BRITISH POSTAL AGENCY, Colon, 1872-73 Three Country Combination Folded Letter.
Folded letter datelined in Manchester, England on Nov. 30, 1872 with Great Britain 1sh, Plate 6
and tied by barred "498" postmark and red Manchester Nov. 30 double-circle datestamp to San Jose, Puerto Rico,
the address was misread - as there is no San Jose in Puerto Rico - and sent to Costa Rica in error where the letter was held by the Postmaster with "Admon Gral De Correos de Costa Rica, San Jose 10 Enero 1875" handstamp (date corrected to "14"), accompanied by second folded cover
which evidently had an enclosure requesting payment for additional postage to original addressee in Puerto Rico that was franked with two Great Britain 1p (Plate 149)
stamps and tied by barred "C35" oval of Panama with "Panama FE 5 73" circular datestamp and manuscript "Servicio Publico, Aviso de carta rezagada" along top, original cover then forwarded via Panama and Colon where it received Great Britain 4p, Plate 13
and tied by barred "E88" of Colon with "Colon AP 3 73" circular datestamp, the cover was returned in error
from St. Thomas to Colon and resent with Colon Apr. 23 circular datestamp, again via St. Thomas to Puerto Rico where "1" real handstamp and Cuba 25c was applied and tied by cancel paying the postage due
VERY FINE. A TRULY REMARKBLE PAIR OF HISTORICAL COVERS. IDEAL FOR AN AWARD-WINNING EXHIBIT, HIGHLIGHTING THE PROCESSING OF MAIL THROUGH VARIOUS POSTAL SERVICES AND THE DETERMINATION OF A POSTMASTER TO FIND THE RECIPIENT, DESPITE HAVING BEEN POORLY ADDRESSED.
An even more thorough explanation of these two covers can be found in The Postal History of Costa Rica to 1883 by Frajola and Mayer. It is astonishing to note that these two covers still exist and have been reunited. In addition to the incredible story, the "E88" marking is exceptionally rare on cover with Paramenter-Gordon as "Rarity G, very rare". Oddly, off-cover cancels are known on various stamps which is not surprising due the importance of Colon as a transit hub, but less than a dozen on covers are known - certainly nothing as spectacular as this use.
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