Written by on June 28, 2020 in Featured with 0 Comments


The Six-and-a-Quarter Cent Rate

Per the Act of Congress passed April 9, 1816, a single-sheet letter traveling less than 30 miles would be rated at 6 cents (United States Statutes at Large).

However, a small number of covers posted 1816 – 1845 show the rate of 6 ¼ cents. This unusual rate comes from the Spanish real, used in some parts of the US and the Republic of Texas through the mid-19th century. One real was 1/8th of a Spanish silver dollar, or 12 ½ cents US. Half of this denomination, the ‘medio real’ or ‘picayune’, was valued at 6 ¼ cents US. The division of the silver dollar into ‘pieces of eight’ could also be called ‘bits’. Hence, 2 bits would make a 25 cent quarter, and a half bit would represent 6 ¼ cents. (American Stampless Cover Catalog, “The 6-¼¢ Rate”)

In regions where medio real or half bit coinage was in common use, the 6 ¼ rate was considered a ‘rate of convenience,’ as it conveniently matched a denomination that customers would have readily available. The postmaster would write the rate of payment on the cover at the amount paid to simplify the exchange.

Shortages of circulating coinage, particularly during recessions like the Panic of 1837, resulted in banknotes bearing the 6 ¼ rate.

About the Census

This long-overdue census has not been completed by any postal historian/organization to our knowledge. We felt a need to compile as complete a listing as possible, understanding that a response will occur to the census post-publication which will add a few/many more to the census. We look forward to the additional responses.

It should be noted we expected a minimal number of covers (under 15) and were taken aback by the response by numerous postal historians that combed through their collections for these elusive rate covers. The collectors who submitted covers for the census are noted as Contributors in the census.

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