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What is it worth? Postage Stamp Envelopes used during the Civil War.

Postage Envelopes used during the Civil War era.

As was mentioned in the previous posting about fractional currency issued by the federal government during the Civil War, there was extensive hoarding of coins. To fill the need for small change merchants resorted to several alternatives. Some had one cent tokens minted, with patriotic themes or advertising; others printed small envelopes and enclosed mint postage stamps in them, still others used advertising encased postage stamp in a brass and mica frame, finally some printed cardboard chits.

If they chose the postage stamp envelope option, they come in several forms. Sometimes the envelopes were printed with just the name of the printer or stationary company on the flap, and the other side with a large legend with the value of the stamps enclosed.

Others were printed as full advertising envelopes, not only stating the value, but advertising the merchant who had the envelope made. They are known from Boston, New York, Philadelphia and several other cities, New York being the most common.

After the war, many of these envelopes were destroyed and the postage stamps used. Those that remain have often been preserved by having been mounted in scrap book albums. Some are now just the advertising side, complete envelopes are scarce.

Postage Stamp envelopes have been embraced by both the stamp collecting community as well as the numismatic community as an emergency type of currency. They are listed in both the Scott’s Specialized U.S. Postage Stamp Catalog, and the Standard Catalog of U.S. Paper Money published by Krause Publications. Their values were steady in the 200-500 dollar range until about six years ago when interested started to turn in that direction. Now most damaged common envelopes sell in the $500 range, with the commonest complete envelopes $2,000-4,000 range. The very rarest will soon be aproaching the $10,000 mark.

In a R.M. Smythe auction of April 2007, the Western Reserve Historical Society collection of postage stamp envelopes was sold. It consisted of 51 envelopes, of which there were 17 new issuers or varieties.

In the October 11th sale of Stack’s, part XIX of the John Ford Collection, there is an extensive offering of Postage Stamp Envelopes. Many of which are unlisted varieties (Mr. Ford was often hard to work with, and usually did not share information or collected items which took a lifetime to acquire. He kept what he knew about stuff close to his vest to be used for his own advantage). The illustrations in this blog come from the upcoming Ford Sale by Stack’s.

The appearance of these two large offerings will cause me to re-number and expand extensively the Postage Stamp Envelope section in the 27th edition of the Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money. Watch for it midyear 2008!

George Cuhaj