After the July 1845 postal reforms paved the way for adhesive stamp use by simplifying the rate structure, the postmaster in St Louis, John M. Wimer, had his own provisional stamps printed. Wimer served the Midwestern gateway city of St. Louis as postmaster, alderman and mayor.
The basic design of the St Louis provisional stamps - two bears holding the state coat of arms - was chosen to symbolize Missourians' rugged durability. The "Bears" engraving is one of the most elaborate of all United States Postmasters' Provisionals.
The "Bears" were printed from an engraved copper plate comprising six subjects arranged in two vertical rows of three. The original plate was made by a local engraver, J M Kershaw, and it was altered twice.
That included the sale of the first known use of the Provisional on a cover which eased past its estimate of $30,000-40,000 to achieve $65,000, and also the absolutely unique reverse-side printing of a 10c Bear with a trace of a 5c Bear - the only recorded example of any United States postmaster provisional stamp printed on both sides - which achieved $67,000.
However, to buy into this fascinating area of philately is not quite so demanding. At the now complete Daniel F Kelleher auction in Tucson, Arizona a 10¢ black on greenish St Louis Bear with a trace of light red circular date stamp at the bottom right.
With well-balanced margins, it was described by the auctioneer as "one of the nicest examples we have seen of this elusive provisional" and duly sold just above its catalogue value of $8,000 for $9,500.
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