Sunday, August 28, 2016

New Find: R155 with St. Louis, Keokuk, and Northwestern Railroad Printed Cancel

Mike Morrissey has sent a scan of a Fullerton unlisted railroad item: an R155 with a St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern Railroad cancel. 

ST. L., K. & N. W.
R. R.

St. L., K. & N. W. R. R. cancels have only previously been known on R163s, both roulette and H. H.  Frank Sente figures the stamps were used on checks.  I would guess this likely, but if so, where are other examples, either on or off document?

If you know or possess an example of this cancel on an R155, please report it or send a scan of the stamp to:  Thanks!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Arthur A. Housman & Company Stock Memorandum of Sale

David Thompson sends this scan of an AA Housman memorandum of sale.  According to the memorandum, the firm sold to brokers Ames & Miller 400 shares of a firm that I can't identify.  With the "y" at the end of the name, I can guess we have the sale of railway shares.   I'm just not sure which one.

Mr. Housman was J.P. Morgan's primary broker.  The memorandum was likely prepared in January 1990, not 1899 as indicated by the date.  By 1/3/99, the hyphen hole perforations on these stamps were not in use.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wells Fargo & Company Express Shipper's Forwarding Receipt Book

David Thompson sent scans of a 1900 Wells Fargo shipper's receipt book.  Six years ago a page from a similar receipt book was posted on this site.  But in this example, David sent scans of a complete book that he has in his possession.  Of greatest interest is the instruction page, which include guidance on where to place the revenue stamps.

R163s are found in the book in addition to a few 1cent postage stamps, presumably used when the IR stamps were unavailable. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Degraded Battleship

Several years ago I wrote several posts about the curse of grading on the hobby of stamp collecting.  Those posts can be found here. 

 R163 "E Graded Superb 100"
Currently Buy It Now on Ebay for $100

"eGraded" as Superb 100 by eGrade, certificate 370.  Go out and buy this one right away.  And make sure you pay double because the price is so dang low -- hit "Make Offer" and enter 200 bucks you schmuck.

Geez.  I figured we wouldn't see much grading with revenue stamps, especially with a stamp that is worth about a tenth of a cent, like an R163 roulette.  At least this humble stamp has all sorts of cool incarnations and can be very collectible, given a range of cancels and uses on piece.  But this stamp is a prime example of taking that one in a couple of hundred stamps out of a pile of R163s and assigning to it a ridiculous description and price.  Like I wrote years ago, this stamp has its high value because of the grade and certificate, not because of its inherent worth as a well centered stamp.  The cert is rare.  Not the stamp.  This is clearly a case of a dealer fishing for suckers.  Are you one?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

APRL Friend of Other Libraries program

We hear that the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) will soon be parting with many of its books. Decisions have been made at the highest levels to give those books to other libraries, under a new program known as the APRL Friend of Other Libraries program.  Beginning in the third quarter of 2016, the books on the bottom two shelves throughout the library will be boxed up and shipped off to other interested libraries. 

While this is shocking and disturbing news, the underlying story is known to all of us in the hobby.  As stamp collecting has declined in popularity, so has the membership of The American Philatelic Society and the APRL.  Book borrowing has declined, and with the expense of maintaining such a vast and lightly used collection, the APS and APRL have decided to "right size" the library. 

As understood by 1898 Revenues, factors contributing to this decision include:

  • Flooding:  The APRL is on the bank of a creek with an occasional tendency to flood.  By parting with all of the books on the two lowest shelves throughout the library, the remaining books will be an additional 3 feet above potential flood waters compared to present.
  • Orthopedic Injuries:  As APS members continue to increase in average age, it is much easier for our members to reach the books on the middle and upper shelves without having to strain to access the lower shelves.  A recent spike in library users having back surgery has attracted the attention of epidemiologists looking for answers as to why stamp collectors in Bellefonte have made the town an epicenter for orthopedic injuries.  The Friend of other Libraries program will help the APRL dodge this unwanted attention. 
  • Cost Effectivenss:  Simply put, the library just isn't very busy anymore.  The cost of maintaining the collection is exceeding revenues, and choices have had to be made.  By eliminating the bottom two shelves of books, staff time, flood insurance, and library user injury insurance premiums will decline, helping the APRL produce a balanced budget.
Libraries benefitting from this new program will receive books with this label inside:

Interested libraries and all others concerned may inquire with this correspondent at

The Early Days of the American Revenue Association

The American Revenue Association is one of the oldest collector's organizations in philately, as is its flagship journal, The American Revenuer.  In 1898, the Association made its first bond issue to pay for expansion of its offices in order to cope with rapidly expanding demand for the The American Revenuer.  Today at 1898 Revenues we present an exciting find of a tax stamp from that bond, with the prominent cancel, T. A. R.

T. A. R.
Oct 28.

John Langlois scan

Often known as TAR to organization members, The American Revenuer is the journal published by The American Revenue Association.  The stamp above was undoubtedly used on an 1898 bond floated by the The ARA's bank to finance early capital improvements to the extensive printing works of the Association.

Two summers ago, at a meeting of the American Revenue Association in Minnesota, I asked some of the members who were there at the association's beginning what it was like at the ARA during those heady times of bond floats and construction projects:

Herman Ivester:  "I didn't have much to do with the ARA back then.  I was mostly interested in tracking down the St. Louis provisionals, working everyday to stay a step ahead of Charlie Nast.  Many thanks to Bob Hohertz for his help.  Bob gave himself the internet handle rdhinstl from his days in St. Louis back then.  He helped track down a few of the rarities with me.  

Ron Lesher:  "I was teaching physics in those days, but it was a more basic job in 1898.  Marie and Pierre (Curie) only discovered radium that year; the curriculum was more Isaac Newton than Albert Einstein.  I taught a basic revenue stamp collecting course for the ARA in 1899, and had hundreds attend every lecture.  

Richard Friedberg:  "I was the Mayor of Meadville when the ARA moved its headquarters into an old fireworks factory in town.  The city was grateful for the move.  The ARA put an old property to use that was derelict.  The bond used to finance the purchase of the building to house the new TAR printing presses used the 50c documentary battleship tax stamp.  This is the first of these stamps I've seen in years.  Its a shame it is off-document, but I'm still prepared to offer Langlois $75,000 for the stamp.

Bob Hohertz:  "I was a young member of the ARA back then.  A bunch of the older guys (including Mort Joyce) put me up to a stunt sometime in 1903 where they distracted the agents in the Pere Marquette ticket office in Detroit while I sneaked out with a box of cancelled parlor car tickets.  It was a youthful indiscretion, but look what was preserved for philately!...It didn't occur to me in 1898 that I would have become an actuary.  If I had known that me and Herman and Ron and all the rest of us would live as long has we have, I don't think I would have had the confidence to be an actuary -- Sheppard Homans' table doesn't seem to apply to any of us.  I think all of my employers would have gone bankrupt.

Frank Sente:  "Nassau Street in New York was the center of American philately in those days.  Unfortunately, it was also the center of philatelic fraud.  I ran a special program for the ARA to monitor and report this fraud.  Now that we've entered the internet and Ebay age, the bad guys are more technically sophisticated, but in 1898, preventing fraud was still a major challenge.

Mike Mahler:  "I was an active member of the ARA in those days.  But it would be years before I would become involved with TAR, as I was working day and night helping to put together what we call today The Boston Book.  The plan was to have the book come out in '98 but we missed.  It went to press in 1899.  Thanks to Ken Trettin for all the work he had done for years on the book before I came in to help out starting in '97.  Thanks to the new presses in the Meadville facility, we were able to produce an initial run of 10,000 copies.  They sold out in days and we had to go to a second printing.

David Thompson:  In 1898, The Air Force was limited to a couple of squadrons of balloons, but we used them for observation over San Juan Hill during Roosevelt's charge.  When I returned to the States in '99 I started collecting the battleship series, and I've also been a member of The American Revenue Association ever since. 

Eric Jackson:  "This stamp with the T. A. R. cancel is one of the rarest in revenue philately.  I'm prepared to offer John six figures for this stamp.  John, where should I mail the check?"