 centimes penalty was added to the deficiency and rated 70 centimes due in Switzerland, ex Kuphal ("European's Large Gold" collection)
15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), dramatic misalignment of vignette and frame, used with 1¢ Buff (112), 6¢ Ultramarine (115) and 10¢ Yellow (116) on folded cover to Calcutta, India, Wattenbach, Heilgers & Co. correspondence (see also lot 532), 10¢ and 15¢ tied by segmented cork cancels, 1¢ tied by red "26" credit handstamp, 6¢ uncancelled, red "New York Paid All Br. Transit Mar. 19" (1870) backstamp, red "London Paid" transit datestamp (March 30) and "1d" British Colonial credit handstamp, sender's blue oval datestamp at lower left, "Sea Post Office" oval and red Calcutta receiving backstamps
One or two stamps originally cancelled at upper right have fallen off and some rejoined splits along interior folds, but overall impressive and Fine--a colorful and extraordinary 1869 Pictorial combination cover to India, and one of only three uses of the 15¢ to India.
This cover is illustrated in the 1869 PRA census book (p. 162) with a 3¢ 1869 affixed at upper right which has an entirely different cancel and obviously never belonged (the stamp has since been removed). However, there was at one time a stamp or stamps in the same position. We surmise that the missing stamps were likely a pair of 2¢ or 3¢ 1869s, cancelled by the same segmented grid that extends onto the top right of the 10¢ and cover. The original franking could have been intended for the 30¢ rate for British Mail via Marseilles (with corresponding 26¢ credit) or 32¢ rate by North German Union Closed Mail. The 6¢ at lower right is uncancelled and, if part of the sender's original franking, was superfluous. We are convinced that it belongs to the cover, because affixing an original-gum, well-centered 6¢ 1869 to a cover is not characteristic of the usual "enhancements." A plausible explanation is that two stamps fell off in handling, after cancellation, but before the exchange office clerk rated the letter. Observing that the stamps had fallen off, a postal employee (possibly the foreign exchange clerk) applied the replacement stamp (6¢ being convenient) and from that point it was marked with the "26" credit for British Mail via Marseilles. We recognize that this involves speculation that the post office was unusually accommodating, but a reevaluation of the cover in its present form is a significant step towards understanding this remarkable item.
Ex Edgar Kuphal ("European's Large Gold" collection).
15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), two, used with 2¢ Brown (113) and tied by segmented cork cancels, red "New York Paid All Br. Transit Feb. 26" (1870) circular datestamp on folded cover to Calcutta, India, Wattenbach, Heilgers & Co. correspondence (see also lot 531), sender's directive "Via England", red "26" credit handstamp, red "London Paid" transit datestamp (March 9), Sea Post Office (March 25) and receiving (April 6) backstamps
Very Fine; 2¢ tiny tear at top.
A beautiful cover and one of only three recorded uses of the 15¢ 1869 Pictorial Issue on cover to India.
The rate to India by British Mail was either 22¢ via Southampton or 30¢ via Marseilles. The cover offered here is franked with 32¢ postage, which corresponds to the rate by North German Union Closed Mail. In the actual event, this cover was sent by British Mail via Marseilles; the 32¢ prepayment might have been deliberate, to ensure that it went by the most expeditious route.
Ex Steven C. Walske ("Lafayette" collection). With 2003 P.F. certificate.
15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), used with single and pair of 10¢ Yellow (116), tied by quartered cork cancels, "Pittsburgh Pa. Jun. 15" (1870) circular datestamp on cover with Fleming Brothers corner card and printed address to Paris, France, red "New York Paid All Br. Transit Jun. 16" backstamps, red "PD" oval and "London Paid" transit datestamp (June 27), "Angl. Amb. Calais 28 Juin 70" arrival datestamp, lightened but still fully readable red crayon "48/3" credit and indication of triple rate, lightened receipt docketing
Very Fine; 10¢ at right creased and trivial small tear at top of cover above corner card.
The markings on this cover correspond to the so-called Phantom Rate, which provided for prepayment to France via Great Britain during the period when the postal treaty between the United States and France lapsed without a new agreement. The rate was never announced, but was listed in the international rate tables under Algeria, which was considered a part of France--thus, the moniker "Phantom."
The original 12¢ Phantom Rate was formulated from the 4¢ U.S.-G.B. Open Mail and the 8¢ (4 pence) G.B.-France rates added together. However, the U.S.-G.B. rate was based on half-ounce (15 grams) weight increments, while the G.B.-France rate was based on quarter-ounce (7.5 grams) increments. Because Great Britain was entitled to receive prepayment of the full postage incurred in transmitting the letter to France, it received an 8¢ credit for every quarter-ounce (7.5 grams). On the other hand, the U.S. collected its 4¢ postage for each half-ounce increment. Therefore, the basic single rate for a letter weighing up to a quarter-ounce was 12¢ (4¢ U.S. and 8¢ G.B.) until July 1, 1870, when the Phantom Rate was reduced to 10¢, in accordance with the new Anglo-French convention, which reduced the rate between Great Britain and France to the equivalent of 6¢.
The 12¢ Phantom Rate progression is shown at bottom
On this cover the red crayon "48" indicates Great Britain's share of the postage, and the "3" is the U.S. indication that three rates were required (one for each half-ounce increment). Obviously, the letter was underpaid 15¢, because the correct Phantom Rate postage for a 1.25 to 1.50 ounce letter is 60¢, and the franking only adds up to 45¢.
True to its name, the Phantom Rate was generally unknown to the public. It is believed that not a single correctly-prepaid 12¢ Phantom Rate cover has been located (they are usually 15¢ frankings). The sender of this probably knew that the weight required three rates, and the 45¢ franking was intended to prepay triple the obsolete 15¢ treaty rate. At the New York exchange office, the letter was sent via England and a proper credit of 48¢ (6 x 8¢ per quarter-ounce) was given to the British post office. There is no evidence of a missing stamp, so one can only speculate why the New York exchange office would feel so charitable. Perhaps this cover was part of a larger group from the same addressee, including overpayments and underpayments, and the exchange clerk simply looked at the whole group and determined that enough total postage had been prepaid. Whatever the reason, it was allowed to go as fully prepaid.
This is a fascinating cover from one of the most challenging periods of United States postal history--challenging both to the public and postal employees at the time and to students and collectors today.
Ex Edgar Kuphal ("European's Large Gold" collection).
|The 12¢ Phantom Rate progression is as follows:|
|0.01-0.25 oz||12¢ (4¢ US, 8¢ GB)|
|0.25-0.50 oz||20¢ (4¢ US, 16¢ GB)|
|0.50-0.75 oz||32¢ (8¢ US, 24¢ GB)|
|0.75-1.00 oz||40¢ (8¢ US, 32¢ GB)|
|1.00-1.25 oz||52¢ (12¢ US, 40¢ GB)|
|1.25-1.50 oz||60¢ (12¢ US, 48¢ GB)|
15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), Positions 66-70/76-80/86-90/96-100, block of 20 from bottom right side of sheet of 100 with "NATIONAL BANK NOTE CO. NEW YORK" imprint and "No. 23" plate number in Blue (vignette plate), alignment markers in Brown and Blue at bottom left, original gum, lightly hinged, beautiful rich colors and sharp impressions, centered to bottom right but the extra wide selvage nicely balances the overall appearance
As block of 33: Rep. Ernest R. Ackerman (according to Chapin)
Francis E. Stern, Siegel Auction Galleries, 12/7-8/1966, Sale 309, lot 144
As block of 20: "Mid-Western Collector," Siegel Auction Galleries, 4/6-7/1972, Sale 410, lot 690
John C. Chapin (collection sold privately to Shreves and then to William H. Gross, 2002)
CENSUS, LITERATURE AND EXHIBITION REFERENCES
Chapin census no. 346 (illustrated on page 25)
The Philatelic Foundation (1972)
Very Good-Fine; intact and sound (remarkable for a block of this size)
SCOTT CATALOGUE VALUE (2019)
$90,000.00 for plate block of 8, two blocks and two pairs
HISTORY AND COMMENTARY
The Bicolored 1869 Pictorial Stamps
The 1869 Pictorial Issue was a transformative set of stamps created during a period of historic transition. With their novel shapes and imagery, they reflected the choice of President Johnson's postmaster general, Alexander Randall, but they were inherited by Grant's new postmaster general, John A. J. Creswell. In the midst of Reconstruction's political controversies, the 1869s were spurned by the public and quickly replaced with the 1870 Issue, bearing traditional portraits of statesmen, war heroes and Founding Fathers.
The four 1869 high values were printed in two colors. The 15¢ vignette is an engraving by Smillie, based on Balch's engraving from an 1839 oil painting entitled Landing of Columbus by John Vanderlyn.
We record four intact unused blocks of 20, as follows:
1) With left selvage, ex Wingate (Sale 1180, lot 174)
2) Bottom right corner selvage with blue imprint and plate no. 23, ex previous Rarities sales (including 1977), Walske and Dr. Heimburger
3) Bottom right corner selvage with blue imprint and plate no. 23, originally a block of 33, reduced to the block of 20 sometime after our 1966 Stern sale (Sale 309, lot 144), offered in this sale
4) Right selvage with plate marker, centered to bottom right, from the block of 50 shown in Rose book (fig. 159, p. 122), 1999 Rarities sale (Sale 811, lot 120)
The block of 20, ex Worthington and Caspary, has been broken. Apart from the two plate blocks above, there is only one other plate number block (of six, ex Wunderlich).
VERY FINE AND EXTREMELY RARE MINT NEVER-HINGED EXAMPLE OF THE 15-CENT TYPE II 1869 PICTORIAL ISSUE. THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND MINT NEVER-HINGED SINGLE WE HAVE OFFERED SINCE KEEPING COMPUTERIZED RECORDS. A PHENOMENAL RARITY OF THE ISSUE.
Large multiples of this issue do exist, and we have surveyed or sold most of them. Several contain Mint N.H. examples, but they are invariably off-center. Most of the blocks containing Mint N.H. stamps are significantly off-center, with perfs at least touching or well into the designs. The one exception is a left selvage block of 20 which contains eight Mint N.H. stamps, last offered in our 2018 sale of the Wingate collection. This is unlikely to be broken as it usually forms the linchpin of a great 1869 Pictorial or classic block collection, and is in such a collection today.
With 2019 P.S.E. certificate. Scott Retail as hinged does not remotely reflect the rarity of this item.