27 June 2019
The ‘Alexandria Blue Boy’ cover, described as one of the USA’s most famous philatelic items, was recently sold at auction for $1 million.
The rare cover was offered in the HR Harmer sale of the Erivan Collection, which is set to be sold over a series of auctions, and features material brought together by German collector and businessman Erivan Haub.
A single bidder purchased the treasure for a flat $1 million, taking the sale price to $1.18 million (approximately £93,000) with the buyers’ premium.
The cover features the only known example of the 1846-47 5 cents black on blue ‘postmaster’s provisional’ stamp issued locally in the town of Alexandria in Virginia.
According to the auction house there are six surviving examples of the Alexandria provisional printed on buff coloured paper, three of each type.
‘It is widely believed that the stamps were printed by Edgar Snowden at the office of the Alexandria Gazette, whose office was nearby the Alexandria Post Office,’ the auction description explained.
The letter inside the famous cover has its own story to tell, since it was written by James Wallace Hooff, a Presbyterian, to a Miss Jannett Hooff Brown, an Episcopalian, who also happened to be his second cousin.
According to the auctioneers:
‘In a real-world imitation of Romeo and Juliet, the watchful eyes of their family prevented the young lovers from expressing their feelings openly.’
The letter is said to end with the words ‘burn as usual’ reflecting the couple’s intent to keep their romantic relationship a secret, but thankfully for today’s philatelists this particular cover was not destroyed as the others from the correspondence were.
‘By all accounts, this cover should have met the match like all of Mr. Hooff’s other letters to Miss Brown;’ the auction house said, ‘the fact that it survived the end of 1847, let alone all the way to 2019, is nothing short of miraculous.’