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California & Salt Lake Mail Line "Sacramento" $50Salt Lake City, UT- California & Salt Lake Mail Line $50 1863
The story of this stage line is a link to one of the most romantic periods of American history, as it spans the years just prior to the completion of the transcontinental railroad and telegraph. In 1858, the government awarded a mail contract to one George Chorpenning to carry mail between Salt Lake City and Sacramento, California. The round trip took sixteen days and the cost of each letter was 10 cents. Chorpenning was an experienced mail contractor whose earlier efforts had been plagued by Indian attacks and the damages attributable to them. In fact, at the time that this contract was awarded, Chorpenning was engaged in a long running battle to recover damages from the Federal government, a struggle that was not resolved until 1870, when Congress rejected his efforts to collect $500,000.
All of the notes that survive from this endeavor, in all denominations combined, number fewer than a dozen examples. Three notes are known bearing the Sacramento location, while the rest were likely issued in Salt Lake City.
This "Sacramento" example comes from the John J. Ford collection, where this piece was lot 3039 in the Stack's sale in October of 2007. It was described there (with the bold emphasis retained) as "Signed, numbered, and dated. Uniface. Printed on bond paper. Eastern banknote size. 185mm by 75mm. High quality intaglio (or exceptional color lithography), without an imprint, and styled like an eastern obsolete banknote. Printed in all blue with red "FIVE" protector. Under the curved main title, a stunning central vignette of a vigorously guarded stagecoach with deep facial details on the passengers within. Armed Indian squad watches benignly as it passes. At the lower left, girl near plowing scene. At the lower right, an Indian brave (as adapted from Draper, Toppan, Longacre & Co. notes of the late 1830's). Protector below and city "Sacramento" engraved at bottom center. Signature spaces for the "Secretary" and "Contractor" at the bottom. Similar to Alvin Rust (Mormon and Utah Coin and Currency, 1984) Figure 107, page 96. Written serial No.1758. High Rarity 7 (1-3 known). The type not represented in the Ford Part VI Sale and the only example of the Sacramento type in the Ford Collection. This is simply an exceptional example and is tremendously beautiful. The California notes in this marvelous collection continue to weave the lore of the West at each twist and turn. The vast majority of notes known on this title have no engraved city and are considered Salt Lake City. This is clearly a California type on the company, is excessively rare, and is the first we have catalogued. The only other example we know is the Rust Plate note mentioned above. That note, which is clearly unissued and has the diagnostic uneven trimming seen on the majority of notes of this issuer. The present note, dated 1863, is signed in both spaces. At the left by John J. [or G?] Doyle and at the right by O. Winship [?], Jr. [as catalogued by Sotheby Parke-Bernet]. We know of only one other Sacramento series note, a $5 denomination, seen long ago. The signed "Salt Lake City" series notes we have seen are dated 1859 by George Chorpenning as Contractor (see Ford VI: Lot 636 for proper signature style). We can't guarantee the validity of these signatures and they differ significantly from the signatures on the Henri Heller $5 note. However, we can be certain of the immense rarity and beauty. There are three light folds: one down the center, a long corner fold and one at the right end. Exceptionally margined for the series with bold, vibrant colors. Once mounted (when sold in London with an English private bank note and a CSA counterfeit), it has been very skillfully removed. This note is a visual masterpiece. The three single notes and one triptych in the Ford VI Sale (lots 636 to 639) were very well regarded and fiercely contested to the tune of $10,000 or more per lot. There were only two individual notes in the Herb and Martha Schingoethe collection, and they both broke $10,000 with ease. This bonanza from this issue is fleeting and likely ends here for perhaps quite some time. As the only note of this Sacramento type in the collection, it should warrant a five-figure bid with ease from the many eager Mormon collectors or those who desire the greatest Western Numismatic Americana. Yet another highlight among many potential legends."
This piece surpassed the estimate in that sale and realized $37,375. Lest one think that price a "one off" Ford sale oddity, the slightly more common $50 from this issuer on the Salt Lake location in considerably lower grade realized $34,500 in our Central States auction earlier this year. PCGS About New 53, one of the great obsolete rarities which will likely see another record price for the issue.
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