Stamp Detective: New Orleans Postmaster Provisionals


23 August 2023
Our philatelic private eye spies another stamp set that’s likely to go up in value, this time examining a USA 'Postmaster Provisional' stamp that might just be worth more than the catalogue suggests.

Today most stamps sell for far less than catalogue value but there are notable exceptions including the postmasters’ provisionals issued during the first months of the Confederate States of America.

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On 1 June 1861, the use of US postage stamps was stopped in the Confederate post offices. The first Confederate Government postage stamps were only released on 16 October 1861. In the interim period, numerous southern postmasters issued provisional stamps, most of which are extremely scarce but hugely popular.

J. L. Riddell was the local postmaster in New Orleans, Louisiana. He issued a number of stamps with denominations of 2 and 5 cents in the second half of 1861 and in early 1862. The US Scott Specialized Catalogue of US Stamps & Covers lists seven different stamps, most of which are major rarities on cover.

On 2 January 1862, Riddell issued a red 2c stamp.

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Exactly the same stamp had previously (14 July 1861) been issued in blue colour. In mint condition this is the New Orleans stamp with the lowest catalogue value. However, US specialised dealers of Confederate stamps have very few on offer, which suggests that the stamp is rarer than the catalogues indicate.

In fault-free condition expect to pay some £150 for a mint copy. As the stamps were printed close together it can be difficult to locate a copy with four clear margins.

It should be noted that forgeries exist of this New Orleans stamp. It should only be acquired from dealers who know and guarantee what they are offering.