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Earliest Prussian FDC discovered

The auction house Felzmann was able to announce a real sensational find. After 166 years, a first day cover from Prussia with the historic date 15 November 1850 turned up.


Sensational find at second glance

Auctioneer Ulrich Felzmann was amazed when he took a closer look at the postmark of the first day cover from Coeln to Crefeld. It reads "Coeln 15 11 9 - 10". On the back of the letter a large impeccable 1850 as well as the constitution date 14 November. This date set off the alarm bells of the experienced philatelist, because November 15, 1850 is known as the first ever mailing day for stamps in Prussia. It could therefore be one of the first, if not the earliest, first day cover in the Kingdom of Prussia!

Front side of the Prussian FDC

Preußen FDC vom 15.11.1850
Lot 4587: MichelNr. 2 d, 1 Sgr. on lilac pink, first edition, with full and clear seated numeral cancel "258" as well as dispatch K2 COELN 15 11 (1850) on first day cover to Crefeld with arrival cancel of 16.11. on the reverse, with inside clear registration mark with year "1850" as well as red chalk number "1" on the address side, as it was usual before the introduction of the postage stamps, but no longer necessary here! Stamp with wide margins on three sides, only on the lower left part of the margin line cut, the letter paper partly somewhat discoloured with right letter bend.

Reverse side and photo certificate

In order to clearly identify the letter, it was closely examined philatelically. The experts proved that it clearly has all the characteristics to be identified as a first day cover: The 1 Sgr stamp with the portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm IV has the typical paper of the very first issue. It identifies the letter as a standard local letter within Prussia. The four-ring cancel with the number 258 for "Coeln" was distinctive and clean and recognisable as a new stamp, the red chalk tax in the typical colour. Clearly legible sits the K2 of COELN 15.11. 9-10, on the reverse a clear arrival stamp CREFELD 16.11. 7-8V. On the side the sender has noted the date from the former attached letter side with contents: 1850 Cöln d. 14.Nov. Philipp Pollitz.

Postal historical background

The letter was therefore written on 14 Nov. 1850 by the Philipp Pollitz company and posted on 15 Nov. 1850, very early, between 9 and 10 in the morning. The Pollitz company is listed in the historical address book of the city of Cologne of 1846 and was in active correspondence with other merchants due to its entrepreneurial activities. Before the introduction of postage stamps, it was customary to pay a messenger in cash for postal items. This payment, however, was the responsibility of the recipient, which was associated with a number of problems. On the one hand, one did not want to impose this on the recipient, and on the other hand, it was not clear whether he had enough money to pay for the item. So on the day the postage stamps came into effect in Prussia, 15 November 1850, the first stamp was affixed to the letter mail item by the Pollitz company and thus "franked" in advance for dispatch to Krefeld.

The search for clues continued and revealed that only a few other letters of this early date are known. Just a handful of other pieces have been registered to date, but without such an early date. Consequently, it was assumed that this is indeed the earliest known first day cover of the Kingdom of Prussia and thus an exceptional piece of Prussian postal history.

The Prussian FDC in the auction

The fact that this letter has turned up in such impeccable condition after 166 years is a philatelic sensation. The beautiful piece was sold on 06 July 2017 in our 159th International Auction for a surcharge of € 7,500.

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