Why the Wayzata?

Why the Wayzata
By Peter Mosiondz, Jr.

A footnote in the Scott Catalogue states that, “The above label was produced in the U.S. by a private company under contract with the Newfoundland authorities. But the government cancelled the contract and the stamp was not valid for prepayment of postage”.

Newfoundland specialists insist that the stamp is real for they document several covers posted from three Newfoundland post offi ces and then delivered to the addresses without any assessment of postage due. The three covers are postmarked in the latter part of 1932.

What is the fuss all about? Why the famous (or infamous) “Wyzata airmail stamp” of $1 face value?

The stamp was the brainchild of Aerial World Tours in conjunction with an Australian pilot, Patrick McCartney and Minneapolis stamp dealer Lawrence Clark. At the time the Newfoundland government was in a major financial crisis and was warmly receptive to any plan of revenue enhancement. Aerial World Tours presented its proposal to make the first transatlantic air mail and passenger fl ight and the Officials jumped at the opportunity to get involved, especially when the subject of money was discussed.

The project would be financed through the sale of 400,000 special air mail stamps, each carrying a $1 face value. The stamps would be printed by the Bureau of Engraving in Minneapolis and Aerial World Tours agreed to take 300,000 stamps against payment of $5,000 for each batch of 25,000 stamps (or 20¢ per stamp), for a total of $60,000 delivered. Aerial World Tours would pocket the difference.

The remaining 100,000 stamps would be sold in Newfoundland post offices at the full $1 face value, which would have legitimized the issue. There was one hitch though. Aerial World Tours had to sell out its allotment before they would be placed on sale at the post offices.

This took place in June, 1932 and Clark went to work immediately in promoting the venue. He met with quite a bit of opposition and the initial sales were modest to say the least. One dollar might not be a great deal of money in today’s economy, but that dollar bought a week’s supply of groceries for the average family back in that Depression year. To put it proper perspective it would be akin to paying $100 today to a similar promoter selling a quasi-offi cial stamp of $100 face value.

Criticism ran high, fueled mainly by collectors and taken up by newspapers, accusing the Newfoundland government of doing nothing more than milking stamp collectors out of their money for an unnecessary stamp issue.

The criticism ran so high that in September the Attorney General recalled all unsold stamps, thereby indicating government withdrawal from the project. Shortly afterwards the stamp was declared to be a “label”, which is the kiss of death for any such issue.

On September 13, 1932, a notice appeared in the St. John’s newspapers stating that the government had cancelled its issue of 400,000 stamps which were to have been sold to help fi nance the proposed Lake Minnetonka-Newfoundland-England flight.

Aerial World Tours sent a representative to St. John’s to attempt to work out a solution, but to no avail. The government decided to wash its hands of the entire mess.

It is estimated that up to 90 percent of the issue was destroyed by the Newfoundland officials, but the original plates remained in Minnesota where it is rumored that they were sent to press more than once to meet the demands from collectors who desired examples for their collections. We recall that we were buying them rather cheaply about 30 years ago from a Minnesota source. Singles were $2 and blocks of four could be had at $5. Today these “stamps” are still sought after, to a lesser degree, and when found command a price in the $15 to $20 range.

The debate has been going on now for nearly three-quarters of a century as to whether or not the Wyzata is a legitimate postal issue. To be considered so it must answer “yes” to three important questions:

1) Was it authorized by the government of a stamp-issuing authority? YES

2) Was it ever used to frank mail and receive a postmark in the issuing country?

3) Was it ever placed on sale, over the counter, at post offices in the issuing country? NO

The stamps never reached Newfoundland, although they were but a few months away.

Suppose for a moment that Aerial World Tours had not been so obstinate in their desire to sell their stamps first. What would have happened if they were placed on sale at Newfoundland postal counters simultaneously? We would have had a legitimate issue and possibly many more “milking” opportunities by postal officials.

The collector of the day had his say, much like philatelists are used to having today.