18th-19th Century Document Seals Collection


A collection assembled strictly for the great variety in early document seals.

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Over several decades of hoarding old New England (and other places) document, quitclaim deeds were always around, and never really much of interest to “serious” collectors wanting historical or autographic content.  I was going through a pile of family paper and of course there were several deeds, but one stopped me in my tracks.  I was now looking at two small silvered die-cuts of an American eagle with federal shield on it’s chest, and a dove in full flight with a “love letter” in it’s beak.

I thought how creative of this husband and wife just selling property to go a notch or two above the norm for such a simple process (back then anyway). I then began to just what have I been missing with the seals on these deeds?  So over the years I have patiently gone through stacks, and piles to find any seal that would qualify for its uniqueness, artistry, or simply the oddity of what was used in the pinch.

Most of this collection came from New England families, but a few nice pieces outside of NE may have found their way in.

There are 91 documents, dating from 1738 to 1879, most of which fall into the pre Civil War years of the 19th century. They have been assembled purely for the seals, realizing that there are probably Revolutionary War soldiers signatures here, or other well know politician or city and town personage with interesting history.  In several cases I am sure that these homes mentioned in the deeds are still standing today.  We know the land is still there (John Adam’s father told him to invest in land, “it will not break, nor will it run away”).  During the Civil War years and after, documents began to use Revenue Stamps (had to pay for that war somehow) and these, which are varied in denomination, purpose, color and size only enhance the beauty of these documents.

Most documents from the 18th C and earlier used simple red or black seal wax, with quickly fashioned simple shapes of paper to act as the seal. There can be some variation in these, but I have not observed but few more interesting types. With the 19th century comes progress in everything, and we see printed store labels, manufactured red wax seals for documents, and eventually into the mid and later 19th c, comes manufactured official seals made for this very purpose. In amongst all this new innovation, are still the old ways of doing things, the independent minded wanting to be different, or just plain simple folk using their ingenuity to come up the need in a moments notice. Here are some of the seals within the collection: Finger prints in wax, paper cut from the edge of the document and folded over to form the seal (and multiples of this), triangular shape cutting within the paper and folded, Ship wheels, compass rose, sunbursts, signet rings figures and monograms, scrap paper, silk with stars, die-cuts, paper seals stacked used by very large numbers of signers, clusters of seals, shaped, colors, postage stamp portraits, postage stamp margins, human hair, decorative papers repurposed, pre made official seals, diamond-square-round-fan-starburst-etc. shaped in multiple colors (and multiple stacked, store labels of different shapes, more….  Some of these earlier documents will have interesting watermarks in the old laid paper.

The great thing here is that you can take it farther, using other colonies/states, finding new seals in the period of this collection or finding earlier or later specimens. Further research of names will lead to more interesting historical tidbits. It is endless where you can take this collection.

The seals much more than the legal nature of these documents make a social statement to the times from which they come. You can see the progress of industrialization, the creativity of individuals, and just what comes from expediency and need. Remember, that in the early days, the local tavern was were a good deal of these transactions took place; a central meeting point for traveling parties, as well as having the ability of freshening up while buying or selling. The witnesses in some cases were probably called away from their glass of Flip to observe the signing and write there signatures to go back to more pressing matters “in hand.”

Condition of the documents overall is very good to fine, with some excellent. There may be tears in the folds and some holing from folding over the years; anything that is seriously effecting the document has been repaired with acid free tape. You will be most happy with the selection.


Additional information

Weight 10 lbs
Dimensions 24 × 20 × 6 in