Notes from the Past

Used Dollar Value Columbians

High value Columbians in used condition were very scarce even in 1894, a year after their issue.  There was a big demand for them from Europe where the used stamp was far more popular than the unused copy, but there was little commercial use of high values here and dealers were unable to fill orders.  A St. Louis dealer, then prominent in the stamp trade, made arrangements to get used dollar values through a postmaster in a small Illinois town, in a scheme whereby the dealer would acquire them below face.

The compensation of postmasters in small offices was rated according to the business of the office based on the face value of the stamps they cancelled.  Hence a conspiracy was set up between the dealer and the postmaster after which dummy packages weighted to require the dollar value Columbians, were sent through the post office, and the stamps carefully cancelled.  The postmaster then kicked back part of his additional salary to the dealer so that the latter was able to get stamps, neatly used, and at somewhat less than face value.

Everything worked well for a time until the Post Office inspectors learned of the scheme and broke it up.  The stunt was not new and has been pulled repeatedly.  Even recent years saw a similar racket worked with special delivery letters.  

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
June 12, 1956

Posted August 6, 1999

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