A rare and colorful 1869 Pictorial Issue four-stamp combination on a cover to India
15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), dramatic misalignment of vignette and frame, used with 1¢ Buff (112), 6¢ Ultramarine (115) and 10¢ Yellow (116) on folded cover to Calcutta, India, Wattenbach, Heilgers & Co. correspondence (see also lot 532), 10¢ and 15¢ tied by segmented cork cancels, 1¢ tied by red "26" credit handstamp, 6¢ uncancelled, red "New York Paid All Br. Transit Mar. 19" (1870) backstamp, red "London Paid" transit datestamp (March 30) and "1d" British Colonial credit handstamp, sender's blue oval datestamp at lower left, "Sea Post Office" oval and red Calcutta receiving backstamps
One or two stamps originally cancelled at upper right have fallen off and some rejoined splits along interior folds, but overall impressive and Fine--a colorful and extraordinary 1869 Pictorial combination cover to India, and one of only three uses of the 15¢ to India.
This cover is illustrated in the 1869 PRA census book (p. 162) with a 3¢ 1869 affixed at upper right which has an entirely different cancel and obviously never belonged (the stamp has since been removed). However, there was at one time a stamp or stamps in the same position. We surmise that the missing stamps were likely a pair of 2¢ or 3¢ 1869s, cancelled by the same segmented grid that extends onto the top right of the 10¢ and cover. The original franking could have been intended for the 30¢ rate for British Mail via Marseilles (with corresponding 26¢ credit) or 32¢ rate by North German Union Closed Mail. The 6¢ at lower right is uncancelled and, if part of the sender's original franking, was superfluous. We are convinced that it belongs to the cover, because affixing an original-gum, well-centered 6¢ 1869 to a cover is not characteristic of the usual "enhancements." A plausible explanation is that two stamps fell off in handling, after cancellation, but before the exchange office clerk rated the letter. Observing that the stamps had fallen off, a postal employee (possibly the foreign exchange clerk) applied the replacement stamp (6¢ being convenient) and from that point it was marked with the "26" credit for British Mail via Marseilles. We recognize that this involves speculation that the post office was unusually accommodating, but a reevaluation of the cover in its present form is a significant step towards understanding this remarkable item.
Ex Edgar Kuphal ("European's Large Gold" collection). (Image)
One of only three recorded uses of the 15¢ 1869 Pictorial Issue on cover to India
15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), two, used with 2¢ Brown (113) and tied by segmented cork cancels, red "New York Paid All Br. Transit Feb. 26" (1870) circular datestamp on folded cover to Calcutta, India, Wattenbach, Heilgers & Co. correspondence (see also lot 531), sender's directive "Via England", red "26" credit handstamp, red "London Paid" transit datestamp (March 9), Sea Post Office (March 25) and receiving (April 6) backstamps
Very Fine; 2¢ tiny tear at top.
A beautiful cover and one of only three recorded uses of the 15¢ 1869 Pictorial Issue on cover to India.
The rate to India by British Mail was either 22¢ via Southampton or 30¢ via Marseilles. The cover offered here is franked with 32¢ postage, which corresponds to the rate by North German Union Closed Mail. In the actual event, this cover was sent by British Mail via Marseilles; the 32¢ prepayment might have been deliberate, to ensure that it went by the most expeditious route.
Ex Steven C. Walske ("Lafayette" collection). With 2003 P.F. certificate. (Image)
An outstanding 1869 Pictorial Issue triple "Phantom Rate" cover to France
15¢ Brown & Blue, Type II (119), used with single and pair of 10¢ Yellow (116), tied by quartered cork cancels, "Pittsburgh Pa. Jun. 15" (1870) circular datestamp on cover with Fleming Brothers corner card and printed address to Paris, France, red "New York Paid All Br. Transit Jun. 16" backstamps, red "PD" oval and "London Paid" transit datestamp (June 27), "Angl. Amb. Calais 28 Juin 70" arrival datestamp, lightened but still fully readable red crayon "48/3" credit and indication of triple rate, lightened receipt docketing
Very Fine; 10¢ at right creased and trivial small tear at top of cover above corner card.
The markings on this cover correspond to the so-called Phantom Rate, which provided for prepayment to France via Great Britain during the period when the postal treaty between the United States and France lapsed without a new agreement. The rate was never announced, but was listed in the international rate tables under Algeria, which was considered a part of France--thus, the moniker "Phantom."
The original 12¢ Phantom Rate was formulated from the 4¢ U.S.-G.B. Open Mail and the 8¢ (4 pence) G.B.-France rates added together. However, the U.S.-G.B. rate was based on half-ounce (15 grams) weight increments, while the G.B.-France rate was based on quarter-ounce (7.5 grams) increments. Because Great Britain was entitled to receive prepayment of the full postage incurred in transmitting the letter to France, it received an 8¢ credit for every quarter-ounce (7.5 grams). On the other hand, the U.S. collected its 4¢ postage for each half-ounce increment. Therefore, the basic single rate for a letter weighing up to a quarter-ounce was 12¢ (4¢ U.S. and 8¢ G.B.) until July 1, 1870, when the Phantom Rate was reduced to 10¢, in accordance with the new Anglo-French convention, which reduced the rate between Great Britain and France to the equivalent of 6¢.
The 12¢ Phantom Rate progression is shown at bottom
On this cover the red crayon "48" indicates Great Britain's share of the postage, and the "3" is the U.S. indication that three rates were required (one for each half-ounce increment). Obviously, the letter was underpaid 15¢, because the correct Phantom Rate postage for a 1.25 to 1.50 ounce letter is 60¢, and the franking only adds up to 45¢.
True to its name, the Phantom Rate was generally unknown to the public. It is believed that not a single correctly-prepaid 12¢ Phantom Rate cover has been located (they are usually 15¢ frankings). The sender of this probably knew that the weight required three rates, and the 45¢ franking was intended to prepay triple the obsolete 15¢ treaty rate. At the New York exchange office, the letter was sent via England and a proper credit of 48¢ (6 x 8¢ per quarter-ounce) was given to the British post office. There is no evidence of a missing stamp, so one can only speculate why the New York exchange office would feel so charitable. Perhaps this cover was part of a larger group from the same addressee, including overpayments and underpayments, and the exchange clerk simply looked at the whole group and determined that enough total postage had been prepaid. Whatever the reason, it was allowed to go as fully prepaid.
This is a fascinating cover from one of the most challenging periods of United States postal history--challenging both to the public and postal employees at the time and to students and collectors today.
Ex Edgar Kuphal ("European's Large Gold" collection). (Image)