‘Best Small Queen cover’ tops estimate at Eastern sale

By Jesse Robitaille

Realizations do not include 18.5 per cent buyer’s premium.

Dubbed by auctioneers as “the best Small Queen cover” in existence, Lot 887 of the Nov. 8-10 sale by Eastern Auctions realized $28,000.

A registered cover, it was mailed to Tonsberg, Norway, in July 1875 and includes a se-tenant pair as well as a single 10-cent pale milky rose lilac Small Queen from the Montreal printings. Paying the correct rate to Norway, the stamps and the postal markings offer outstanding eye-appeal, according to auction cataloguer Yohann Tanguay.

“I am not one bit surprised knowing the importance and status of this great cover among seasoned Small Queen collectors,” said Tanguay. “If my knowledge serves me right, this has now become the most valuable cover franked solely with Small Queen stamps.”

It’s also one of only three registered covers still in existence after being mailed to continental Europe before Canada joined the Universal Postal Union on Aug. 1, 1878.


The auction began Nov. 8 with the 360-lot sale of the Highlands Collection of British North America. This was followed by a two-day, 1,194-lot general sale with material from Canada, British North America and abroad.

“The Highlands part one and the general sale both generated a lot of publicity and following,” said Tanguay, who added the New Brunswick-based auction house received more bid sheets for this sale than any public auction it has hosted “in the last few years.”

“Overall, results were satisfactory with bidders living as far as Australia competing aggressively against each other.”

The general sale featured four collections, including:

  • the Daniel Cantor Collection of Essays, Proofs and Imperforates of Canada;
  • the Alastair Bain Collection of Canadian Semi-Official Airmails;
  • the Graham McCleave New Brunswick Postal History Collections of the Early Colonial and Decimal Periods; and
  • the Burma Collection of Alan Meech.

“The combination of high quality, desirability and rarity was often – but not always – the reason of their noteworthy and, in many cases, surprisingly high realizations.”

1851 12P BLACK

Other highlights include Lot 227, a used example of a “marvellous, world-class rarity,” the 1851 12-penny black on handmade laid paper.

Among the most coveted classic stamps of all the British Empire, this lot realized $85,000.


Among the top postal history highlights was Lot 192, an April 19, 1919 cover franked with a three-cent “Martinsyde” manuscript airmail stamp.

The handwritten manuscript “Aerial Atlantic Mail, J.A.R.” was applied by Postmaster General J. Alex Robinson on a 1919 three-cent “Trail of the Caribou” stamp, which is tied by a St. John’s machine cancel. The cover is endorsed by sender “Per Aeroplane ‘Raymor’ Newfoundland to Britain by courtesy of Major C.W.F. Morgan and F.P. Rainham Esq.”

One of about 18 Martinsyde covers known, this lot realized $35,000.


An imperforate 1860 one-shilling orange issued by Newfoundland on vertical laid paper was offered as Lot 93.

“While searching for other known examples, some sources indicated that perhaps as many as six or as few as three examples are thought to exist on vertically laid paper,” said Tanguay, who added a single on horizontally laid paper is “believed to be unique.”

Described as an “impressive mint example of this very rare stamp,” this lot realized $32,500.


Lots 157-163 included presentation folders and artist’s essays for Newfoundland’s 1932 First Resources issue sold for a combined $32,500.

This grouping included John Dickinson and Company presentation folders for the one-cent codfish stamp (Lot 157) as well as artist’s essays for the five-cent caribou (Lot 158); 14-cent Newfoundland dog (Lot 159); 15-cent harp seal (Lot 160); 20-cent Cape Race (Lot 161); 25-cent sealing fleet (Lot 162); and 30-cent fishing fleet (Lot 163).

Each of the seven lots sold for well over their pre-sale estimates of $2,500 each.


The only known registered cover to Bulgaria in the Small Queen/registered letter stamp (RLS) period realized $16,000 as Lot 1320.

Mailed to Yambol, Bulgaria, in January 1886 and endorsed “per S.S. Sardinian via London & Vienna,” this cover is franked by a 10-cent bright rose lilac Small Queen (Montreal printing) and a five-cent green RLS, both clearly tied by socked-on-nose crown “REGISTERED” cancellations.

It’s one among “the most impressive and important” five-cent RLS covers to a foreign destination, Tanguay said.


Lot 98 was an imperforate 1860 four-penny orange stamp on thin hard wove paper issued by Newfoundland.

“After researching countless auction catalogues and name-sales of the past, we were only able to find one other mint example of the four-pence orange that can rival this wonderful stamp,” said Tanguay, who added the “amazing mint single” sold by Eastern Auctions this November is among the most visually striking Newfoundland Pence issue stamps.

It realized for $13,500.


A 25-cent rate cover mailed in January 1870 from Sydney, Cape Breton, to a lieutenant on HMS Lee at Malta was offered as Lot 806.

Bearing two single 12.5-cent blue stamps on medium wove paper, side by side and tied by a two-ring “10” numeral cancel and with a Sydney split-ring circular date stamp at left, this lot sold for $13,000.

“Only one other 25-cent letter rate to Malta has been recorded,” Tanguay said, adding the other example – from the same correspondence – is “in somewhat better overall condition, but with two-ring cancels noticeably inferior.”


Rounding out the highlights was Lot 122, an “extraordinary mint pair” of two-cent green codfish stamps issued by Newfoundland in 1879.

With its lower stamp described as “the finest example one can hope for,” this lot realized $6,000, topping its catalogue value of $1,500 by four times.

For more information, visit easternauctions.com.

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