Extraordinarily, excessively ILLEGAL!

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September 30, 2012

As part of my revenue collecting, I have been recently enjoying illegal usages of postage stamps as revenues on documents during the Civil War and Spanish American War periods. I'm up to about 25 documents now, including a few multiples, some combinations of different postage denominations, some with a postage stamp and a revenue, and even one with a demonetized 1851 postage stamp.

They are more common than the reverse (revenues illegally used for postage on cover), but that actually makes them a bit more fun, since you can put together a nice variety without spending insane amounts (The 1898 battleships used as postage are the ones most frequently found, and tend to be $25-50 items; Civil War revenues used on cover are much more scarce and will go for hundreds of dollars... find one on an overseas cover and you're well into thousands).

I knew I would be skipping CHICAGOPEX this year, so I contacted one of the high profile revenue dealers I normally see there and asked if he had any material in this category. He sent me some scans and when I saw this one, I said to myself "I don't care how much it costs, I want it!" I'll be paying on it for a few months, but it's a one-of-a-kind item that I just HAD to have.

It is two promissory notes (one year and two year) on a single document, dated February 22, 1865, each for $450, with 15 (!) randomly placed #65: two pairs, a strip of 3, and a block of 8.

Not only was the use of postage stamps illegal, but this is doubly illegal in that the tax is underpaid by 5 cents. The correct tax, five cents per $100 or part thereof, should have been 25 cents per note, or 50 cents, but the illegal attempted payment, 45 cents was based on the cumulative total of $900. The two receipts on the back are not taxable because they were on the same sheet of paper as the notes.

(Actually, truth be known, it's technically triply illegal, as EACH stamp was to have been individually cancelled with the party's initials and the date, not once per group of stamps.)

I just love the piece to death. I wonder if there are any documents from the Civil War period that would have a larger number of postage stamps affixed. I would have never thought you could find this many.

(There is a link to a high-resolution image below the picture, in case anyone wants to read the text on the document.)

High-resolution image

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