Postal Card Rarity Rediscovered

A US postal card so rare that only four known examples have surfaced in more than a century has been uncovered in a collection inherited by non-collectors. The card, called the ‘Mitchell’ card (for the collector who discovered it) has not been seen in decades. Mitchell (1877–1960), who was one of the country’s foremost experts on postal stationery (stamped envelopes and postal cards), was also one of the founders of the publication Postal Stationery; the official journal of the United Postal Stationery Society (UPSS). Although the existence of the card has been known since its discovery (likely in the 1940s), it has never been sold publicly. No decent image of it was known prior to a Linn’s Stamp News story of 4 January 2021.

The card, postmarked 16 December 1920, bears the earliest-known postmark for this issue. It is a 2c. red postal card bearing the image of Ulysses S Grant. The basic card was originally released in 1911 for international use. However, in 1920, after the wartime domestic postal card rate was reduced from 2c. to 1c., some of these cards became mixed with 2c. red Jefferson cards, when they were surcharged with the lower value. This particular card was revalued at the Los Angeles post office. In all, more than 60 million 2c. postal cards were revalued to 1c. with the use of cancellation machines in more than 40 different cities.

An example of a surcharged 2c. Jefferson postal card – the intended recipient of the 1c. surcharge

Four of these cards have been reported over the years; three were located not long after their use; the fourth in 1992. The whereabouts of three are known, with the other one, which hasn’t been seen in more than 80 years, presumed lost. Two have notices from the Long Beach Library. The Mitchell card has a notice regarding an Elks Club Christmas party. The missing one is also supposed to have an Elks Club notice.

The surcharged card is Scott UX36 (UPSS S52). Its value? Scott lists the card at $95,000 and the UPSS at $72,500. But as these cards are so rarely are offered for sale, the true value is difficult to ascertain. Recent hammer prices at Robert A Siegel include $50,000 (2006), $95,000 (2013) and $47,500 (2013). Anecdotal reports of private transactions are also all over the board.

It will be interesting to see what this rarity brings when it eventually reaches the market.

Article by Wayne L Youngblood

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