Users respond overwhelmingly to the US Postage's offer to reimburse the obsolete stamps through an exchange with the 1851 denominations of 1 cent, 3 cents and 12 cents. 10 cents was not a negligible amount for the user. Unused survivors of the original Washington are rare, even as individual stamps. A block of six and two blocks of four are known.
The block of six Washington surfaced in an auction in 1912, accompanied by a block of six of the first Franklin in perfect condition. They had kept their original gum. Both blocks were sold separately but undoubtedly came from the same estate. The Washington block, in Very Fine condition, has since then been considered as an icon of US philately.
Philatelists have tried to reconstruct its history. One of them, close to the file since the 1912 sale, unveils in 1925 the family name of the original owner. He later acquired the block and published in 1948 an information transmitted to him in a private mail by the expert Scott revealing that the 1912 seller had found these stamps between the pages of a Bible.
The Washington block of six thus becomes the Bible Block. The owner of the Bible is identified as Senator Rives who inscribed it in 1825. Rives carried out two diplomatic missions to France, from 1829 to 1833 and from 1849 to 1853.
Robert A. Siegel auction house experts find that the scissors section of the right edge of the block of six exactly matches the left profile of one of the surviving blocks of four, supporting the hypothesis of an original block of ten separated in the project of a letter to someone in France.
The story may be considered in relation with the 'retaliatory' rate that applied to some TransAtlantic mails before the application in February 1849 of the US-British postal treaty. The postage of the Rush cover, mailed from Philadelphia to Paris in 1848, is made with the same configuration of six Washington stamps. The block was indeed too expensive for the 1849 rate.
The block of four Washington was sold for $ 450K before fees by Siegel in 2012. The Bible Block of six Washington is estimated $ 500K for sale by Robert A. Siegel in New York on October 3, lot 14. Here is the link to the section devoted to the Gross collection on the website of the auction house.
SOLD for $ 590K including premium