ONE OF ONLY THREE RECORDED COVERS BEARING THE WORLD'S FIRST GOVERNMENT-ISSUED OVERPRINTED STAMP. A COVER OF TREMENDOUS PHILATELIC SIGNIFICANCE AND APPEAL.
The world's first government-issued, overprinted stamp is the 2c on 3c U.S. City Despatch Post carrier issue, Scott 6LB7. It was overprinted in late 1845 or early 1846 to meet the need for a 2c stamp to prepay the carrier fee after the drop-letter rate was modified on July 1, 1845. Only four stamps are recorded, including three genuinely used on covers.
To understand why it was necessary to revalue U.S. City Despatch Post stamps from 3c to 2c, it is helpful to look at the effects of the July 1, 1845, postal reform (as per the Act of March 3, 1845). As is well-known to most U.S. stamp collectors, the July 1st reforms created the simplified 5c and 10c postage rates and laid the foundation for adhesive stamps to be used in this country. The postmasters' provisionals appeared first, followed in 1847 by the first General Issue (Scott 1 and 2). However, at the same time inter-city rates were lowered, Congress raised the drop-letter rate from 1c to 2c. A drop letter is one brought to a post office that is not transmitted to another post office. Congress raised the drop-letter rate out of fear that the new postage structure would cause a severe decline in postal revenues. By raising the intra-city rate, Congress hoped to offset some of the anticipated losses.
The consequences of this legislation for the U.S. City Despatch Post were immediate and dire. Prior to July 1, 1845, a drop letter could be taken by the carrier to or from the post office for 3c, which included 2c for the carrier department and 1c for the post office (drop postage). Beginning July 1, an extra cent was required for the drop postage, making the total amount equal to 4c. Although other classes of mail were unaffected by the drop-rate increase (including carrier letters that by-passed the main post office), the U.S. City Despatch found itself at a severe disadvantage competing with local posts, who generally charged 2c for a city letter. In the post-July 1 period, not only did Boyd flourish, but many smaller local posts entered the scene, hoping to capture a share of the market for intra-city letter delivery. By November 1846, the U.S. City Despatch Post was closed. Government carrier service would not appear again in New York City until 1849 under Robert Roberts' supervision.
The three recorded 6LB7 covers were mailed during the first eight months of the 2c drop-rate period. The covers are listed chronologically as follows: 1) Jan. 9, 1846 (red "New York 2 cts"), stamp cut in and tied by filing crease, addressee's name crossed out, no carrier markings, ex Ferrary, Hind, Waterhouse and Middendorf; 2) Feb. 14, 1846 (red "New-York 2 cts" and red carrier datestamp), stamp tied by filing crease, to Rev. R. S. Cook, Tract House, ex Hunter, Caspary, Boker, Golden and D.K. (Siegel Sale 862, lot 40, realized $65,000 hammer); and 3) Mar. 2, 1846 (red carrier datestamp), stamp originally affixed on back over folds and torn in half upon opening, to W. A. Sesley, 213 Fulton St., no other markings, ex Caspary, the cover offered here. In addition to the three stamps on covers, there is a stamp off cover, previously affixed to a cover dated Oct. 29 (1845 or 1846), but which did not originate.
The rarity of the 2c on 3c stamp suggests that it was used on a very limited basis, during a period of decline for the U.S. City Despatch Post. By overlaying the "2" overprint on the "2" in the drop-rate datestamp, we have determined that they are identical in size and shape. The overprint was probably made from a modified integral-rate marker and struck by hand on each stamp.
Ex Caspary. Accompanied by 1965 letter from Ezra Cole describing it as "absolutely genuine". With 1985 P.F. certificate. Accompanied by folded letter of Feb. 24, 1846 bearing same circular datestamp and red "New-York Feb. 24 2cts." circular datestamp showing the "2" which was used to surcharge the stamp. Scott Retail as on cover, not tied $70,000.00