The World's First Airmail Stamp:
A Stamp With a Story:
The Down to Earth Facts:
Rarity and Recognition:
While France may have the interest of collectors of classic balloon covers, their “ballon montes” (literally, manned balloons) that carried messages out of a besieged Paris in 1870 didn't produce any special stamps. Yes, they had an early form of airgram that were used to transmit their messages via balloons. But the philatelist who collects stamps is left out in the cold when it comes to Siege of Paris aerophilately. Not so with the flight of King's Buffalo Balloon, as there are singles and pairs known of these semi-officials, though their price is restrictive to all but the most well-heeled.
In fact, the serious collector of US airmail can literally buy himself a place in the philatelic history books by owning a copy of CL1. It is not as rarified a place as that of an owner of Scott C3a, the so-called “Inverted Jenny,” aka the “upside down airplane stamp".
But those who add a Buffalo Balloon stamp to their collection find themselves in the big-time of the collecting world. Whenever it comes up for auction, its sale becomes an event, covered by the non-philatelic press as well as other media. And why not, as sale prices can go above $10,000 for a copy.
The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum director James Bruns, who tracked down and purchased a rare Buffalo Balloon flown cover, has stated he was delighted to add the item to the museum’s collection. One of only three in existence, it brings true historical perspective to the stamp, as well as to the flight. It has a place on display in the museum with a few examples of the stamps, in both mint and used conditions.
In terms of pioneering airmail flight, the Buffalo Balloon may be second only to John Wise's flight in the balloon Jupiter. The US commemorated that mail carrying flight on its 100th anniversary in 1959 with the official airmail stamp the Scott catalog designates as C54. Sadly, for stamp collectors, no stamps were used on Jupiter mail.
It would seem that it is about time to commemorate Samuel Archer King’s flight – and the Buffalo Balloon stamp itself – with its own commemorative stamp. Certainly it was good and proper to issue a commemorative stamp for Wise’s Jupiter flight. But how can one compare that to being able to have the evidence of a groundbreaking event like the Buffalo’s flight to display in your album? One cannot.