In 1862, Bostonian sewing machine merchant John Gault of the firm Kirkpatrick & Gault in New York City, invented and patented a small brass case with a transparent isinglass (mica) cover that kept a single stamp clean and secure, yet visible.
Coins and Currency: An Historical Encyclopedia
by Mary Ellen Snodgrass
In the USA, John Gault, a Boston sewing machine salesman, proposed the encasement of stamps in circular metal discs made of brass with a mica front, into which a postage stamp could be installed. It received a patent in August of 1862 for “Design for Encasing Government Stamps.”
His firm, Scovill & Co., then issued the encased stamps in various denominations using the 1861 issue - the 1, 3, 5, 10, 12, 24, 30 and 90-cent stamps (Scott #63-72). Except for the values of 5 and 10 cents, most denominations did not lend themselves well as coins and the government did not approve of private money.
Gault sold this “stamp money” to merchants at small premium to meet the cost of production. Advertisements for products and services were stamped on back of the metal casing. “Ayer’s Pills” are among the most frequent advertisements on U.S. encased postage, but businesses from hatters to hotels to dry goods merchants made use of the opportunity. Besides the coin-shaped encased postage, there were also rectangular shapes that contain two or more stamps. These strips had a metal backing with a mica covering, usually encasing three 3c stamps, for a total of 9 cents with open ends. Stamps could slide in or out.
Used as currency, Gault’s encased stamps became popular for a few months only, as the post office department refused to sell Mr. Gault the necessary stamps. They felt he was competing with their postage currency notes. This greatly limited Gault’s enterprises by late 1862 and brought them to an end the following year. Of the approximately 750,000 pieces sold, only 3.500-7.000 are believed to have survived. All are very scarce today as they were used for such a short time.
Postage Stamps as Coins
by Dr. Satyendra K. Agrawal