Friday, February 8, 2013

What Are The Odds? Not One, But Two $3 R183 On-Document Usages

Between us, my good friend J. W. Palmer and I have been searching for an on-document usage of the $3 Lake Commerce Issue of 1900 for more than 50 years.  I know several other 1898 tax era document collectors who also have been searching for such a usage.  Happily the quest is over, at least for Palmer and me, as we BOTH found usage examples on eBay within a month of each other last Fall.  To date they are the only reported on-document usages of this stamp.

The lake-colored $3 R183 by itself is not an inexpensive stamp.  In Scott's U.S. Specialized Catalogue it lists for $275 in mint condition and $52.50 in used condition.  For Palmer and me to find on-document usage examples -- what's the word they use in those Visa commercials -- PRICELESS! 

  $3,500 Warranty Deed
Property in Indianapolis, Indiana
February 25, 1901
My find came first, in a job lot of 11 deeds, only two of which bore stamps.  I almost went by it as I scrolled through some search listings.  In the small photo I could see one deed just had a 50-cent R171 battleship stamp on it and I figured the red stamp on this deed was probably just the more common $1 carmine R182 Commerce Issue.  Luckily, after scrolling through a few more listings, I decided I should go back and take a closer look.  Boy, was I ever glad I did! When I saw it was a $3 stamp, I recall jerking forward to within inches of my computer screen in shocked disbelief  to take a closer look to make sure it really was a $3 stamp!  Wow, yes, it was!  And the week long wait to see if anyone else had found it seemed an eternity.
The tax on deed transfers at this time was 50 cents for property valued from $100 to $500 and 50 cents for each additional $500 in value.  So the proper tax on a deed documenting the sale of a $3,500 property was $3.50, paid here with the $3 R183 and a 50 cent R171.  Usually collectors try to avoid stamps with cut cancels, but I'm happy these have them as the pen cancels don't "tie" them to the document, but the cut cancels, which extend through the document itself, do so.
pencancel on both stamps reads:
P.(auline) E.(dgarton)
double-click image to enlarge

Amazingly Palmer found another R183 usage example, again on eBay, just a couple of weeks later!  

$3,000 Warranty Deed
Property in Hyde Park, Kansas City, Missouri
March 14, 1901
J. W. Palmer scan

pencancel reads:
H.(ugh) J. M.(cGowan)
Mrh. 14,

Palmer's find also appears on a warranty deed, in this instance a nice single stamp usage properly paying the $3 tax on a property that sold for $3,000.  Like me, he almost missed this lot as the seller had cropped the listing photo to zoom in on just the stamp, so anyone scrolling rapidly through listing results could easily have mistaken it as just a listing of a used stamp.  I missed it for that reason, but Palmer, either with more patience or better eyesight, or both, caught a glimpse of paper around the stamp as he scrolled through his search listings.  He though had missed the listing I had found.  

J. W. and I periodically check what each other has bought on eBay.  When I noted he too had been fortunate to find this R183 usage, I called to congratulate him as it was a significant find; I also wanted to let him know I had recently found one too.  "Yeah", he said, "I saw you had found one and was going to call, just hadn't gotten around to it."  We chatted about how easy it is to miss items because of how sellers choose to picture, describe, and list items; we both have been lucky to find 1898 revenue material in obscure eBay categories, or that has otherwise been poorly described or pictured.

Both Palmer and I periodically exhibit our 1898 material at stampshows. We laughed about how unassuming and vanilla-looking these deeds appear.  Neither document is ornate like an engraved stock certificate, nor do they include an unusual mixture of stamps, or bear colorful cancels.  Quite frankly, they look pretty bland on exhibit pages, just as they do in this blog.

We discussed the difficulty of highlighting their significance in an exhibit; especially how hard it is, even with carefully worded title pages and exhibit synopses, to convey their importance to exhibit judges who, to be fair, could just as easily overlook them as they scroll across one's exhibit pages, as we each did when reviewing eBay listings.   Yes, one can stategically place an item within an exhibit frame and include a note like, "One of two known" on the page, but they are just common deeds after all, albeit with uncommon usages of an uncommon stamp.  

We talked about how long we each had been looking for such a usage knowing that none of the major revenue dealers had ever handled one.  We simply were amazed that we each had been fortunate to find one within a month of each other.  What are the odds, indeed? Yup, that was a pun.

We're beginning to do usage censuses for some of the lesser known 1898 tax era on-document stamp usages and for some lesser known types of documents, like ocean passage tickets, so if anyone can report another R183 on-document usage please contact us, with scans if possible, at

We'll discuss some other interesting deeds in upcoming blogs.       

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