Holyoake registered mail collection highlights Spink sale

Spink offered the Alan Holyoake Grand Prix Collection of British and International Registered Mail earlier this month at the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL) headquarters in England.

Holyoake won the Grand Prix at the London 2010 International Stamp Exhibition for his exhibit, “The First Line Engraved Postage Stamps.” Seven years later, he was appointed to the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists.

His registered mail collection crossed the block on Oct. 6.


Britain introduced registered mail on Jan. 6, 1841.

“This service required an additional fee of one shilling to be paid in cash and the address side of the letter was marked accordingly,” according to the auction catalogue, which added the rate was reduced to sixpence in 1848 with further reductions were made in later years. “There was no compensation offered for losses until 1878.”

Fourteen days after Britain launched registered mail, someone mailed a wrapper franked with Britain’s “Penny Black” – the world’s first stamp, issued in May 1840 – from London to Bath, about 155 kilometres to the west. This Penny Black originated from plate five (out of 11 plates) with “J” and “G” check letters in the bottom-left and -right corners, respectively. It’s tied by an orange-red Maltese Cross and a faint strike of “Strand W.O.” in black.

The cover is also marked with a large manuscript “Registered Letter” across the top, to the left of the franking, and a London Paid despatch datestamp plus a manuscript “1/-” for the registration.

Offered as Lot 14, it’s the earliest known registered cover franked with a Penny Black; however, it went unsold in the recent Holyoake Collection sale. It carried an estimate of £40,000-£60,000 (about $68,400-$102,600 Cdn.) with a starting bid of £32,000 (about $54,700 Cdn.).

An 1858 cover mailed from Barrie (present-day Ontario) to London, England, brought more than $15,000 at the recent Spink sale.


The 321-lot sale also featured covers from countries mailed to and from present-day Canada.

The top Canadian highlight was an 1858 cover described by auctioneers as “stunning.” Mailed to London, England, from Barrie (then a part of the Province of Canada), the cover is franked by an 1857 imperforate 7.5-pence yellow-green stamp (Scott #9) plus an 1852 three-penny “beaver” (SC #4) tied by a circular numeral “1″ handstamp. There’s also a Barrie despatch circular datestamp at the left and an unframed red “REGISTERED” handstamp in the top-left corner. A manuscript registration number is in the centre alongside a manuscript “6” while a strike of the London wide crown “REGISTERED” handstamp is at the right. On the reverse are circular datestamps from Toronto and London.

It brought £9,000 (about $15,400 Cdn.) as Lot 226.

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