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The Ambassador J. William Middendorf II Collection: Classic United States and Hawaii continued...

1860-61 Transcontinental Pony Express
Lot Sym. Lot Description  
148   ImageWilliam H. Russell. One of the three co-founders of the Pony Express, autograph letter signed Wm. H. Russell” and datelined at Washington D.C., June 4, 1860, to Judge William A. Carter at Fort Bridger, which reads:

Yrs of 24th Apl was forwarded to me from Leavenworth and recd last week too late to answer by the Pony. The authority you suggest to agents to employ extra riders when necessary I supposed had been given. I now give it and trust you will see that all goes along your portion of the road. I am really under many obligations for your promptness in forwarding the first express. You shall not be forgotten when grain is wanted. We feel confident of obtaining a daily mail service. Very respectfully, Wm. H. Russell”

Some minor splits along folds and light stains

A RARE AND SIGNIFICANT LETTER FROM WILLIAM H. RUSSELL, ONE OF THE PRINCIPALS IN THE PONY EXPRESS, TO JUDGE WILLIAM A. CARTER, THE STATION AGENT AT FORT BRIDGER, THANKING HIM FOR HIS ROLE IN MAKING THE FIRST PONY EXPRESS TRIP RUN PROMPTLY. IRONICALLY, AS RUSSELL PENNED THESE WORDS, THE PONY EXPRESS IN CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA WAS SHUT DOWN DUE TO THE INDIAN WAR.

While William H. Russell, the chief lobbyist for the Central Route mail contract and promoter of the Pony Express, was in Washington D.C. in May and June 1860, the Pauite Indian War in present-day Nevada effectively shut down the route west of Ruby Valley. Pony Express runs continued in both directions between St. Joseph and as far west as Diamond Springs, but the loss of business along the route between San Francisco and Carson Valley from May 31 to July 7 put the entire operation in jeopardy. In his June 4th letter to Judge Carter at Fort Bridger, Russell seems blissfully unaware of the problems and blindly optimistic about the prospects for obtaining the much-needed government mail contract over the Central Route.

Ex New Helvetia” (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States William H. Russell ]

E. $ 1,500-2,000

SOLD for $2,600.00
Will close during Public Auction
149 ng ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $2.00-$4.00 Horse & Rider Issues (143L1-143L5). All five Horse & Rider stamps including $2.00 Red and $4.00 Green, First Issue (April 1861) and $1.00 Red, $2.00 Green and $4.00 Black, Second Issue (July 1, 1861), unused (no gum), large margins, bright and fresh

EXTREMELY FINE SET OF WELLS FARGO & COMPANY’S HORSE & RIDER STAMPS ISSUED FOR USE ON THE LEGENDARY PONY EXPRESS. VERY FEW SETS OF THIS SUPERB QUALITY COULD BE ASSEMBLED.

The Pony Express was launched in 1860 by the overland freight express firm operated by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell. In an attempt to secure the lucrative government mail contract, the Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company announced that it would carry letters between California and the railroad terminus at St. Joseph, Missouri, in less than ten days. The earliest advertisements appeared in January 1860, and the first pony rider left the Alta Telegraph office in San Francisco at 4:00 p.m. on April 3, 1860. The expressman and his bag of mail did not actually ride off toward St. Joseph. He first boarded the steamer New World and traveled up the Sacramento River to Sacramento. From there another horse and rider galloped off on the first leg of the journey. Several riders and horses were used along the arduous journey, and the mail reached St. Joseph ten days later, on April 13. The operation continued until October 1861.

Commencing July 1, 1861, the Pony Express was authorized by Congress to carry mail at the rate of $1.00 per half ounce. An additional fee was charged by Wells Fargo & Co. to carry mail from San Francisco to the western terminus at Placerville. The contract also stipulated the mandatory U.S. postage charge of 10c per half ounce. Although the Scott Catalogue lists the July 1861 issue Pony Express stamps (143L3-143L6) with other private post issues, we wish to emphasize that these stamps were issued under the terms of a government mail contract; therefore, they have semi-official status.

Although some of the Horse & Rider stamps were remaindered, they are scarce, and the vast majority do not have four margins or have faults. This superb set would be extremely difficult to duplicate. (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L1-143L5 ]

$ 1,280.00

SOLD for $4,000.00
Will close during Public Auction
150 og ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $1.00-$4.00 Horse & Rider Issues (143L1-143L5). All five Horse & Rider stamps including $2.00 Red and $4.00 Green, First Issue (April 1861) and $1.00 Red, $2.00 Green and $4.00 Black, Second Issue (July 1, 1861), each stamp plated, all but No. 143L4 original gum, large margins, No. 143L2 light stain at top center, No. 143L4 tiny margin thin, overall bright and fresh

EXTREMELY FINE (OR APPEARING) SET OF WELLS FARGO & COMPANY’S HORSE & RIDER STAMPS ISSUED FOR USE ON THE LEGENDARY PONY EXPRESS. VERY FEW SETS OF THIS HIGH QUALITY COULD BE ASSEMBLED.

Each stamp with 2007 P.S.E. certificate (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L1-143L5 ]

$ 1,280.00

SOLD for $2,200.00
Will close during Public Auction
151   ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $1.00-$4.00 Horse & Rider, $1.00 Garter Issues (143L1-143L6). All five Horse & Rider stamps plus the Garter” stamp: $2.00 Red and $4.00 Green, First Issue (April 1861), $1.00 Red, $2.00 Green and $4.00 Black, Second Issue (July 1, 1861), each with blue San Francisco Running Pony oval datestamp, and $1.00 Blue, Garter (July 1, 1861) used with magenta and black pen cancels, margins to just in, bright colors, faults as always for used examples but each in collectible condition (see below for specific condition notes)

FINE APPEARANCE. AN EXTREMELY RARE COMPLETE SET OF THE 1861 WELLS FARGO & COMPANY PONY EXPRESS STAMPS GENUINELY USED. WITH THE POPULATIONS OF THE TWO $4.00 VALUES AND THE $2.00 GREEN IN THE SINGLE DIGITS, THESE ARE VERY RARELY IF EVER OFFERED AS A COMPLETE SET.

The $2.00 Green and both of the $4.00 values, each of which paid a multiple of the standard single rate in effect at the time of issue, are very rare in used condition, with populations of fewer than ten, including only five recorded for the $4.00 Black. Since keeping computerized records more than 25 years ago, we have never offered the complete set in used condition.

Condition notes: $2.00 Red (143L1), light creases; $4.00 Green (143L2), thinned at top right, small repair at bottom left, 2013 P.F. certificate; $1.00 Red (143L3), thin spot; $2.00 Green (143L4), defective with repairs; $4.00 Black (143L5), couple non-obvious small flaws, 2013 P.F. certificate; $1.00 Blue, Garter (143L6), cut to shape, red and black pen cancels, lightly stained, 2011 P.F. certificate.

Total Scott Retail (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L1-143L6 ]

$ 22,450.00

SOLD for $4,000.00
Will close during Public Auction
152   ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $2.00 Red (143L1). Position 11, full to large margins, lightly struck blue Pony Ex(press) Sac(ramento)” oval datestamp with MA” of month (May 1861), small thin spots, Very Fine appearance, a choice and scarce used example of the $2.00 Horse & Rider First Issue, ex Twigg-Smith (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L1 ]

$ 800.00

SOLD for $900.00
Will close during Public Auction
153   ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $4.00 Green (143L2). Position 6, full to large margins, cancelled by blue San Francisco Running Pony oval datestamp with trace of manuscript, tiny thin spot and small tear at left

EXTREMELY FINE APPEARANCE. FEWER THAN TEN USED EXAMPLES OF THE $4.00 GREEN HORSE & RIDER FIRST ISSUE HAVE BEEN REPORTED. THIS IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE FINEST USED COPY EXTANT.

The $4.00 Green was used briefly during Rate Period 3 to pay the double $2.00 per half-ounce rate. Only one cover is recorded, recently offered in our sale of the George J. Kramer collection (Sale 1207, lot 16, realized $150,000 hammer). We have seen approximately seven genuinely cancelled stamps off cover.

Ex Twigg-Smith and New Helvetia”. With 2009 P.F. certificate. (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L2 ]

$ 6,000.00

SOLD for $5,250.00
Will close during Public Auction
154   ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $4.00 Green (143L2). Position 19, clear margins to touched at bottom right, rich color, cancelled by rim and SA” of blue San Francisco Running Pony oval datestamp, small thin spots

FRESH AND FINE APPEARANCE. A RARE USED EXAMPLE OF THE $4.00 GREEN HORSE & RIDER FIRST ISSUE. FEWER THAN TEN EXIST IN USED CONDITION.

The $4.00 Green was used briefly during Rate Period 3 to pay the double $2.00 per half-ounce rate. Only one cover is recorded, recently offered in our sale of the George J. Kramer collection (Sale 1207, lot 16, realized $150,000 hammer). We have seen approximately seven genuinely cancelled stamps off cover.

With 2014 P.S.E. certificate. (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L2 ]

$ 6,000.00

SOLD for $2,700.00
Will close during Public Auction
155 c ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $2.00 Red (143L1). Large margins to just touched including part of adjoining stamps at top and right, tied by well-struck blue Pony Express San Francisco Jun. 5” (1861) Running Pony handstamp on 10c Green on Buff Star Die entire (U33) to New York, the entire cancelled by blue grid and matching indistinct St. Joseph Mo. circular datestamp, top flap with small part missing and small part sensibly repaired, the stamp with expert repair at top right, the cover gently cleaned

VERY FINE APPEARANCE. A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF THE $2.00 PONY EXPRESS STAMP TIED BY THE BLUE SAN FRANCISCO RUNNING PONY OVAL.

This cover was carried on the Wednesday, June 5, 1861, trip from San Francisco, which arrived at St. Joseph on June 17. When Phase II (Interim Phase) started on April 1, 1861, the rate for a Pony Express letter was substantially reduced to $2 per half-ounce, down from the $5 per half-ounce or $2.50 per quarter-ounce rates in effect during the previous year. At the same time, the new agents--Wells Fargo & Company--had special stamps and envelopes printed for use on Pony Express letters. The $2 rate was in effect for a brief period, from April 1 to June 30, 1861. The FKW census records 37 $2.00 Red covers.

The $2 and $4 were printed in sheets of 20 (5 wide by 4 high). Rather than build up the printing stone from intermediate transfer groups or from a primary matrix containing the denomination, the printers used a blank matrix to enter each subject on the stone for each value. This required a total of 40 transfers (20 for each value). The denomination (shaded numerals 2” and 4”) then had to be individually transferred to each subject on both stones, thus requiring another 40 separate transfers. It seems incredible that experienced lithographers such as Britton & Rey did not simplify the process by using intermediate transfers. Based on the fact that the $2 and $4 of the July 1861 issue (in Green and Black) were printed from the same stones as the April 1861 issue, it is certain that the printers had retained the two original stones. Lithographic stones were usually re-used by erasing the image and repolishing the surface, but in the case of the Pony Express stones, they were evidently preserved for future printings.

FKW Census E93. Ex Lyons. With 1992 P.F. certificate (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States Pony Express]

E. $ 15,000-20,000

SOLD for $15,000.00
Will close during Public Auction
156 ngbl ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $1.00 Red (143L3). Complete sheet of 40 in two panes, Position 9 in the Right Pane shows the Broken Leg” flaw, unused (no gum), bright color, mostly ample to large margins all around, just into the frame of the top left stamp and touching the stamp at top right, some faults that are mostly small including a vertical fold between the panes ending in closed tears at top and bottom not affecting any stamps, two spindle holes in bottom corner stamps, to help the appearance of the sheet an additional genuine single and horizontal pair (crease) have been lightly hinged behind so that the designs appear complete

VERY FINE APPEARANCE. A VERY RARE COMPLETE SHEET OF 40 OF THE $1.00 PONY EXPRESS STAMP. POSITION R9 IS THE BROKEN LEG” LITHOGRAPHIC FLAW.

When Britton & Rey received Wells Fargo & Co.’s order for new stamps needed for the July 1861 rate change, they were apparently instructed to produce a new $1.00 value in Red and to print more $2.00 and $4.00 stamps in different colors. Since the printers still had the stones for the $2.00 and $4.00, it was a simple matter to make more impressions in Green ($2.00) and Black ($4.00). Their approach to the $1.00 Red, evident in the product itself, is more complicated.

Instead of 20 subjects, there were 40 subjects on the $1.00 stone, which suggests that the print order anticipated a much higher volume of usage. In fact, the average number of letters per eastbound trip jumped from 201 in Rate Period 3 (prior to the government contract) to 305 in the Rate Period 4 (as a government contractor). The total number of eastbound letters, documented at 10,057, indicates that at least an equal number of $1.00 stamps were printed, so doubling the size of the stone meant half the number of impressions (250 vs. 500 for a print run of 10,000). The process of creating the $1.00 printing stone is described in our pamphlet on the Pony Express (the Stockholmia presentation PDF is available on our website).

This sheet of 40--one of four recorded--contains the most distinctive plate flaw found on any Pony Express stamp: the Broken Leg” flaw, in which the horse’s front right leg is cut off where the background shading lines end.

The Broken Leg flaw occurs only on Position R9 (Group A Type V). The fact that it does not occur on the other three Type V positions (L9/11 and R11) indicates that it was not present on the Transfer Groups A or B. It may have occurred as the re-transfer of Group A/B was made on the printing stone, possibly due to a flaw in the transfer paper. It also could have resulted from damage to the printing stone, possibly during the erasure process to remove s” from Dollars”.

We have seen approximately ten examples of the Broken Leg, including four in sheets. The two used examples offered in this sale prove the Broken Leg flaw was present when the stamps were actually used on Pony Express mail. One unresolved question is whether Position R9 exists without the flaw, which would prove that some sheets were printed before the flaw occurred on the printing stone. (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L3 ]

E. $ 5,000-7,500

SOLD for $4,500.00
Will close during Public Auction
157 ngbl ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $1.00 Red (143L3). Block of four, unused (no gum), large even margins, bright color, Extremely Fine, very scarce in completely sound condition, with 1984 P.F. certificate (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L3 ]

$ 750.00

SOLD for $550.00
Will close during Public Auction
158 ngbl ImageWells Fargo & Co. Pony Express, $1.00 Red (143L3). Block of four, unused (no gum), full to large margins, bottom left stamp small thin spot, overall Very Fine-Extremely Fine, with 2011 P.F. certificate (Image)

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Get Market Data for [United States 143L3 ]

$ 750.00

SOLD for $375.00
Will close during Public Auction

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