Notes from the Past

U. S. -- First Surcharged Stamp

The first adhesive postage stamp in world philatelic history to be overprinted with a new valuation was an issue in used in the United states in 1846.  This was a stamp of the United States City Despatch, operating in New York City, and the item is listed by Scott, under the "Carriers" group as no. 6LB7.  The 3 black on green was surcharged with a large red "2," which very nearly covers the entire Washington portrait, and at the same time the word "Three," was obliterated by a bar, also in red.

About three copies of this variety are know, all on covers used in 1846.  The first known copy to come to the knowledge of collectors was discovered sometime before 1900.  It was used on a letter dated February 14, 1846.  This cover was originally in the famed F. W. Hunter collection, one of the great collections of the day, sold in January, 1900.  Later it was in the Dr. C. W. Bowers collection and more recently in the Caspary collection.  Caspary had a second copy, also on cover, used March 2, 1846.  A third copy, and on the cover with a "January 9" postmark was once in the collection of Count Ferrary and later in the collection of Arthur Hind.

The large numeral "2" used in making the surcharge appears to have been a cut-out from one of the handstamps regularly in use at the New York post office, the so-called "drop-letter" postmark, reading "NEW-YORK 2 cts.," so frequently seen on stampless New York covers of the period.  Little history of information is available on the stamp and why those 3 stamps were so overprinted to reduce them to 2 in value.  The U. S. City Despatch Post, in early 1846, was still in operation by the government.  

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
April 20, 1957

Posted October 3, 1999

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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