Stamp Taxes in Nevada (2021) by Michael Mahler in four volumes. Published by Paper Trail Publications, 2021, Santa Monica, California. All volumes are perfect bound, 8.5 inches by 11 inches, and well-illustrated. Printed separately on demand and sold on Amazon, where prices may change from what is published here. A hardbound option is available.
Vol. I: Silver Fever! Nevada Territory Stock Certificates, 1863-4, 193 pp. Perfect bound $39.95; Hardbound $45.
Vol. II: Adhesive Revenue Stamps of Nevada, 1865-1873, 175 pp. Perfect bound $39.95; Hardbound $45.
Vol. III: Chronological/Geographic Analysis 1863-1873: “Ghosts of the Glory Trail,” 433 pp. Available perfect bound and hardbound, $70 to $74.59.
Vol. IV: An Illustrated Census of Documents Bearing Nevada State Revenue Stamp.s, 1865–1873, by Type and Tax Rate, 184 pp. Perfect bound $39.95; Hardbound $45.
The first half of the 20th century was the golden era of philatelic research. Prominent collectors and dealers did original research and shared their knowledge in books, many of which are still the definitive references of the day. Names like Brookman, Cabeen, Chase, Johl, Luff, and White are still household names among collectors. Long before the internet, these researchers delved into archives and spent years examining the stamps in their specialized areas to draw conclusions and provide insights.
Sadly, despite the availability of many more resources, that spirit of seeking knowledge is not as abundant as it once was. Today’s emphasis is more on exhibiting at shows (which is often transitory and limited as a resource) than it is on providing essential book or catalog references.
One bright exception to the rule is Californian Michael Mahler, who not only produces award-winning revenue exhibits, but also documents his research with in-depth articles and books. His latest effort is monumental in its scope and thoroughness.
While it could have been produced as a one-volume magnum opus, the author decided to break it into four parts. That approach is reasonable when one considers that he touches on four separate areas of one subject that, while interconnected, have distinctly separate audiences.
The 2021 Great American Stamp Show jury in Chicago combined the four volumes into one entry and awarded it the grand award for literature.
First, some general comments. The Stamp Taxes in Nevada quartet showcases fiscal history, the study of revenue-stamped documents. The volumes, which total some 985 pages, are full of charts, graphs, tables, maps, and illustrations that support a compelling and original narrative. The numerous illustrations of stamps, documents, stock certificates, and maps are almost all in color and of excellent quality. The charts offer a tremendous amount of original information that will not be found anywhere else. The scope and depth of the documents illustrated are unparalleled.
The research required to compile these four volumes is monumental. Mahler includes numerous small niches no one had even considered. He has taken a complex area, created census data, drawn new conclusions, and presented that information in a well-organized and easy-to-understand manner.
While the content is superb, the production aspects could have been improved.
The paper quality is adequate, although a coated paper stock would have enhanced the images. The text is mostly one column, which is not ideal for readability on an 8½-by-11-inch page. A two-column format would have been preferable. The layout is irregular with the top of the page often varying. In addition, the chapter headers and subheads should have varied in size to indicate their relative importance and make them easier to identify.
For headers/footers, only a page footer is provided. There is no book title header, so anyone copying a page for reference will not be able to cite the book unless they annotate their copy. The author uses an unusual numbering system by lettering the first two pages and then continuing the sequence with Roman numerals.
In a multi-volume series, an overall introduction to the subject in the first volume is beneficial, but the way this series is organized such an introduction in each volume would have been helpful. However, the separate indexes in each volume work well.
The volumes are produced as print-on-demand books. While that limits the expense of producing a book or, in this case, a series of books, it increases the cost of individual books. However, in this case the price, which ranges from $39.95 to $70 for softbound and $45 to $74.59 for hardbound, is not unreasonable, especially considering the vast amount of information packed into each volume. Only the softbound version is reviewed here.
The other issue with print-on-demand books is that while it offers authors the opportunity to make changes and corrections at any time, unless there is a method of documenting the changed versions, buyers don’t know which edition they are receiving. The Mahler books have changed over time. For example, listed as out of print on Amazon.com are book versions that have the census book that is now Volume IV, listed as Volume III, and the chronological book that is now Volume III listed as Volume IV. While some of the early versions have different copyright years, and the last page of each volume provides the date and place of printing, it remains unclear on which updated version that buyers are receiving.
Now, on to the individual volumes.
Stamp Taxes in Nevada. I. Silver Fever! Nevada Territory Stock Certificates, 1863-4
Silver Fever! Nevada Territory Stock Certificates, 1863-4 is an indispensable addition to the field of scripophily which has nice following of its own, especially in the field of Western collectibles.
Volume 1 is divided into seven geographical areas: 1. The Comstock, which includes the best-known Virginia City and Gold Hill areas; 2. Comstock adjacent; 3. Carson City; 4. Douglas County; 5 Esmeralda Region; 6 Humboldt County; and 7. Reese River/Lander County followed by a census of territorial stock certificates, a census of territorial imprints, seven specialized vignettes, references, and an index.
From late 1852 until early 1864, stock certificates for mining companies in the new Nevada Territory were issued in large numbers and they have long been popular with collectors. Beginning in March 1863, these certificates were subject to a 25-cent federal tax stamp.
These “Territorials” were usually collected by company name and earlier overviews listed them that way in alphabetical order. Many are extremely rare or unique, but prices were often determined by eye-appeal and notable signatures.
The Mahler book takes a different approach and instead classifies the “Territorials” by their place of origin and by the revenue stamp(s) affixed. This new perspective broadens the entire scope of this specialty. Only the certificates issued in Nevada are included. The larger group of California-issued certificates were excluded due to their place of origin.
The author’s census of these “Territorials” found only 460 examples and that revenue-stamped stock certificates have survived from 23 origins within Nevada. Examples from all 23 are illustrated. Only a handful of these towns still exist. Most are ghost towns, and the surviving certificates are the proof that these towns existed.
More than 260 illustrations, many enlarged, give visual support to these attractive items.
Stamp Taxes in Nevada: II. Adhesive Revenue Stamps of Nevada, 1865-1873
While Volume I has had a major impact on scripophily, the work Mahler has done with Nevada state revenue stamps has been revolutionary. Adhesive Revenue Stamps of Nevada, 1865-1873 is an expansion of Mahler’s research that completely revised the listings for the State Revenue Catalog published in 2013 by the State Revenue Society.
The previous state revenue catalogs by Applegate, Cabot, Hubbard, and Troutman had all built their Nevada listings upon finds with no context for their printing or usage order because that detailed research had not been done.
Mahler accepted the challenge, contacted all major collectors about their holdings to add to his database, and through dated examples was able to develop an excellent approximation of issues dates and periods of use. For example, the roulettes previously listed with an 1865 date were shown to actually have appeared in mid-1867.
There is no chapter order in Volume 2. Rather, Mahler documents the listings by denomination (2 cents to $20) and separation method, beginning with the imperforate issues, moving to the early experimental roulettes, and ending with the later roulettes. Four appendices, references, and an index conclude the work.
The roulette printings have long been a confusing aspect for Nevada documentary revenues and Mahler used a creative method to simplify and accurately group them.
Throughout the book, Mahler provides his analysis for conclusions based upon his original research. The full color images, including many large multiples and on-document uses, provide superb visual support.
This book is a must for all collectors of Nevada state revenues.
Stamp Taxes in Nevada. III. Chronological/Geographic Analysis 1863-1873: “Ghosts of the Glory Trail”
Volume III, Chronological/Geographic Analysis 1863-1873: “Ghosts of the Glory Trail” is by far the largest of the four volumes. The 433-page book is a comprehensive treatment of the fiscal history of Nevada during its classic period, 1863-1873, arranged by geographic region, mirroring the nine mining rushes by which Nevada was settled (moving progressively eastward).
Volume III is divided into 13 chapters starting with the Comstock and Comstock adjacent areas, then on to Carson City and Ormsby County, and finally to 10 additional chapters for individual counties. Three appendices, references, and an index conclude the work.
What you will find is a fascinating intertwining of history, geography, and philately. The text is fully supported by maps, photos, stamps, and an incredible array of documents with federal and Nevada state revenue stamps. Mahler traces the chronological and geographical progression of Nevada revenue stamps used from the arrival of federal Civil War revenues in March 1863, through the introduction of Nevada state revenues in 1865, and continuing until the expiration of stamp taxes in February 1873.
Miners traveled anywhere there was silver and the settlements they formed along the way comprise the “glory trail” in the title. Most of these towns lasted only a short time and therefore became “ghosts of the glory trail.” Mahler tracks them with surviving revenue stamped documents.
Stamp Taxes in Nevada. IV. An Illustrated Census of Documents Bearing Nevada State Revenue Stamps, 1865–1873, by Type and Tax Rate
The last of the four volumes, An Illustrated Census of Documents Bearing Nevada State Revenue Stamps, 1865–1873, by Type and Tax Rate was intended as a data storehouse. Like Volume II, it has no chapters but is instead organized alphabetically by document type (and tax rate) from “Agreement/Contract” to “Receipt,” with references and an index at the end.
This is Mahler’s census data, consisting of about 850 items, that underpin the analysis presented in volumes II and III. More than 100 interspersed documents support the census data. The census charts include county, location, date, Nevada stamps, federal tax stamps, and a notes column.
Added to Volume IV is detailed coverage of four specialized areas, including the “State Capitol Find” and “Hobart Find,” that were only highlighted in the pother volumes
The four-volume series represents a tremendous amount of research accomplished over more than four decades and presented from a novel historical perspective that you will not find anywhere else. If you are a Nevada history generalist, you’ll want all four of these volumes; if you’re a Nevada specialist one or more will serve you well. In either case, you will not regret your purchase.