Data information protection has come a long way in the past 100 years. It wasn’t that long ago that we were using wax seals and sealers to protect valuable documents. Antique railroad sealers are a direct tie to that old history. Depots and railroads had their own sealers. You would present a package to the railroad and they would put wax over the seal and stamp it. So if someone tampered with the package then the wax would be disturbed. These have survived in surprisingly high numbers and today they make great collectibles. Keep reading to learn a little bit more about how values are determined for railroad wax sealers.
Ranking of Railroad Sealer Desirability
Railroad Specific Sealers – These are the most valuable sealers. The reason they are worth the most money is because they are associated with a specific railroad. All other wax sealers were just used by express services. A typical value range is probably $150 to $500. The very rarest railroad sealers could sell for close to $1,000.
Wells Fargo Sealers – Collectors tend to pay more for Wells Fargo sealers than any other express sealers. You typically see Wells Fargo sealers from western states like Colorado, New Mexico, California, etc. However, we do have examples from West Virginia, Louisiana, and other similar states. A typical value range is $125 to $300. Exceptional examples can definitely be worth more money though.
Adams Express, American Railway Express, Railway Express Agency, Southern Express – These are the most commonly encountered wax sealers. The main driving factor for values here is the town the sealer is from. Most of these are going to sell for between $50 and $150. The low end of that range is reserved for “Public Use” sealers and for sealers that are not stamped with an identified town or depot.
Wildcard Factors That Add Value
It is not unusual to see a two very similar antique wax sealers sell for very different prices. For example, a sealer from an uninteresting town in Arizona might sell for $300. However, a sealer from an old mining town that was home to a famous outlaw might sell for $750. Sealers themselves are not especially alluring. People are collecting the nostalgia surrounding the railroad or town that the sealer is from.
Originality and Fakes
It is not uncommon for the sealer head to get detached from the brass handle. We aren’t sure why it happens so much, but it does. We would say that 80% of the value in antique sealer is in the head stamp. It is preferred to have an all original sealer; but it is not unusual to see aftermarket wood handles. You also need to at least be aware that people are making modern fakes for railroad sealers. They are usually fairly easy to spot because they don’t have the age and patina you would expect to see on an authentic sealer. The text is also cut into the sealer with a machine, so it looks a little too perfect. Consult an expert (like us) if you are not sure if your railroad wax sealer is authentic.
Railroad Dater Dies
The same people who focus on sealers also tend to collect railroad dater dies. Some of the same valuation rules apply. Collectors care about the railroad and the location of the depot. These are small items so they are easy to trade around. An average value is probably $150. The lowest valuation you typically see if around $50. Some very rare and desirable daters can be worth several hundred dollars.
Looking To Sell Or Need An Appraisal?
We are very interested in all types of sealers and dating devices. Please send us pictures of your item and we will respond back quickly with our indication of value and what we could pay. We look forward to working with you.