The earliest St Louis Bear looms large in the first Wagshal rare stamp auction

Stamp fans around the world have been eagerly awaiting the first sale of the Wagshal collection (The 1845-69 Issues) at Robert A Siegel Auction Galleries.  Jerome Wagshal was an exceptional collector whom we profiled for a recent newsletter.

The auction was a resounding success, with a total realization of $1,207,500, cruising past the pre-sale estimate of $768,000. There was enthusiastic bidding across all types of items and levels of quality.

The section of Postmasters' Provisionals drew intense interest, with the New York provisional July 15 EDU (earleist documented use) cover soaring to $22,000 hammer - quite an investment.

Two pieces of enormous interest to philatelists were the 10c 1847 earliest possible transatlantic cover, which reached a $55,000 hammer price against a $40,000-50,000 estimate, and the 5c Double Impression cover, which brought a startling $52,500 hammer price against a $5,000-7,500 listing.

Neither of these were the top lot, however. In fact the two most expensive sales took place in the first hour of the auction:

Firstly there was a very early cover sporting a St Louis "Bears" provisional stamp. In fact, the November 13, 1845 postmark date represents the earliest documented use of any St Louis postmaster's provisional stamp, very shortly after the postmaster's announcements of the new issue.

St Louis Bears rare stamps cover
The first use of the St Louis 10c black-on-greenish stamp on a cover ($30,000-40,000)
(Click to enlarge)

The possibility of another St Louis "Bears" discovery pushing the date back any earlier than this extremely fine piece is described by philatelists as 'extremely remote'. It cruised past its $40,000-50,000 estimate to reach a stunning $65,000 after a hard-fought battle between a telephone bidder and a floor bidder.

Then there was the absolutely unique reverse-side printing of a 10c Bear with a trace of a 5c Bear.

The only recorded example of any United States postmaster provisional stamp printed on both sides, it also happens to be the earliest recorded use of a St Louis "Bears" stamp from the third state of the plate on pelure paper. It narrowly reached top lot status with a bid of $67,500.

Throughout the sale there was a healthy volume of bidding on the floor, over the telephones and via the internet from around the world, and this will also be the case later today, as the second Wagshal sale gets underway.


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