A Mint example of the rare 12-penny black changed hands for nearly a quarter of a million dollars at a Feb. 23 sale conducted by Gary Lyon. The stamp, which has a provenance going back to the Marquess of Lorne collection, was sold for $225,000 including fees and taxes. It is considered one of the finest known of just a handful of mint state examples left. Printed in 1851, the 12-penny stamp represented a high value at the time. Its only use was to pay the quadruple domestic rate, the double United States rate, or the letter rate for mail sent to Newfoundland, Bermuda, or the West Indies via Boston.
Although 51,000 were printed, only 1,510 had been sold by 1857 when the remainder were recalled and destroyed. Printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, the 12-penny black was part of Canada’s first series of postage stamps. The design was based on a portrait of a young Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon. Victoria was 32 years of age at the time the stamp was ordered, but the portrait had been executed years before, when Victoria was just 18. It is believed that approximately 100 examples remain. In the past 10 years there have been about 15 sales of 12-penny blacks, of which 10 were mint.
The 12-penny black (Scott #3) is the second most valuable Canadian stamp, taking second place to only the 2-cent Large Queen on laid paper. The stamp sold in February was described in the catalogue as “exceptionally fresh with radiant colour and an usually bold impression on pristine fresh paper displaying strong, clearly visible laid lines. Remarkably, the stamp still retains its full undisturbed original gum with a very light hinge mark at top. “We are of the opinion that this is the finest known mint single of the 12-penny black,” it concluded. The stamp has large margins on three sides, and a full sheet margin at right. Famous stamp dealer Charles J. Phillips acquired the stamps from the Marquess of Lorne, Queen Victoria’s son-in-law, who had been governor general of Canada from 1878 to 1883. From Phillips it went to the Henry Duveen collection, then found its way to the Alfred Lichtenstein collection in the 1930s and remained there until it was sold in 1970.
Over the next 10 years it changed hands a few times. It was sold in a Maresch sale in 1977 and a year later the Greg Manning auction company announced that it had acquired the stamp and sold it to a United States collector. In 1980, it was sold by Manning in London to a Canadian collector, where it remained until this year. The most recent purchaser has not been disclosed. The Lyon sale almost sets a new world record for a Canadian stamp. In 2009, a different 12-penny black was sold in New York for around $300,000, making it the most valuable single Canadian stamp in history.