Well-preserved St Louis bear could be a strong investment for stamp collector

Daniel F Kelleher completed their Summer 2011 Danbury Sale this weekend (July 9) which offered a wide range of intriguing material, including some from the Kramer and Calvet M Hahn collections.

One of the highlights, however, was an 1846, 5¢ black on gray lilac St Louis bear stamp, this one being type III, position 5, with three nice margins, touching at the left, but with an especially large margin at the right.

There are two neat pen stroke cancels, (slightly resembling a swipe from an angry paw) and a deeply etched impression on the fresh pleasing gray lilac paper, displaying an overall freshness.

This is a pleasingly sound example of one of the rarest of all US stamps with only a handful surviving, newly discovered and unoffered in the philatelic marketplace for almost 40 years, (there's a 1973 PF certificate).

It brought $13,000, which is something of a bargain, and should make a great alternative investment for the new owner.

The St. Louis Bear stamps were printed from a single plate of six subjects (two horizontal by three vertical) that was modified twice to change the denominations of two positions.

The original plate (Plate 1) contained three 5c stamps at the left and three 10c stamps at the right.

Kelleher St Louis Bear stamp
Paws for thought: the St Louis Bear stamp

All stamps from Plate 1 were printed on greenish paper. The plate was then altered by burnishing out the "5" on Positions 1 and 3 and engraving a new "20" denomination (Plate 2). A small printing on greenish paper was made from this Plate 2 altered plate.

5c stamps (Position 5) and 10c stamps (Positions 2/4/6) on greenish paper cannot usually be identified as Plate 1 or Plate 1 impressions (the 20c on greenish paper is a great rarity). The larger portion of stamps from Plate 2 are on gray lilac paper.

However, because only one of six subjects was a 5c value, the 5c on gray lilac is an extremely rare stamp - perhaps even rarer than the 20c on gray lilac. The plate was modified again by burnishing out the "20" and engraving the old "5" denomination (Plate 3).

At the time of this second alteration, a large ball was engraved inside the end curl of the numeral "5" on Position 5. As far as we know, all stamps from Plate 3 were printed on a very thin pelure paper. These were the last stamps used before the 1847 Issue was placed on sale in St. Louis.

St Louis Bears were one focus of Jerry Wagshal's extraordinary collection of early US stamps.



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