VERY FINE APPEARANCE. A PHENOMENAL COVER BEARING THE RARE 2-CENT VERTICAL EXPERIMENTAL GOVERNMENT COIL, SCOTT 321, WITH ONE OF THE FINEST PAIRS OF THE 5-CENT IMPERFORATE, SCOTT 315. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THE STAMPS HAVE BEEN REUNITED ON THIS COVER IN MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY. WE REGARD THIS AS ONE OF THE GREATEST COVERS IN ALL OF 20TH CENTURY UNITED STATES PHILATELY.
The first government coil stamps were experimental, and philatelists at the time were generally unaware of or indifferent to their existence. Sheets of 400 were printed and perforated in one direction. They were then cut into strips of 20 and hand-assembled into rolls for sale in vending machines. Only small numbers of these experimental coils were produced before the Washington-Franklin series superseded them. One of the rarest stamps in the world is Scott 321, the 2c Shield Vertical Coil. In February 1908, four rolls of 1,000 were produced, and the vertical format was never repeated. A supply was sent to the Parkhurst Vending Machine Co. in Indianapolis, the only city where Scott 321 is known to have been used.
This cover is well-known among students of 20th Century philately both for its rarity and for its highly unusual history. It was sent by William Pirtle Herod, an Indianapolis attorney from a prominent political family. The recipient was Arthur M. Travers in Washington D.C., who was promoted around this time to Acting Third Assistant Postmaster General after serving as Chief Clerk to A. L. Lawshe before the latter's breakdown and resignation. In 1911 Travers earned philatelic notoriety when he was arrested in connection with the Steinmetz-Travers Bluish Paper scandal. His interest in stamps is reflected in a note he affixed to this cover (which accompanies this lot), which reads: "Note the 2 imperforate 5c stamps. Only 13000 of such were issued and less than 10000 were used for postage purposes. A.M.T. Dec 21, 1908." It is noteworthy that Travers did not point out the much rarer 2c coil on this cover. Like most philatelists at the time, he probably did not regard experimental coils as separate issues.
The Herod-Travers cover remained intact until at least 1954, when the first Philatelic Foundation certificate was issued. The cover, without the 5c pair, was offered in Siegel's November 30, 1971, auction of the Louis Grunin collection of 20th Century United States. Just like Travers, our firm's describers at the time failed to appreciate the importance of this cover and did not even photograph it in the sale catalogue. Following the Grunin sale, the cover disappeared from public view for the next 48 years.
All of our efforts to locate the fabled "321 cover" resulted in dead ends. Hans Stoltz and Walter Mader, two Siegel describers from the period, had no recollection as to its whereabouts.
In 2007 the 5c pair was found in an old-time estate and recognized by us as having originated on the cover. The pair was offered in Siegel Sale 930 (lot 2368), where it sold for $22,000 plus premium to the current owner, who had bid on the other 321 cover offered in our 1998 Zoellner sale almost a decade earlier. His fervent desire was to reunite the pair and the cover--owning the pair got him part of the way. On July 10, 2019, the opportunity to reunite the pair and cover finally presented itself. The Herod-Travers cover appeared in the "New Amsterdam" collection offered by Cherrystone Auctions. The consignor was a collector who had been relatively inactive for decades, but was active in the 1970s and probably bought the cover at or close to the time of the Grunin sale. Our client successfully bid on the cover with the 2c coil in that sale and realized his decades-long dream of reuniting the pair with its 2c coil partner on the original envelope.
Our census of Scott 321, available at https://siegelauctions.com/census/us/scott/321 , contains five pairs and two covers with singles. One of the pairs is part of the Benjamin K. Miller collection, currently on long-term loan to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, and will never be available to collectors. That leaves only four pairs plus the two covers available to collectors. Siegel has not offered a pair since before 1994. The Zoellner collection, which was complete, contained the other cover. We resold the ex-Zoellner cover in the William H. Gross U.S. Stamp Treasures auction for $260,000 hammer (Sale 1188, lot 104). A pair was also offered in the same 2019 Cherrystone auction, where it realized $700,000 hammer.
With 1954 P.F. certificate for cover with Scott 315 and 321. The Scott 321 alone on cover is ex Grunin and "New Amsterdam" (with 2019 P.F. certificate). The Scott 315 with 2007 P.F. certificate as an off-cover pair. The Scott value quoted is for a single 321 on cover.
2¢ Carmine, Type I, Vertical Coil (321), deep rich color, well-centered, tied across both sides by “Indianapolis, Ind. Oct. 2 3:30PM 1908” postmark and wavy-line machine cancel on light blue cover addressed to “Mr. Randolph Prelate, Baker Vawter Co., Chicago, Ill.”, backflap with engraved McKinley Club seal of a “GOP” elephant, monogram “MC” and “INDIANAPOLIS” city location, sender’s signature “R. C. Griffith” below the printed design, with original letter enclosure on matching McKinley Club engraved stationery--mentions looking for employment, selling a house for “mother” and running into an old girlfriend
* Edwin P. Seebohm, San Francisco, June 1939, Sale 68, lot 16, to Milton
* Maxwell C. Milton (collection bought and sold privately through Weills; the cover sold privately to Zoellner, 1993)
* Robert Zoellner, Siegel Auction Galleries, 10/8-10/1998, Sale 804, lot 531, to William H. Gross
CENSUS, LITERATURE AND EXHIBITION REFERENCES
* Siegel census no. 321-COV-01
* World Stamp Show 2016 Court of Honor (Gross)
* The Philatelic Foundation (1994)
* Accompanied by notarized affidavit from Randolph Prelat, the addressee, dated June 21, 1939, attesting that: ...the certain United States Postage Stamp described on Page 4 of catalogue of Edwin P. Seebohm (68th Public Auction) as Lot No. 16 has not been tampered with and has been in my possession since it was originally mailed from Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1908
* Extremely Fine stamp and cover
VIEW PDF OF HISTORY AND COMMENTARY at https://siegelauctions.com/2018/1188/104.pdf
VERY FINE AND EXTREMELY RARE. THIS IS THE ONLY SURVIVING INTACT COVER BEARING THE 2-CENT 1908 VERTICAL COIL. THE RAREST TWENTIETH CENTURY UNITED STATES STAMP AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ITEMS OF TWENTIETH CENTURY UNITED STATES PHILATELY.
Armstrong, in his book United States Coil Issues 1906-38, records five pairs and one cover (to A.M. Travers) that has stamps removed. The Scott Catalogue repeats this number. Our census of Scott 321 (see Appendix, p. 385) records only four unused pairs, the Zoellner cover offered here, and the Travers cover with stamps removed (Census 321-COV-02). The Philatelic Foundation had previously certified one additional pair (PFC 15017), but their own records indicate that they withdrew support for the opinion on April 2, 1962.
In February 1908 the Bureau of Engraving and Printing issued a limited amount of vertical-format coils for use in private vending machines. Four rolls of 1,000, or a total of 4,000 stamps, were produced. Scott 321 can only come from Die I, as Die II was not put into service until April 1908. A supply was sent to the Parkhurst Vending Machine Company in Indianapolis, and this is the only city where Scott 321 is known to have been used.
Census No. 321-COV-01. Accompanied by a notarized affadavit from the recipient, dated June 21, 1939, stating that the item had been in his possession since being received. The watermark direction has been checked to confirm that it comes from sheet stock, not from a booklet pane. With 1994 P.F. certificate