Big ticket sales make for a fun year

This year we will be seeing the sale of some great rarities, two of the only three-known two-cent large queens on laid paper (Scott #32) and the British Guiana one-cent magenta. Considering the fact that we are barely into 2014, it looks like it could be one very interesting year from a philatelic perspective. What I find really interesting is that these stamps, for the most part, have interesting stories. In fact, when you think about it, most great stamps seem to come with a bit of a tale.

In the case of the British Guiana, the stamp turned up in a bunch of family papers, the most recently discovered SC #32 was spotted by a regular collector in a circuit book. The inverted Jenny was found by an alert collector keenly aware of the possibility that such an error could occur, and even the most famous Canadian error, the Seaway invert, was spotted by office workers after using a few for regular mail.
To the collector these are dreams come true. Who wouldn’t love to spot a great rarity on an old piece of correspondence, or find it being offered for a modest price by an unknowing seller? For the collector, the excitement isn’t just about the money reward; it is the joy of discovery, and knowing that such a discovery puts you down in the philatelic record.

Michael Smith, whose story appears in this issue, will always be noted in the provenance of his discovery of the third-known large queen, no matter what famous collections eventually form its pedigree. Another interesting fact is that these rarities, despite all the talk of a gloom and doom economy and world debt spinning out of control, are being offered with some very aggressive estimates. Sure, there may be some desire by the auctioneer to promote, but the market for rarities does seem robust. Last year plenty of records were set, including the highest bid ever paid for a single stamp in Canada, when Gary Lyon auctioned off a 12-penny black for $224,250.

Just a few years ago, a plate block of four inverted Jenny stamps sold for a little less than $3 million in the U.S. Recent years have also seen sales of incredible collections, such as Sir Gawain Baillie and William H. Gross. In Canada, the sale of the Ron Brigham collection will take several years, with several sales per year. True, in uncertain times money often flocks to tangible assets, but to invest big money in stamps implies a believe that there will be a future buyer out there with available cash. Now, I will be the first to admit that these sales take place in a stratospheric world well above the means of the vast majority of CSN readers. But the top of the market is a good indicator of the health of the entire hobby.

Naysayers like to whine about how the stamp hobby is dying off, that there are no new collectors, and that there aren’t enough kids involved. I suggest that they should take some time and read some old philatelic periodicals. The early issues of CSN are filled with similar comments, dating back more than 30 years. Yes, an entire generation of collectors have entered the market in that time and now they are setting records. I think we have some great years ahead, starting with 2014.

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