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Analysts Say Black Stamps Are Earliest Known U.S. Stamps

September 22, 1989

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A pair of 10-cent stamps found on a 142-year-old letter are among the first U.S. stamps issued and could be worth as much as $1 million, collectors said.

The Philatelic Foundation, a non-profit stamp-authentication agency based in New York, has certified that a 142-year-old envelope mailed to the Marion County clerk on July 2, 1847, is the earliest known use of a U.S. stamp.

″The discovery of this historic rarity was the stuff philatelic lore is made of and rivaled the greatest finds in the history of stamp collecting,″ the foundation said in a statement.

″It may well be the closest philatelists will get to an actual first-day cover,″ foundation chairman Roberto M. Rosende said.

The two black stamps, which picture George Washington, are known to collectors as U.S. 2 and first were issued on July 1, 1847, in New York. They were among the first U.S. stamps issued to postmasters to replace hand-inked impressions as proof of postage paid.

The stamps and their envelope are major assets of the estates of two Indianapolis men, Delmere B. Blackburn and Dr. Harry D. Mark. Blackburn died in April 1987 and Mark died last month. Both estates are pending in the probate division of Marion Superior Court.

The two men shared ownership of the rarities, which they discovered in some books they had purchased at the estate sale in the late 1960s of Indianapolis lawyer John W. Becker.

The stamps will be sold through a national dealer, said John F. Sullivan Jr., an attorney representing one of the estates.

″Obviously, the price will be whatever a willing buyer will pay, but we think it could be worth $1 million,″ he said.

Stamp experts, including Eric Scott, part owner of The Stamp Shop in Indianapolis, believe Sullivan’s estimate is excessive. Some say the envelope could bring as much as $200,000.

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