The May/June 2016 issue of Paper Money (the official journal of the Society of Paper Money Collectors) has a fascinating article
by Rick Melamed about U.S. postage currency which had been used as actual postage.
The legislation calling for the creation of postage currency framed it as a special issue of stamps to be used as emergency substitutes
for coins during the Civil War. Although they pictured U.S. postage stamps, they were ungummed and much more like paper money. Although I
was unaware that any had ever actually served as postage, I guess I'm not surprised.
Paper Money editor Benny Bolin kindly forwarded me some text and images for this excerpt. Thanks! Please refer to the issue for
the complete article. -Editor
In 1862, the US was faced with a severe coin shortage, as individuals were hording gold, silver and even copper coins during the
country's dire economic condition. Several measures were attempted, but the best solution was the issuance of Postage Currency notes to
replace scarce coinage. While Postage Currency was never meant to be used as postage stamps, some people who did not have a stamp handy
used these notes as an emergency replacement. This did not occur very frequently since it cost only 2¢ to mail a letter and the smallest
postage currency denomination was 5¢.
Instances of this usage are quite rare. Over the past 30 years, only a handful have surfaced at auction. The placement of Postage
Currency notes on an envelope is eye-catching (especially to the fractional enthusiast), and when an example shows up at auction, it
attracts a lot of attention.
There are no examples from the John Ford sales conducted by Stacks Auction, but from the CAA (Currency Auctions of America) Milt
Friedberg sale in January 1997, three different examples were sold. Shown is the lot description and auction sale price.
Lot 96. Postage Currency used as Postage. A 5¢ FR.1230 (Milton 1R5.4) mounted to the upper left of an envelope and postmarked
“New York September 20 9PM 1901.” The identical postmark appears at the right of the envelope. One of the very few known indisputably
genuine uses of postage currency as postage (750-UP). Purchased by Milt from Fractional Currency Inc in 1994 at the Memphis show. Sold for
$770. This same example sold twice more both at exactly $2,300. At the Tom O'Mara HA sale in September 2005 and from the Peter Gamble
collection auction by HA in January 2008.
Lot 98. Postally Used Fractional Currency. A 5¢ First issue note has been used as a stamp to mail a letter which is postmarked
September 18, 1901. Although not specifically authorized for use as postage, First issue notes occasionally, although rarely, were pressed
into service as stamps. This five cent note on its plain cover appears to have been used as postage rather than a gimmick, souvenir or
hobby stunt. (500-up). rom Abe Kosoff's 1971 sale of the Julian Marks Collection. Sold for $577.50.
For more information about the Society of Paper Money Collectors, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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