Spink Shreves carried out two auctions of Bill Gross's rare stamp collections last week: his British North America collection, the results of which we reported here and his Confederate Provisionals collection.
Provisionals are stamps which were issued by local American postmasters from 1845. The Postmaster General only set to work in 1847, and many kinds of stamps were produced in small quantities.
The top seller was the Mount Lebanon, Louisiana 5 cent provisional cover. The brick-red woodcut, thought to be the only example of a stamp which shows a mirror image of its intended design, sold for $220,000.
Other big sellers were a Victoria Texas 10 cent red-brown on green provisional cover which was taken away for $95,000 and an Austin Mississippi 5 cent Red cover which sold for $62,500.
The best performer of the sale however was a Livingston, Alabama 5 cent blue provisional cover which we picked out from amongst the others of similar valuation. Expected to sell for up to $60,000 it almost tripled this to sell from $160,000.
Likewise, a simpler but intriguing 5 cent blue stamp from Emory, Virginia came close to doubling its top estimate of $15,000 to sell for $27,000. The stamps were created from selvages of the 1857 1 cent with 'Paid' and '5' stamped on.
The two sales together totaled an impressive $3.2m, to which the 81 Confederate stamps contributed $1.38m, making it the biggest day of a philatelist's year.
The proceeds from the sales will be directed to the Smithsonian museum, as intended. We recently focused on Bill Gross in our newsletter.