Greatest Revenues VIII

The Greatest Revenues VIII
By Ron Lesher

When this series of articles on the greatest was first conceived, it was thought that with four or five articles we could survey the greatest. Here we are at the eighth installment and there is still a backlog of deserving revenue stamps. In order to be dubbed one of the greatest, a stamp needs to meet one or more of the following criteria: visually stunning; historically signifi cant; interesting philatelic history; recognizable to those outside the hobby.

We turn to a single category of revenues, revenue stamped paper, the revenue stamp equivalent of postal stationery. The three items in this part are all of the lowly denomination of two cents. The stamps were imprinted on a bank check or draft before the check was written. The popularity of this practice in the nineteenth century is seen from the fact that by the late 1870’s about two-thirds of the checks being written had stamps imprinted on them.

One should not be surprised since the users of imprinted checks received a discount when ordering the stamps and further the imprinted stamp simplifi ed the check making process by not having to lick and stick a stamp on each check at the time the checks were being written.

The first item, like two of the others to be discussed, is an imprinted stamp of a different color than normally encountered, the green C (Scott RN-C8). The type C design was imprinted by the American Phototype Company and this is the third design that the company used. It is also the largest by volume of their designs and came into use in 1870. One imagines that the government desired a larger design, possibly to prevent reuse, for the other imprinter of stamps, Joseph Carpenter of Philadelphia, also introduced a larger design about the same time.

The color of the majority of the imprinted stamps of the so-called type C have been grouped by catalogers into the orange family, al though the Scott U.S. Specialized recognizes the variation within this family by noting under the major listing, red orange, yellow orange, salmon, and brown orange. When collectors attempt to sort these imprinted checks into five piles (by the names of the colors in the Scott listing) they have great difficulty in reaching agreement, because there is enormous variation within the family of hues.

There is no such lack of agreement on the color of the green C. Everyone agrees that it is green. There is no variation for the simple reason that there is only one recorded example. The lone example has been one of the key items in the collections of Ed Lipson, Bill Buford, and now resides in the author’s collection.

The green imprint was applied to a draft of the Banking House of E. S. Card of Cazenovia, New York to paid by the Fourth National Bank of New York (City). Cazenovia is located in central New York, about twenty miles southeast of Syracuse.
The Banking House of E. S. Card went to the expense of adding attractive vignettes to their Cashier’s check, a practice that was considered an essential practice to market the bank as a prosperous financial institution. Many banks went to the additional expense of having the cashier’s checks printed from engraved plates by a bank note company.

The New York Times of May 27, 1880 reports some interesting incidents in the history of the Banking House of E. S. Card. The bank suspended operations on January 26, 1870. The resumed business on March 23, but suspended again about a month later, presumably because of the depositors’ lack of confi dence to transact business. On May 26, a depositor tried to kill (unsuccessfully) E. S. Card with a pistol.

Joe Einstein’s writings on the green C from Cazenovia adds additional philatelic color to the history of the instrument. In the RN Handbook published by the American Revenue Association in 1979, Einstein questioned whether this was a real check or merely the invention of the printing firm of Maverick, Stephan & Co., intended as a salesman’s sample. One surmises that Einstein came to this conclusion because of the thickness of the paper and the lack of a printed draft number in the lower left of the instrument. One can argue against Einstein’s conclusion from the fact that by this time, the American Phototype Company was imprinting samples for salesmen with a stamp with the word SAMPLE incorporated into the design, a stamp that had no validity for paying the tax. In fact a number of such salesmen’s samples with the word SAMPLE exist for the Maverick, Stephan firm. So the evidence seems compelling that this unused draft was rescued from the fi les of the bank.

The second example from among the imprinted revenues that deserves mention was also printed in a non-orange color, in this case red. It, too, is known today as the sole example of the color. This is the red type D imprint found on a cashier’s check of the Kansas City (MO) National Bank. The instrument was engraved and printed by the American Bank Note Company, an expensive practice that many banks used to show that they were a prosperous institution that could afford to have a bank note company print its own cashier’s checks. In an era of frequent bank failures this practice of marketing the bank was considered an essential business expense.

Cashiers’ checks are usually in the form of a draft, that is, written by the issuing bank and drawn on another bank usually in a city that is considered a banking center, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc. Today the banks in the large banking centers upon which smaller banks have an account on which they write cashiers’ checks are called correspondent banks. In this case the banking institution on which this is drawn is O’Donnell, Lawson & Co. in New York.

One notes that the name of this firm is written in manuscript, suggesting perhaps that the Kansas City had more than one bank on which it wrote its cashier’s checks and perhaps even that they did not frequently write cashier’s checks. There are a number of examples that one could cite where banks had more than one correspondent bank, using a different color draft to minimize the chance of writing the cashier’s check on the wrong bank.

There is a persistent rumor that a second example of the red D exists, but it has yet to show its face publicly. It seems strange that only a single example of a used cashier’s check has survived. When original finds are made, it usually is of the entire file of checks. Unfortunately, the story of the finding of this check has not been passed down. The example we have was first recorded in the collection of Louis White. Later it was an important part of the collections of Bill Gerlach and Bill Buford.

Finally we turn to yet another cashier’s check printed from an engraved plate by the American Bank Note Company. This one was imprinted with a blue, type K stamp by the Joseph Carpenter firm of Philadelphia. Once again this is the lone example on a complete cashier’s check, although there is a second example from a different bank in Lafayette, Indiana that is known in an unused, cut down version (one can see this second example on the excellent website of Robert Hohertz, http://www.rdhinstl. com/rn/rn.htm). The blue K was discovered by Michael Morrissey and graced the collections of Ed Lipson and Bill Buford.

This is an example of an imprinted stamp that was included in the listing by E. R. Vanderhoof that was the basis of the original listings in the Scott U.S. Specialized in the late 1930’s. The collecting of revenue stamped paper languished until interest was revived by the writings of Samuel Smith in the early 1970’s in the Bureau Specialist and The American Revenuer. Smith’s research failed to fi nd a number of items apparently known to the previous generation of collectors. A concerted effort under the leadership of Joseph S. Einstein, Thomas C. Kingsley, W. Richard DeKay, published by the American Revenue Association in 1979, also failed to fi nd an example and so the blue K and a number of other items missing in action were deleted from the Scott U. S. Specialized.

Like the red D from Kansas City, the absence of other examples of this cashier’s check with the blue K is somewhat puzzling. Cashier’s checks were usually preserved by the bank. So when the original fi nd was made, it should have contained the entire run of checks from L. J. Lemert & Sons, Bankers in Dresden, Ohio (in the eastern part of the state). Where are the others? Unfortunately, the story of this fi nd also has not been passed down through several generations of collectors.

The field of imprinted revenues contains quite a few great items and the list has not yet been exhausted. I certainly hope that you will look for more to come in future installments of The Greatest Revenues.