Stamps as art: Artemis collection celebrates America's fancy cancellations

It feels far too long since we last reported on one of Robert A Siegel galleries' auctions, as the memories of their impressive Rarities of the World sale (including Hawaiian missionaries) fades.

So it's a pleasure to see that not one or two but three catalogues are being presented in a few weeks' time. These start with The Artemis Collection of United States Fancy Cancellations.

The Artemis Collection was assembled over the past 30 years by a collector, (himself an artist) who was impressed by the way the artistry and imagination of postmasters and postal clerks gave life to a unique form of 19th century American folk art-fancy cancels.

Just 76 lots are being offered, but there is little in the way of filler material in this auction - it's quite clear why the collector wanted every piece.

One particular highlight is a cover with a 15c Black (77). Of intense shade and impression, it is tied by full clear strike of New York City Union Soldier's Head fancy cancel.

The orange cover is addressed to Bremen, Germany, with a red "N. York Paid 7 Brem.Pkt. Apr. 21" (1866) credit datestamp (which is used in error, as it should be 12c). The perforations are trimmed at the top as they have beenslightly reduced from opening. It is missing small part of top flap.

Soldiers Head fancy cancel cover
Soldiers Head fancy cancel cover

In very fine condition, this is a beautiful example of the famous union soldier's head fancy cancellation of New York city on a cover to Germany. It is the earliest documented use of the newly-issued 15-cent Lincoln memorial stamp.

The creation and use of this fancy cancel in the Spring of 1866 coincided with the return of soldiers from the Civil War.

It is known on at least one domestic cover, but apparently the cancelling device migrated to the foreign-mail exchange office, where it was used to cancel stamps on mail to foreign countries.

This explains why it is found on high values of the 1861-66 Issue, including the 10c, 12c, 15c, 24c, 30c and 90c denomination stamps off cover. Covers with this cancel are very rare, probably because European stamp collectors removed the high-value stamps from covers.

Siegel recently offered one to Italy in Part One of the Raymond Vogel collection (which realised $32,500 hammer). This is the only 15c Lincoln cover with the Soldier's Head cancel known to them.

There is no year-dated marking on the cover (the pencil note in German must refer to something other than content, such as enlistment date for a soldier). The Soldier's Head cancel was used only in 1866; therefore, this must be April 21, 1866.

The cover is expected to achieve $10,000-15,000 in Siegel's auction, which takes place on October 10.


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