by Arthur W Bingham, Jr.

Part I

(reprinted from The Vermont Philatelist, February1963)

(2010 ed. note: some parts of this article are obviously dated, but for the most part the information should still be useful today.)

As Sprague Drenan's fascinating articles, packed with priceless information about Vermont covers with straight line postmarks, have come to an end in the VERMONT PHILATELIST, your Editor has done me the honor of suggesting that I follow along with a series of articles on Vermont covers that were franked with the stamps of the 1847 issue. I am very happy to accept this invitation since this group of Vermont covers has been my specialty for over thirty years.

To me, this is the outstanding group among all Vermont covers. It is a compact little group as the 1847 5 and 10 cent stamps were in use for only four years, from July 1, 1847 to July 1, 1851, when they were demonetized for postage because of the change in the postal rate to 3c for ordinary domestic letter mail. These covers bore our first stamps which have become classics among all collectors and, furthermore, when struck with clear postmarks and cancellations in brilliant colors have tremendous eye appeal.

Only reported copy of 10c-1847 issue on cover using the postmark of Middlebury


We are also fortunate in knowing which Vermont towns received 1847 stamps for use and the number of 5 and 10 cent denominations each town received. This list, compiled by Elliott Perry for his "Pat Paragraphs" No. 6 issue of December 1931, is still the basic list and was republished in this magazine in May 1961. However, there are two corrections which should be noted in order to bring this list up-to-date. One more town, West Randolph, received 300 5's and 50 10's and must be added, making 25 towns to receive 1847 stamps; and secondly, Mr. Perry neglected to note that Bennington returned for credit 45 damaged 10 cent stamps making only 105 10's available instead of 150. In addition, covers are known from 12 additional Vermont towns which did not receive the stamps officially from the Post office Department. These towns are East Bennington, Factory Point (now Manchester Center), Fayetteville (now Newfane), Northfield, Peru, Saxtons River, Strafford, Sudbury, Wallingford, West Salisbury, Windsor and Woodstock. This makes 37 Vermont towns from which we might expect 1847 covers, but 10 towns on the list, all of which received the smaller numbers of stamps, have not yet been reported at this late date, thus reducing the number of Vermont towns known to have covers with 1847 stamps to only 27. The records show that 57,300 5-cent and 3,480 10-cent stamps were officially issued to Vermont postmasters,. If we assume that stamps used from some of the Vermont towns which did not officially receive stamps came from sources outside the State, the number would be slightly higher but, on the other hand, there is no record of the number of stamps returned for credit by the Vermont postmasters after the 1847 issue was demonetized.. These two considerations might possibly offset each other, but it is my opinion that postally used 1847 stamps from Vermont were less than the official number issued to Vermont postmasters. Also, many of these stamps were removed from the covers by early collectors, so the number of covers remaining is very much reduced'. Thus we can readily see that Vermont 1847 covers today are not plentiful from any town, very scarce from most, and unknown from other towns to which the stamps were sent.

I can cite two instances within my own experience regarding their relative scarcity among all 1847 covers. In 1948 1 had the opportunity to go over a dealer's accumulation of 800 1847 covers and take my pick of the Vermont items. There were only 30 5-cent Vermont covers, including a number of duplicates and not a 10--cent cover from Vermont in the whole lot. In a recent auction of specialized 1847 stamps and covers there were 90 5-cent covers, of which only one was from Vermont. This scarcity of 1847 Vermont covers may be a drawback to some collectors in starting such a collection, especially a collector who wants a lot of covers for his money, and who wants them frequently in order to keep up his interest, but there is a great challenge here for the patient collector where the acquiring of one 1847 Vermont cover from time to time is an exciting event in his philatelic life, a truly red letter day,

It was about eight years after I started collecting Vermont covers that I got my first Vermont 1847. It was from Woodstock, one of the offices that did not officially receive any 1847 stamps. It was such an exciting event I can remember the occasion as if it were but yesterday. Then, four years later I found my first 10c cover. It was from Windsor, another unlisted town, but only a month later another 10c cover turned up, this time from Middlebury. Three years later, in 1947, in a September auction a miracle happened. A little batch of five St. Johnsbury 10c covers from a private correspondence were offered for sale. All the ardent Vermont collectors seemed to be asleep or still on vacation. Even such a well known dealer as Ezra Cole, who attended the auction and who knows his Vermont covers, must have been hypnotized, as he let them pass and I acquired the whole lot. Among them was the cover I consider the greatest gem of my Vermont 1847's with a superb 10c stamp and a perfect strike of the St. Johnsbury "scarab" cancellation "socked on the nose". And so it goes. Slowly but surely if one has time and patience one can get them. Of course, the 10c 47's are the harder to find and the 5c's are much easier, especially the comparatively common Burlingtons. Of 10c '47 Vermont covers, I know definitely of only ten covers in collections; two more from Burlington are reputed to exist; and I would guess there might possibly be another half dozen in the world today. So don't count on getting too many of the 10's; concentrate on the 5's. There are still enough of these around to make it exciting when you find one, and you can gradually build up a representative showing of these covers with our first stamps which will greatly enhance both the attractiveness and the value of your Vermont cover collection.

But you may say these covers are too expensive to collect and you would rather stick to covers you can buy preferably for 10c apiece, and certainly for not over a dollar, and have a lot of covers for your money, because it is true that 5c and 10c 1847 covers catalogue today at $50.00 and $125.00 respectively. All I can say is that one of the beauties of stamp collecting has always been, and always will be, that every collector is entitled to collect what he pleases, but if he is not too condition conscious, a Vermont collector can manage to pick up a Vermont 5c 1847 cover that other 1847 collectors might despise, and he still would have a very desirable Vermont item even if it is pencanceIled and the stamp is badly cut in. It might be the only 1847 cover from its postoffice. So stretch a point and buy it at a reasonable price based on its condition, and don't pass up the lowliest Vermont 1847 cover that comes your way. Someday, you may regret it.

(continued in The Vermont Philatelist, May 1963)

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November 27, 2009