California Penny Post Fakes

The California Penny Post 3 cent blue adhesive stamp on cover

I was asked to examine and comment on the cover shown below as Cover 1.

Cover 1. Three cent Penny Post stamp on 10c Nesbitt entire

Background: The California Penny Post was established by Henry L. Goodwin in San Francisco on June 25, 1855. The earliest advertisement I have record of was in the June 26, 1855 issue of the Daily Alta California. The latest advertisement that I find was in the October 4, 1855 issue of Prices Current & Shipping List. It is probable that the company continued for some time after the above advertisement but they were certainly out of business by mid 1856. At some point I hope to do a comprehensive examination of this most interesting company to correct many of the mistakes in the literature.

The known 3 cent covers: There are three covers reported that bear the 3 cent blue adhesive. I do not know of any examples that exist off cover. Two of these (Covers 1 and 2) are from Downieville, California to the same addressee in Romulus, New York. The third cover (Cover 3) is a usage from Marysville, California to Brooklyn, New York.

Cover 2. Three cent Penny Post stamp on 10c Nesbitt entire from Downieville

Cover 3. Three cent Penny Post stamp on 10c Nesbitt entire from Marysville

Cover 1: This cover is from the Dale-Lichtenstein collection. There is no physical evidence to indicate if the 3 cent stamp is original or not. The year date in the cancel is either 1855 or 1859 as the top portion of the last digit is uncertain. However, the manuscript "Overland" endorsement is unreported before 1858 and most often seen in the 1858 to 1861 period. Mail that was to go on the Chorpenning overland route was endorsed "Via Salt Lake" or similar while the "Overland" endorsement was used for mail on the Butterfield southern route after it was started in 1858. The Downieville fancy star cancels are very well documented. In Coburn's Letters of Gold on page 318, three Downieville covers with fancy star cancels are pictured. The outline star is shown used May 19, 1859, the octagon in star (as used on covers 1 and 2) dated July 13, 1859, and the crossed arms star used October 15, 1860. This sequence shows that the star as found on Covers 1 and 2 was used in 1859. Such usage in 1859 is consistent with the "overland" endorsement. As the California Penny Post was no longer in existence in 1859, the conclusion is that the stamp was added to an otherwise genuine entire.

Cover 2: I have record of this cover having been sold in the John Fox sale of January 21, 1956. As it bears the same star cancel, I date is as an 1859 usage as well and the believe that the stamp was added to an otherwise genuine cover.

Cover 3: This cover was sold in the Lilly collection in 1967 and again by Siegel in October 29, 1975 where it was described as:

"Stamp Genuine, Geo. B. Sloane" on back, While there is no valid reason to doubt the use of this stamp on cover, we prefer to value it on the basis of the unused stamp.

I viewed this cover at the sale of the Golden material by Siegel in 1999 where it was sold as lot #869. My notes indicate that I doubted the stamp originated. The Marysville postmark (32.5mm) is dated August 9. If genuine, this would have to be August 9, 1855. My records indicate that the 10c Nesbitt entires were probably not received in California that early. In addition to the cover having the "Overland" notation associated with a later era, the 32.5mm Marysville postmark is recorded by Williams as having been used only after 1858. Therefore, my conclusion is that the stamp was added to an otherwise genuine entire.

Conclusion: As these three stamps are the only examples of the 3 cent adhesive stamp I am aware of, and these have all been added to covers to which they did not originate, I have to question the status of the stamp. Possibly an un-adopted essay. This stamp was not listed in Scott's catalog until after 1957 and the listing was apparently the result of George Sloane statement that it was a genuine stamp.

Richard Frajola (August 16, 2005)