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Embossed postcard with train image - Limited Express

Essays for postal stationery surcharge - 1958

Essay - not issued

Essay - not issued

Essay - not issued

When postal rates were raised in 1958, no postal stationery with the new rates was ready. Existing stocks had to be surcharged (a fairly common practice at that time). One of the designs considered for that surcharge was the one shown above, on three stationery items of the period. These just came to light recently, and were lots 2419-21 in the Siegel Auction Galleries 2002 Rarities sale of May 18, 2002 . The auction descriptions follow.

2419 - 6c Red + (1c) Green, Air Post Entire, Surcharge Essays (UC30-E, unlisted). Two 6c Red entires (normal and legal-size) with red and blue borders, each with Plane, Train & Ship surcharge essay without denomination or "U.S. Postage" label, both with black "CANCELED" overprint, Extremely Fine, from a new find and unlisted E. 1,000- 1,500
(Realized $1,900 + 10%)

2420 - 3c Dark Violet + (1c) Green, Surcharge Essay Entire (U540-E). Legal-size with Plane, Train & Ship surcharge essay without denomination or "U.S. Postage" label, black "CANCELED" overprint, Extremely Fine, a new discovery and unlisted E. 500-750
(Realized $750 + 10%)

2421 - 2c Carmine Rose + (1c) Green, Surcharge Essay Postal Card (UX38/UX47-E, unlisted). Green Plane, Train & Ship surcharge essay with denomination or "U.S. Postage" label, black "CANCELED" overprint, Extremely Fine, a newly-discovered postal card essay E. 750- 1,000
(Realized $1,050 + 10%)

Here are the surcharges they ended up using - how mundane.

Actual surcharges


Sc. 1164 - issued 10/20/60

This stamp advertised the completion of the first fully automated postal facility of the U.S. Post Office Department (it became the USPS in 1971), set up in Providence, R.I. on an experimental basis in 1960. Built at a cost of nearly $16 million, the plant was the first step in a major program to automate and modernize the postal service in this country. A single-story structure with only two internal supporting columns, so that the work area was obstructed as little as possible, it was capable of processing up to 2 million pieces of mail per day.

Sc. 1164 fdc - issued 10/20/60

Trains were still a significant tool for moving the mail in 1960 (they play little part today), so it is logical to include one in the stamp's image, but you may need a microscope to make it out. The ATA Handbook simply says "freight train at first automated post office, Providence, RI." I was somewhat dubious that there really was a train for many years, until recently, when I acquired the First Day Ceremony Program for this stamp. Its cover has an enlarged version of the original artwork for the stamp, and while the details are still a bit vague, I'm willing to agree there really is a train. It's behind the building, on the left, and looks like a series of dashes on the stamp. Below are scans of that FDCP cover and a detail of the image:

Sc. 1164 First Day Ceremony Program

Sc. 1164 First Day Ceremony Program image

The train is still not all that clear, and one can't even distinguish the locomotive(s) from the cars - so to me this is a pretty lame entry in our listing. Perhaps one could learn more from the source artwork - the description of this stamp in the (now defunct) USPS publication United States Postage Stamps, says the design "features an architect's sketch", so that may still be available somewhere.

The stamp was designed by Arnold Copeland and Victor S. McCloskey, Jr., with engraving by C. A. Brooks, and lettering by R. J. Jones. Nearly 128 million copies were printed, making it still relatively plentiful today, and worth essentially its face value. There are no known errors or significant varieties.

Most of the first day covers for this stamp simply reproduce the stamp's design in even less detail, so they add nothing to the train theme. I do have this one, however, made by Kolor Kraft, that features a modern streamlined diesel.

Sc. 1164 fdc - issued 10/20/60

If you want to see more FDC's for this stamp, or learn more about Rhode Island postal history,
visit rhodeisland-philatelic.com.


August, 2003 - A friend who shares my enjoyment of stamps had the opportunity to visit the main PO in Providence, RI, and recognized it as the facility shown on Scott 1164. From a poster on the wall, she learned that it is the home of "Philatelic Phinds", the invaluable service of the USPS Southeast New England District, whose email representative is Donna Rajotte - and Donna was the postal clerk assisting my friend, who then mailed me the cover shown above, to share this information! I emailed Donna as follows:

Dear Donna Rajotte - A friend of mine had you hand-cancel and mail to me a letter, and I was delighted to receive it - thanks for the beautiful cancels. She tells me that you work in the building pictured on one of the stamps on that envelope, the 1960 "FIRST AUTOMATED POST OFFICE" issue. That stamp has a train, though it is very small - above the building on the left. I run an organization for collectors of Trains on Stamps, and wondered Are there still train tracks there? Do trains still service your building? I assume not - isn't all mail carried by trucks and planes these days? We stamp collectors all appreciate the great job you are doing there of finding and selling the unusual varieties no one else knows about - many thanks. Regards, Bill Senkus

She replied -

Hi Bill, I am so glad you liked the cancels! There are train tracks behind the building, but they are not used to carry mail anymore. Thanks, Donna, Philatelic Phinds

If you collect modern US stamps, and do not know about the SENE District's service to collectors, you can visit their excellent website at: - http://www.usps.com/provdist/phphhome.htm - OR email Donna for information about their stock at RIStamps@email.usps.gov - OR write them at Internet Sales Office, 24 Corliss Street, Providence RI 02904-9713. Telephone: (401) 276-3900 Extension 4049.

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Revised -- 11/28/2004