Noted Collections - H.E. Deats

On January 20, 1878, one of the largest lots of stamps ever sold to a private individual in this country was purchased by Mr. H.E. Deats, of Flemington, New Jersey, from the well-known dealer E.B. Sterling. The price paid was $7,000; and although this may seem a large sum, yet the stamps at Sterling’s prices amounted to over $10,000.

Being desirous of seeing what I knew must be a magnificent collection, I took occasion to visit Mr. Deats a short time ago, and enjoyed his hospitality for a couple of days.

His collections are mounted on blank sheets of heavy ledger paper, 8 x 11-1/2 inches, each having a double rule border about a half an inch from the edge. His stamps at present fill 1,100 of these sheets, which when placed one on top of the other will make a bundle two feet in height; but the different collections are kept separate, so they are more convenient to handle.

I first glanced over the United States postage proofs and essays, of which he has 1,450; and although I at one time thought little of proofs, after seeing this collection I was compelled to admit that, in all my life, I had never seen such beautiful specimens of the engraver’s art as were here presented; not only were the proofs of the complete stamps shown, but scores of proofs of the medallions, borders, labels, etc., of the stamps; and then the essays, what a sight they presented for the philatelist! Dozens of designs which were submitted and which many collectors have never seen, some of them masterpieces of engraving and others not fit for the stopper of a beer bottle. Here was a set of entire envelopes, the stamps on them being black impressions of the 1870 issue of adhesives; but the ones among these which particularly caught my eye were the “hub” proofs, of which there were a goodly number. The total value of the postage proofs is $2,200.

From this display I ran through the proofs of documents, match, medicine, tobacco and liquor stamps, numbering in all 3,385; and of these I almost despair of giving a description, as their number seems to be legion. I noticed no less than six of the $5,000 revenue proofs, worth $100 each, being printed in three colors. The second and third issues of documents were shown up to $50, each printed in eleven different colors! Of the $200 revenue proof on paper he has seven, these being worth $25 each; also a proof on cardboard of the $200 first issue, being the only known proof.

In tobacco and liquor proofs Mr. Deats has nearly everything - not only the proofs of the stamps, but every variety and style of license issued for the sale of these commodities. He has a beautiful set of essays of tobacco stamps, the central design being a tobacco plant.

His medicine stamps are mounted the same as the documents, one stamp to a sheet, first old paper, then silk, pink, and watermark paper, and arranged by Sterling’s catalogue.

Mr. Deats’ medicine proofs number 1,350, many of them being in unsevered pairs. Nearly all the undelivered dies are represented, and one of them, the D.M. Richardson 3-cent match, printed in black, is the only proof of that die known to exist.

After these, I looked over the foreign postage and revenue proofs and trial colors, these numbering 2,750, and many of them being in entire sheets of one hundred each.

One lot of 1,670 of the trial colors he had just received from one of the Casey’s sales. They were Canadian and South American postage proofs, some of them being in over one hundred shades of color! Also 2,400 trial colors added since, making 2,800 varieties now.

For the document stamps, one is given for each stamp, the first line being those perforated, the next, part perforated, and the unperforated; all the shades of color and varieties following on the lines. Here I noticed two of the $20 Probate of Will catalogued at $15.

In revenues I also saw three hundred varieties of license stamps, and many cotton tax stamps of brass, the latter being unmounted, as an album has not yet been designed for them.

He has all of the Canada bill stamps but fourteen, including many shades of color surcharges, etc.

His collection of postage stamps numbers 5,100 varieties, this consisting of North, South and Central American, with a few others, these being the only countries he collects.

The totals of Mr. Deats’ stamp collections are as follows:

United States proofs and essays……………… 1,450

Foreign postage and revenue proofs………… 1,400

United States document proofs………………. 650

United States match proofs…………………… 800

United States medicine proofs……………… 1,350

United States playing card proofs……………… 90

United States proprietary proofs…………………130

United States revenue essays………………… 150

United States tobacco and liquor proofs……… 215

Foreign trial colors…………………………… 2,800

United States postage, adhesives, envelopes and revenues of all kinds…………………… 1,600

North, South and Central American and West Indies postage………………………… 2,000

Other foreign……………………………….. 1,500

Total 14,135

Of paper money he has alone 3,500 varieties, including Confederate, Colonial, Continental and fractional currency; and his collection of illustrated war envelopes numbers about the same, many of these, however, being duplicates.

Of coins he has a complete set of the United States silver dollars with the exception of the 1804, 1836, and 1838. The halves, quarters and minor coins are well represented, and everything is in fine condition.

Mr. Deats’ library of philatelic and other papers contains over 5,000 different pieces, including catalogues, books, pamphlets, etc.; of these, 70 volumes are bound. His duplicate papers number about 10,000.

Of archaeological specimens, prehistoric stone and bone implements he has 1,500; among which I particularly noticed two very large war clubs, a blow from either of which would kill an ox. He also has a large number of South Sea Island curios, purchased from the Boban collection, sold by Frossard in October 1887, among these being a dress worn by a South Sea island woman. In addition to these he has a considerable number of curios, antiquities, etc., which were accumulated by him during a number of years. His collection of minerals is displayed in a large case in the dining room, each specimen being set in a small box.

In such a short article as this it is exceedingly difficult to give anything like a good description of such large collections, but I have tried to give a general idea of his possessions, while the remainder will have to be supplied by imagination. The writer spent about fifteen hours in looking over his various collections, and even in this time they were simply glanced at, as to have done more would have taken many days, which, unfortunately, I could not spare at that time.

Mr. Deats is an enthusiast regarding his collections, and he is always happy to show them to his brother collectors; and all who have a chance to see them I know will agree with me that time was never more profitably or pleasantly spent than when looking them over.