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Sale 1211 — The William H. Gross Collection: United States Postal History

Sale Date — Tuesday-Wednesday, 29-30 October, 2019

Category — 1857-60 1¢ to 90¢ Perforated Issues

Cat./Est. Value
Sale Number 1211, Lot Number 333, 1857-60 1¢ to 90¢ Perforated Issues, The famous Armitage cover--the only recorded 90¢ 1860 Issue cover to India


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


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)


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.

E. 75,000-100,000
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