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Ice House Cover Surfaces in Midwest

Friday, January 13, 2006 Filed: 17:30 PM EDT (22:30 GMT)
John Cropper, VSC Staff Reporter

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- Chicago-area stamp dealer Charles Berg, owner of Stamp King has handled material both common and dear, from around the world. That didn't prepare him for the piece that recently crossed his counter quite unexpectedly, when an elderly couple wandered into his shop with what turned out to be a rare and unique piece of nineteenth-century postal history.  
The couple, who had been cleaning out the homes of elderly relatives, brought three covers into his shop, wondering what they were worth. One was junk; half of it was missing. The other was fairly common, and only worth a dollar or two. The third however, was a rare cover that had been missing for more than thirty years. Originally part of the J. David Baker collection, which had been stolen from him in The rare Ice House Cover, long-thought to be lost forever, surfaced this week in Chicago.
Missing Gem Re-surfaces                                             American Philatelic Research Library
It may not look like much, but this one-of-a-kind period usage of a 90 Abraham Lincoln bi-color issue from 1869 could fetch a tidy ransom after having been missing for nearly forty years. (photo from Morgenthau's Philip B. Philip Sale catalog)

Indianapolis on December 9, 1967, it was never recovered when the remainder of the collection surfaced some time later.

At the time of the collection's recovery, many believed that the cover itself has been destroyed or that perhaps the 90 stamp had been soaked off the cover and sold as a used stamp. It is dubbed the "Ice House" cover because it is addressed to Mr. James H. Bancroft, Ice House, Calcutta, East Indies (now India).

The 90 Lincoln.

The 90 Abraham Lincoln stamp was part of the first two-color series of stamps issued by the Post Office Department and was probably issued in late March or early April, 1869. Off-cover copies exist in collectors' hands. The largest known unused block is a vertical block of six, of which there are two known, and there are approximately six unused blocks of four and eight used blocks of four. However, the only known remaining piece with the 90 stamp on it was the "Ice House" cover.

After the theft, Baker collected insurance on his loss, so the insurance company ordinarily would have title. However, California lawyer and philatelist Jeffrey Forster has stated that he and another collector bought the rights, or perhaps an option to purchase, from the insurance company years ago.
Novelty Then, Not Now
Twenty-first century collectors are used to multi-colored stamps, but in 1869 they were considered a novel advance in stamp production

The cover in question appears in a photograph on the cover of Brookman's "The United States Postage Stamps ofthe 19th Century" (Vol. 11). The caption under it reads: "This is the only cover known with a 90 1869.

The 90 has been torn and repaired the 10 is a replacement for a stamp that had been removed from the cover. The cover is a legal size envelope and all in all this is not a cover for a perfectionist. It is however a wonderful cover for a true philatelist. This is a quadruple rate cover, 28 per 1/2 ounce to India via Brindisi. The U.S. share of the $1.12 postage was 4 x 4 or 16 while Great Britiain received 4 x 24 or 96 for her share."

Baker may have originally acquired the cover through J.C. Morgenthau & Co. by way of the late Philip B. Philip Sale, held from April 12-14, 1943. Listed as lot #175, its estimated value was $1,000, a tidy sum at the time. Should the item come to market this year, it could realize a small fortune, given the rising popularity of postal history collecting, coupled with the unique nature of the piece.

For more information about stamp collecting, or to find a local stamp club near you, visit the American Philatelic Society's web site at www.stamps.org. Free stamp collecting information is available from The Virtual Stamp Club online at www.virtualstampclub.com

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