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What is it worth? Postage Stamp Envelopes Used During the Civil War.
October 01, 2007

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 comons are in the 500 dollar range, with most in the 1,000-2,000 dollar range, and some reaching over 7,500 dollars in sale price.

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 willingly, he kept what he knew close to his vest to be used for his own advantage). The illustrations in this blog come from the upcoming John Ford Sale by Stack's.

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About the Author
George Cuhaj has been with the Krause Publications numismatic team since 1994. He is editor of the various editions of the Standard Catalog of World Coins and the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money. Prior to joining KP, Cuhaj was employed by the American Numismatic Society and Stack's Rare Coins, both of New York City. He is a Fellow in both the Royal Numismatic Society and the American Numismatic Society. He also is a life member and past board member of the International Bank Note Society. Cuhaj was elected an Allied Professional Member of the National Sculpture Society and has had his medallic work exhibited internationally.

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