Sale 977 — The Whitpain Collection of U.S. 1894-98 Bureau Issues
Sale Date — Wednesday-Thursday, 2-3 December, 2009
Category — 1895 Issue Imperforate (Scott 264a-278a)
EXTREMELY FINE. A SPECTACULAR AND EXTREMELY RARE COMPLETE SET OF IMPRINT AND PLATE NUMBER STRIPS OF THREE OF THE IMPERFORATE 1895 WATERMARKED BUREAU ISSUE. THIS SET, SHOWING EVERY PLATE NUMBER USED TO PRINT THE IMPERFORATES, IS UNIQUE. ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WHITPAIN COLLECTION.
In Brookman Volume III, pages 128-129, a complete account of the origin of the 1895 Imperforates is quoted from a column by George B. Sloane. We provide excerpts:
"At the time they appeared, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had, but a short time previously, taken over the stamp printing contract from the American Bank Note Co. and were unfamiliar with and inexperienced in quantity production of postage stamps. Gilbert E. Jones, one of the owners of the New York Times, had rendered the Bureau invaluable technical advice and assistance in the organization of their facilities, and the Bureau desired to reward him in some way for his services. Mr. Jones was well-known collector, interested only in stamps in imperforate pairs, and when the subject was broached he suggested that, while he desired no recompense, if the Bureau could give him an imperforate pair or block of each of the stamps then in current use, for his collection, he would feel more than amply repaid."
Sloane then explains that the Bureau was restricted from presenting him with stamps from stock, but did allow him to buy regular perforated stamps on sale at the post office and exchange them for imperforates. Although the Scott Catalogue at first did not recognize the imperforates as regularly-issued stamps, from 1916 they inserted a statement "All denominations of this issue exist imperforate but they were not regularly issued in that condition".
In recent years, the Scott U.S. Specialized Catalogue moved the 1895 Imperforates to the Proof section. We feel strongly that these stamps belong with their regular-issue counterparts. Our reasoning is that the Bureau itself was responsible for releasing the stamps. The Scott Catalogue should not classify these stamps any differently than they classify other stamps released through official channels, but not regularly issued at a post office. For example, the 4c Pan-American Invert, which was never sold at the post office, but traded by the government for stamps they needed for the National Stamp Collection. As another example, the rare 4c and 8c Bluish Paper stamps were "released" at the post office in an illegal conspiracy between Joseph A. Steinmetz and Arthur M. Travers, an official with the Post Office Department, both of whom were indicted and convicted for their crimes. We see no difference in the historical circumstances behind the release of the 1895 Imperforates and the other examples cited.
The Sloane article also provides the original quantities of 1895 Imperforates released: 1c--900; 2c--500; 3c to 8c--300 each; 10c--400; 15c to $5.00--100 each. The vast majority of stamps have been divided into pairs over the years. This offering is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a complete set of imprint and plate number strips of these major 19th Century rarities, which we believe will eventually earn their way back to the front of the Scott Catalogue, where they belong.