FINE APPEARANCE. THIS IS THE UNIQUE EXAMPLE OF THE ONE-CENT MAGIC LETTER EXPRESS STAMP UPRATED TO TWO CENTS WITH MANUSCRIPT "2" AND "S." -- MAGIC LETTER'S "LOCK AND KEY" STAMPS ARE AMONG THE GREAT RARITIES OF CARRIERS AND LOCALS COLLECTING.
The Magic Letter Express was operated for approximately two months in June and July 1865 by the Richmond firm of Evans, Porter & Co., under the management of Maurice Evans.
With the addition of this stamp, only seven Magic Letter Express stamps are known in total, including the unique 1c on cover, this 1c stamp uprated to 2c, one normal 2c, and four 5c (two on covers). The first example of a Magic Letter Express stamp was described in the June 1887 Quaker City Philatelist as one of two “discoveries of Confederate Locals” by G. M. Bastable, the other being the Liberty Va. Confederate provisional. Bastable is quoted in the article: “The Richmond local, known as the Magic Letter Express, I found among a large correspondence from Richmond, Va., extending from 1840 to 1870. Many of the old envelopes had Confederate stamps of the general issue, and others U.S. stamps of the general issue. I obtained these from a member of the family to whom they were mailed, and among the lot I found the Magic Letter Expresses. The family could give me no information concerning this particular stamp.” The discovery cover resurfaced in a 2010 Rumsey auction (Sale 37) after being “re-discovered” in the late Carl Walske’s reference collection.
1) 1c 101L1 cancelled "Paid" on Jun. 2, 1865, folded letter hand carried from "Rockland" to Richmond, "June 3d 1865" manuscript postmark, delivered locally at appropriate 1c rate, ex Golden, D.K. Collection (Siegel Sale 862, lot 89, realized $37,500);
2) 1c with manuscript "2s.", uprated to 2c, the example offered here;
3) 2c 101L2, manuscript "Richmond July 4 '65" cancellation, ex Needham, Boker, Richardson, Moyer, Golden, D.K. Collection (Siegel Sale 862, lot 90, realized $12,500);
4) 5c 101L3, uncancelled, affixed to the undated broadside, ex Needham, Boker;
5) 5c 101L3, manuscript "July 18" postmark and part of Richmond Va. Jul. 19 duplex datestamp and cork cancel (applied by post office), found by George Sloane, ex Boker and Kuphal (Siegel sale 925, lot 1610, realized $7,000);
6) 5c 101L3 tied by manuscript "Richmond July 10/65" postmark on cover to Talbot B. Coleman, Staunton Va., ex Needham, Boker;
7) the Bastable discovery example, 5c 101L3, dated Jul. 30, 1865, on cover to Robert King in Gordonsville Va., ex Carl Walske (Rumsey Sale 37).
The recorded dates establish a time period from June 3 through July 30, 1865. The covers to Staunton and Gordonsville, as well as the incoming cover from Rockland, indicate that the Magic Letter Express used railroad lines to convey mail distances as far as 140 track miles from Richmond. This local post and inter-city express was blatantly illegal.
The discovery of this new example of the 1c Magic Letter Express would be noteworthy even without the additional previously unlisted variety. The manuscript rate change on this stamp reveals yet another facet of this fascinating post-Civil War mail operation.
Accompanied by photocopy of Evans, Porter & Co. circular advertising the service. The 1c is listed only on cover, with Scott Retail of $40,000.00. The normal 2c is priced in Scott at $14,000.00