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
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
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¢ 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
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¢
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
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.
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