Offered here is one of the great fancy cancel gems from the Morton Dean Joyce Collection, the greatest collection of revenue stamps ever formed: the Sewell Art Gallery stencil on R48c 25¢ Power of Attorney.
When it was sold at auction at the initial sale of the Joyce collection in June 1991, revenue specialist dealer and Linn's Stamp News columnist Richard Friedberg included it among the sale's highlights in his report, noting that it may have set a record for the highest premium paid for a revenue cancel over the catalog value of the base stamp.
Daniel Sewell's photography studio was located in Sonoma, California and between August 1, 1864 and July 31, 1866, photographers were required to place tax stamps on the photographs they sold. The tax was imposed by the federal government to raise money for the war against the Confederate States.
These revenue stamps were supposed to be cancelled in ink with the photographer's name and the date of sale. Most photographers complied by simply using a pen, others with greater sales volume bought handstamp devices similar to those used by post offices to apply postmarks.
Very few photographers used stencils to cancel their revenue stamps.
Stencils were generally used by people to personalize items they owned, using thin brass plates with cut-out letters through which ink was applied with a daubing pad, roller or brush. Obviously, stencils were cumbersome and potentially messy.
Aside from stencils being rarely used at all, Sewell's is unusually large and ornate compared to the ones used by the few other studios that did use them. A third factor in its rarity and desirability is that it is from a western state, where there were fewer photographers, and additionally from an uncommon location within that state.
But, there's a fourth factor that makes it really special. Photography studio cancels of any type are rarely encountered on stamps with denominations over 5¢, and only a handful of 25¢ stamps have been reported.
And this stamp is the only one of those with a stencil cancel.