Thursday, May 22, 2008

i found 'em!

in 1994 the u.s. postal service issued a set of 20 stamps depicting 20 "Legends of the West." one of the 20, bill pickett, was said to have invented bulldogging, or steer wrestling. he was also the 1st african american cowboy movie star and the 1st african american inducted into the national cowboy and rodeo hall of fame. he died by a stallion kick to head in the 30s.

just before issuing the first run of these stamps the usps was notified by a relative of mr. pickett that the picture was not of bill, but of his brother ben.


research and definitive corroboration was suddenly a public *issue.* reputations were at stake. a new painting and engraving plate would have to be made. (did they even still use plates back then? i should know better.) certainly a new sheet would have to be printed, but to further complicate things, about a hundred of the 150,000 sets had already leaked out to collectors...

so, this essentially meant the usps couldn't simply destroy the remaining errors or else the few in the hands of collectors would be worth 10s of thousands of dollars and the cries of unfairness would have made the storming of the bastille look like a mother's day parade.

it was decided that a lottery was the answer.

anyone who sent in $5.80 (face value) would be eligible. if you didn't win, your check would be returned by the gummit.

with a one per customer rule as part of the deal, my dad had all his friends write him a check for 5.80 (which he paid back with his own check at the same time) with the agreement that any lottery winners would give the stamps to him.

of about 20-25 entries, dad got 4 sets of stamps. each was immediately market-valued at around $200 and personally priceless to most avid collectors. one of each of which he subsequently bequeathed to his 4 kids.

so far so good.

for the last 10 years all 4 of those plate blocks were kept in a house that recently burned. what didn't melt or char was water logged by fire hoses. i've been going through piles of that crap little by little.

today i found 'em.
they're singed and soaked, but in my hand.

i just looked up the current value. $299.00 each! (well...not these anymore. they're worth maybe 20 bucks now?) but hey. i've already grieved their loss; for months thinking i'd never see them again. meh.

(all photos from the interwebz)

the "error" stamp...

the re-issue of the real bill...

the miscaptioned photo the artist used as reference...

the back of the full sheet with captions...

the full, recalled sheet...(maybe i should use them to mail my sisters' and brother's birthday cards? hahahahahaha.)

i also found 4 water-damaged sets of the re-issue now "worth" about $16.00 apiece.

come and get 'em, siblings.

[update: further research indicates a more realistic price in mint condition is around 150 bucks. feel any better, lynn anne?]


rilera said...

I enjoyed this post. I assume Dad was a stamp collector.

cornbread hell said...

yeah. and he made me into one.

Annie said...

I'm glad you found some treasure among the ruins.

Cinnamin said...

Those are SO cool! I'm glad you were able to find these. What a nice memory to have!

This post made me want to go watch my dvd of "the cowboy way" which includes the short history lesson on this famous cowboy!

We get catalogs from the american philatelic society
in the mail all the time. I started my son with stamp collecting when he was born and he looks forward to the new issues arriving in the mail.

Great hobby!

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say. These days (weeks) of sifting must be so hard for you. My heart goes out to you.

ROTD - Lick-N-Sniff? hahahaha
Great pic of YOU! ~grin~

cornbread hell said...


as if i were so clever.