VERY FINE STAMP AND ATTRACTIVE PIECE. ONE OF TEN OR ELEVEN EXAMPLES OF THE MARION POSTMASTER'S 10-CENT PROVISIONAL STAMP. THIS IS THE FIRST 10-CENT STAMP SEEN WITH RULED LINES.
The Marion Va. 5c and 10c provisional stamps, with their distinctive "Check" label at top, were issued by Postmaster J. H. Francis, beginning in 1861 and continuing through 1863. The stamps were printed in two steps: first, the typeset form containing the border and words "P. Office, Marion, Va., Check. Paid" was impressed; then the value, "5" or "10" was handstamped on the blank center. Postmaster Francis described his stamps in a January 1880 letter to August Dietz, and he offered to make more from the "die" which he still possessed. Various "reprints" made from the typeset form were made by John W. Scott, including 2c, 15c and 20c values that have never been seen genuinely used.
This piece was recently discovered in a scrap book kept during the 1850-70 period by W. R. Hunter, "The Children's Friend". With the discovery of this essentially complete cover front, our records now contain seven covers with the Marion 10c provisional, plus a repaired stamp affixed to the back of a cover noted in the Crown book as part of the Worthington collection. There are two unused stamps and perhaps one or two off-cover stamps extant. Of the seven known covers, one is part of the Tapling collection at the British Library (a sound example dated Oct. 15, 1861), two have stamps with a significant portion of the design cut away (dated Oct. 25 and Nov. 16, 1861), and one has the bottom right corner of the stamp repaired (dated Sep. 24, 1861, ex Caspary). Therefore, there remain only three covers available to collectors in essentially sound condition: the ex-Hessel cover (dated Nov. 18, 1861, with repairs to the cover), the Mar. 2 cover (1862 or 1863) in our Sale 810, which realized $62,500 hammer, and this new discovery.
The stamp on this letter has two black lines printed horizontally across the front and back. The numeral "10", which was handstamped separately, is aligned with the rules, which leads to speculation that the postmaster used the ruled paper deliberately. The late date of this usage also suggests that the Marion postmaster was not adequately supplied with stamps; another possibility is that the sender was thrifty and used an old provisional stamp still on hand. The Marion 10c cover in our Sale 810, dated March 2, was assumed to be a March 2, 1862, usage during the 5c/10c rate period. However, it is addressed to Kingston Tenn., which is within the 300-mile limit for the 5c rate. Therefore, it is either a double 5c rate for weight or a March 1863 usage after the rate increase to 10c for any distance. The 1863 usage becomes a possibility with the discovery of the January 1863 usage offered here.