Auctioneer to Sell Scarce Civil War-era Encased Postage at Coin Show

From the Inverted Jenny to the British Guiana 1-Cent Magenta, we love a good story behind our stamps. So you are bound to like this one, which crosses stamps, coins and a specific time in U.S. history. And, this interesting chapter of philately and numismatics are getting a big boost this month, thanks to a major auction.

  When the American Civil War began in April 1861, many thought it would end quickly; both sides expected victory and the general population within the Union and Confederate states were confident. But moods changed when the North lost at the first Battle of Bull Run (July 1861), the Union blockaded southern ports, the 7 Days Battle near Richmond ended in a stalemate and floods of money and resources were suddenly swept away by the need to support military forces. Shortages started to crop up and there was panic based on perceived future shortages.

One of the items people hoarded was currency, particularly hard silver and gold coins. In the North, even the U.S. Mint’s cheaply made copper-nickel cents quickly vanished from the market.

To help, on July 17, 1862, the U.S. government passed legislation allowing people to pay small government debts of $5 or less with postage stamps.

Stamps were fragile, though, and quickly degrade during exchanges. Enter New Englander John Gault, who quickly designed and obtained a patent on August 12, 1862 for “encasing government stamps,” which he called “new metallic currency.”

To create the coins, the corners of a postage stamp were wrapped around a cardboard circle. A thin, transparent piece of thin mica covered the stamp (this would prove to be the weak spot as the mica often cracked and fell off), and an outer metal frame held these items secure. A heavier brass backing, suitable for advertising, completed the piece, which was manufactured by a button-making machine. The product was about the size of a quarter but lighter in weight. Many of the cases of early examples were carried silver plate to make them look closer to real coins.

Gault encased eight denominations of 1861 stamps, from 1 cent to 90 cents (These carry an “EP” number in the Scott catalog). He sold the coins at a slight premium to about 30 companies that needed coins and then also sold advertising space on the back for 2 cents per coin. Merchants and their products included J.C. Ayer & Company selling sarsaparilla to “purify the blood,” White the Hatter, and retailer Lord & Taylor, which survives today. Experts estimate there are about 238 different pieces of encased postage.

The sales of encased coins lasted about a year until the federal government in 1863 passed another law allowing a type of “postage currency,” fractional currency on paper money using stamp designs (these carry a “PC” number in the Scott catalog).

Experts estimate Gault sold about $50,000 in encased postage, about 750,000 pieces. Somewhere between 3,500 and 7,000 are thought to have survived, experts say. The Scott catalog values these pieces at $400 to $16,000, with most in the four-digit range.

On March 9, Kagin’s Auctions, of California, known as a major coin auctioneer, will sell the Michigan Collection of encased postage stamps at the American Numismatic Association National Money Show in Irving, Texas.

“It is believed to be one of the most comprehensive sets ever and perhaps currently the finest and most complete including 147 different varieties,” Kagin’s wrote in a news release “It is the result of some 25 years of working with Kagin’s Inc. attempting to fulfill a dream of acquiring all known varieties.”

Kagin’s noted that only a handful of times over the past century have dozens of these items appeared in the same auction.

Kagin’s Auctions, Inc.,
“Encased Postage Stamps,” National Postal Museum Arago website,
2018 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers, Amos Media, Sidney, Ohio.
Numismaster website,

StampStore or eBay?

Original column by Wendy Masorti, APS Director of Sales, republished from The American Philatelist, February 2018

New sellers will often contact the American Philatelic Society with the question, “Should I sell on eBay or StampStore?” Both services provide a way to sell online and charge minimal fees and commissions. Therefore, in order to answer the question, it is important to understand how StampStore differs from eBay.

With emerging technology in the late 1990s, the APS realized the importance of branching out our mail sales program to offer members a way to sell their philatelic material online. Specifically, we wanted to tailor a program to provide members with a hassle-free selling experience. After researching other online services and knowing our clientele, in September of 2000, we launched StampStore with a specific goal in mind – to offer an easy, affordable way for members to sell online without needing internet experience or special equipment.

On eBay, a seller is responsible to upload each listing with a description and has an option to add images (practically a must for philatelic material), which the seller must provide. The seller can choose methods of payment, which can include everything from checks to the electronic PayPal system. The seller must handle all shipping and returns. Sellers on eBay can set their own fees for shipping, which range from free to several dollars per item.

StampStore Sellers FormStampStore, on the other hand, does much of the work for you. You complete a submission sheet for each item (mounting the item along with description, prices, etc.) and mail them to the APS. We take care of scanning images and uploading item descriptions to the online store, as well as advertising, answering buyer questions, payment processing, shipping, and handling returns/refunds. All communication with the buyer is handled by the APS; the seller remains anonymous and is identified only through a seller ID number. Sellers can view reports, change prices, and receive monthly payments for items that sell.

Also, unlike eBay where the seller or a representative must have online access, many StampStore sellers do not even own a computer; they rely on our sales staff to help them change prices or check on statuses of items.
StampStore can provide one-package shipping from several sellers to a single buyer. Since all items are housed at our facility, a buyer can purchase from multiple sellers when placing an order and receive all items in one package. Standard shipping for an order less than $100 is $2.95 plus 2 percent of the sales cost for handling and insurance. If an order is more than $100, the shipping is free of charge. We also offer a 30-day money back guarantee on all items.

We are not saying that you should not sell on eBay, but rather that you ask yourself these questions:

“How involved do you want to be with the actual sale? Do you have the equipment and knowledge necessary to upload and maintain the listings? Do you have the time to package and ship sold items promptly? Are you prepared to handle unhappy customers and process returns?”
Considering that many of our sellers mail in hundreds of submissions to StampStore at a time, you can only imagine the potential volume of questions and shipments they could be dealing with. Also, buyers who purchase multiple items from several different sellers would receive multiple shipments and shipping charges.

It is also important to point out that all members selling on StampStore are APS members and abide by our Code of Ethics. While the APS provides this selling/buying service, the APS does not own the material being sold and does not guarantee the accuracy of members’ content in the listings. While members price and describe their material, they may unknowingly misdescribe the quality or authenticity of the items being sold. Therefore, we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee and sellers may be charged fines for their misdescriptions. Seller privileges may be revoked for repeat offenders.

So, only you can answer the question, “eBay or StampStore?” If you are interested in selling with us, request a free seller packet or visit

YPL Fellow Dani Leviss Interviewed by Lloyd de Vries

Young Philatelic Leaders Fellow Dani Leviss was recently interviewed by Lloyd de Vries for The Virtual Stamp Club. The interview can be heard with the audio player below or on The Virtual Stamp Club interviews page.

The Young Philatelic Leaders Fellowship program was founded by the American Philatelic Society in 2009 to identify and support the best and brightest aspiring philatelists. The program coordinates and funds transportation to, lodging during, and activities at: APS national shows, Smithsonian National Postal Museum, and the American Philatelic Center for enthusiastic young collectors between the ages of 16 and 24. Additionally, YPLF connects participating Fellows with seasoned collectors, exhibitors, writers, and dealers to expand their perspectives and exposure in the philatelic world.

Collections Could Become Total Losses From Hurricane Damage

A sizeable chunk of Texas is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and now Hurricane Irma is heading straight toward Florida and the Atlantic Coast.

Protection of personal treasures pales in the importance of personal safety, so please take care of yourselves and loved ones first. But those suffering through these weather disasters certainly need to consider and cope with their lifelong collections at some point; either before the storm hits or afterwards.

Jonathan Topper of Topper Stamps in Houston, Texas, has been front-and-center amidst Hurricane Harvey; his words are likely good warnings for anyone now in Irma’s path.

“I have lived through eight hurricanes in my life, and the devastation around Houston is just incomprehensible to me,” Topper wrote in an e-mail to the American Philatelic Society.

About 20 people so far have contacted Topper in regards to damaged stamp collections, he said earlier this week; damage to many collections has been “extensive.”

“There will be a lot more. I am familiar with the different neighborhoods that flooded (sometimes row after row of houses) and have spot checked it with our mailing list for local stamp shows,” Topper said. “I know that there are many stamp collections in these areas and I am sure we will hear more about details soon.”

The best way to cope with potential flood losses is to act beforehand. Some of the steps seem obvious, but are worth repeating:

Move precious paper material to higher, dryer ground. If you can’t move it all, move the items most precious to you.

For items you cannot move, pack in water-tight containers; some of these containers are from other realms but could be utilized for paper collections. For example, this past April, Boating magazine tested a couple dozen such containers for several conditions — from drowning to dropping — and gives the results here.

Consider flood insurance.

Hugh Wood Inc. is the society’s official insurance carrier, and works with insuring fine arts and collectibles. Hugh Wood has a satellite office in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania right next door to the American Philatelic Center.

Lisa Souders, a senior account executive based in Bellefonte, said the agency has been (gulp) flooded with calls since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Souders concurred that planning beforehand — with everything from water sensors to builder’s plastic sheeting — is the best hedge against flood damage, though, moving material away from the potential flood zones were about the only way to save collectibles in the case of Hurricane Harvey.

Topper feels that those who didn’t prepare or act will face total losses of their stamps, covers, and philatelic literature.

“The flood waters were dirty and mold seems to starts growing almost immediately here in the warm, moist air,” Topper said. “Mint stamps become unused stamps without gum, and some used stamps are salvageable if we can get them into some clean water and soak for awhile. Tap water is actually better than bottled water as it is chlorinated and that will stop some of the mold growth.”

Topper and American Philatelic Research Librarian Tara Murray noted that helpful information about preservation and salvage of paper collections can be found on the following websites:

American Philatelic Society at

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works at:

The Library of Congress at

Hugh Wood Inc. can be reached through its website or by calling 888-APS-6494.

Elliot Gruber Named Director of
Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

Elliot Gruber, the chief development and external affairs officer for the Jewish Social Service Agency, has been named director of the National Postal Museum.

Gruber has more than 30 years experience in the nonprofit sector and will begin as director on September 5. He succeeds Allen Kane, who retired in January, as director of the museum. Marshall Emery has served as acting director of the museum since then.

“Elliot brings great and relevant experience to the directorship of the National Postal Museum,” said Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. “His skills as a museum leader and his fundraising acumen make him an excellent choice to lead this important museum into its next chapter.”

“I am proud to have been selected to lead the National Postal Museum, which tells the story of our American journey, past, present and future,” Gruber said. “I look forward to using my experience to work with the museum’s staff, advisory council and the Council of Philatelists to build new partnerships within the Smithsonian, across the country and around the world.”

As chief development and external affairs officer for the Jewish Social Service Agency since January, Gruber is responsible for the organization’s philanthropic revenue, marketing and communications. Under his leadership, the agency launched a $6 million capital campaign to renovate one of its buildings in the Washington, D.C., area. The Jewish Social Service Agency is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, client-focused health and social service agency helping individuals and families meet emotional social and physical challenges for more than 120 years.

Before joining the Jewish Social Service Agency, Gruber was a principal at EHG Consulting, which provides strategic planning and operations and fundraising expertise to nonprofit organizations. Gruber worked with the Houston Maritime Museum, which is preparing to launch a $50 million capital campaign for its new facility scheduled to open in 2020. He also conducted a comprehensive review and analysis of the organizational and fundraising structure for Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Gruber was the president and chief executive officer of The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia, from February 2013 through April 2016. There, he managed a $7 million annual budget, 550 acres of parkland and a staff of 90. He also established the Monitor Foundation, a nonprofit organization overseeing the largest marine metals conservation lab in the world, to ensure continued conservation of the ironclad steamship the USS Monitor, which was built by the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.

From September 2010 until January 2013, Gruber was the senior vice president for resource development for the United Way of the National Capital Area. He was responsible for all fundraising programs, including the Greater Washington Give to the Max Day, which in its inaugural year raised more than $2 million in 24 hours.

Gruber was the vice president and chief operating officer of the Gettysburg Foundation (August 2002 to September 2010) where he directed the $125 million capital campaign to build a new museum and visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park. He oversaw all museum operations, including ticketing, reservations, visitor services, and facilities management.

He has also worked in leadership capacities at the Ocean Conservancy, the Civil War Trust and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Gruber received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and his master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University in New York City.

The National Postal Museum is dedicated to the preservation, study and presentation of postal history and philately. The museum uses exhibits, educational public programs and research to showcase the largest and most comprehensive collection of stamps and philatelic material in the world — including postal stationery, vehicles used to transport the mail, mailboxes, meters, cards and letters and postal materials that predate the use of stamps — and make this rich history available to scholars, philatelists, collectors and visitors from around the world.

The museum occupies more than 100,000 square feet of the historic City Post Office Building, with 35,000 square feet devoted to exhibition galleries.