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Monday, May 2, 2016

Rare 'H' stamps stir search by collectors

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

A recent local advertisement seeking some rare stamps might have caused people to check their desk drawers to see if they have a secret treasure.

After almost eight years, a group of mint copies of the postcard rate yellow "H" stamps have surfaced in Putnam County, and has caused quite a stir in the collecting community.

Julian Jarvis, a coin dealer in Greencastle, has assisted an area couple in selling their rare stamps, and he is offering to help others who may come up with the yellow "H" stamp by putting them in contact with a reputable dealer.

Recently, a group of five cancelled stamps sold for $15,000. Stamps that have not been used and canceled have a higher value.

These stamps have received significant press during the last three years. Up until now the only known copies, of which currently number about 75, have been found used.

This "unissued" stamp has a very interesting history and as more copies are discovered it will continue to be bantered about in the press and among dealers and collectors.

These stamps were printed sometime in 1998 in anticipation of the rate change scheduled for Jan. 10, 1999. The new "H" stamps were delivered to most of the post offices throughout the country. Since the rate change did not include the postcard rate, this specific stamp was not needed. Most were returned to the various major post offices and destroyed. But not all of them. The first used copies started to show up around 2002. There were some singles at first and then some on cover that were found, and then sold in he market place.

Early in 2005 the website RareStampExchange.com sold a used strip of five on its website. Later in that year, a used block of 20 surfaced and eventually was broken down and sold on RareStampExchange.com in various blocks, pairs and singles. Most of the used copies of these stamp have surfaced with Indiana cancellations -- and more specifically, with Greencastle, Ind., cancels.

The story on the mint examples began with Larry and Gail Roberts, who live near Fillmore. Because they lived in a rural area, it was common for them to order mint postage stamps from their rural carrier, just like thousands of other country residents throughout the United States.

In early 1999 Gail Roberts ordered, paid for and received what she recalls as a mint sheet of 20 of the Yellow "H" stamps in her mailbox. She assumed that the non-denominated stamps were usable to pay the first class rate. During the next several months she used some of these stamps to pay the first class rate on various correspondence and bills. It is likely that the Robert's outgoing mail would have gone to a small branch post office in Fillmore and then would proceed to the larger regional post office in Greencastle. It was there that their letters would have been canceled.

Roberts found the stamps while cleaning out some drawers in her kitchen. There in the bottom of the drawer was a mint block of eight and vertical pair of the yellow hat stamps. Since the stamps were non-denominated she did not know what the face value was. She took the stamps to a small rural post office in Stilesville, which is about 10 miles from her home. The clerk at that post office told her that the value was 37 cents, which of course was incorrect. The first class rate in 1999 for the normal "H" stamps was 33 cents. The postcard rate at the same time was 20 cents.

Gail took the stamps back home and returned them to the drawer. About two weeks later, Gail and Larry were attending one of their usual local church functions. Their friend Julian Jarvis was passing around a newspaper, Linn's Stamp News. There was an article discussing the discovery of used yellow "H" stamps coming out quite valuable due to recent sales on www.RareStamp Exchange.com, which is a specialized website that sells U.S. and worldwide stamps and covers.

On the way home from the church function, Gail told Larry that she believed that they might have some of these stamps. Once they got home, Larry looked them over and they both decided that the stamps may indeed be like the ones discussed in the Linn's article.

Their next step was to contact Jarvis. She called him and told him that she may have some of the stamps that were described in the Linn's article. Mr. Jarvis asked her to bring the stamps to him so that he may look them over. A few weeks passed and she finally got together with Jarvis. Once he had a chance to look at the stamps and compare them to the photos in the newspaper article, it became clear that they were indeed mint examples of the yellow "H" stamps with the postcard rate inscribed.

The Roberts decided to have Jarvis contact some other dealers who specialized in stamps. It was at that point the firm of Michael E. Aldrich was contacted about the mint "H" stamps. The firm received the stamps in June. Soon after, Aldrich determined that the stamps were indeed mint examples of the yellow hat postcard rate stamps. The block of eight and pair were then broken up into a block of four and six singles. All seven items were sent to PSE in California for expertizing. The stamps came back from PSE in August, each with certificates stating that they were genuine.

All six singles and the unique block of four were offered for sale, at net prices, on www.RareStampExchange.com in early September. The current market for sound used singles is in the $7,000-8,000 range for the approximately known examples. Even faulty copies of this stamp are bringing in the $3,000-4,000 range," according to Aldrich.

"The fact that these stamps survived let alone in mint condition is simply amazing. Many of us who were involved with the 'H' stamps were hopeful that some mint copies would show up someday. But, as the months and years passed it seemed less likely that someone would actually retain these stamps without using them," he said.

In fact, it is possible that some of the used stamps that exist today could have come from the 10 stamps that Gail Roberts used on her mail back in 1999 or later. Some of the existing used stamps have Greencastle cancels with a 1999, 2000 and 2001 date cancel.

Anyone who thinks they may have found some of these stamps and wants to authenticate them can call Jarvis at 653-6612.

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