‘Must have’ 1870 Small Queen die proof to highlight Sparks sale

By Jesse Robitaille

Described by auctioneers as a “must have for any serious Small Queen collector” and a boon to exhibitors of the long-running series, an 1870 one-cent Small Queen large die proof is expected to bring $10,000 at auction this May.

To be offered as Lot 67 of Sparks Auctions’ four-session “Sale 30,” the black die proof is sunken in and pasted to a card measuring 51 millimetres by 77 millimetres with 10 guidelines around the design and lathework at the bottom.

“This is a very rare item, and anyone who puts it in an exhibit is surely to have better results,” said Stéphane Cloutier, director of lotting and consignments for the Ottawa-based auction house.

“For one thing, it demonstrates knowledge. If you’re showing die proofs, plate proofs or pre-production material – it shows you’ve done your research and have knowledge of the printing process,” said Cloutier, who added exhibitors receive points for rarity, knowledge and research “and an item like that would definitely help.”

One of only four believed to exist, the die proof belongs to the John Hillson Collection, which will be offered from Lots 1-559 and features high-quality Small Queens, Canadian revenues, British line-engraved issues and more from across the Commonwealth.

It’s slated to cross the block during a single-day auction on May 22 with a separate catalogue.

“The Hillson Collection is something that doesn’t come around very often because of the high quality he bought for his collection. He only bought very high-quality items; if you go through the sale, you’ll see there are almost no faults,” said Cloutier. “He was a man that enjoyed a good-looking stamp.”

Hillson authored two editions of The Small Queens of Canada handbook before co-writing Canada’s Postage Stamps of the Small Queen Era, 1870-1897 with long-time collector and exhibitor Ted Nixon, who’s also the chair and treasurer of the Greene Foundation.

Hillson was also named a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society of London and British North America Philatelic Society before his death in 2017.

Other highlights of the Hillson Collection include Lot 32, a used 1880 15-cent deep violet Large Queen on thick carton paper. With a Montréal cancel, the stamp is described by Cloutier as an “extremely fine and fresh stamp without any of the faults normally seen on this difficult paper.”

“I’ve never seen this stamp in such a high quality,” he added.

It has a catalogue value of $2,000.

Also belonging to the Hillson Collection is Lot 283, an 1894 registered Intercolonial Railway of Canada perforated initials (or “perfin”) cover. Mailed on Oct. 30, 1894, from Boundary Creek, N.S., to Moncton, N.B., the cover is franked with a three-cent Small Queen and a five-cent registered letter stamp, both of which include the “ICR” perfin, only a handful of which are known to exist on cover.

“A fresh and very fine cover, with many rare or ideal attributes,” it has a pre-sale estimate of $1,500, Cloutier said.


The upcoming 2,584-lot sale, which is Sparks largest auction to date, will feature four named collections.

“Not only because of the number of lots but also because of the quality and variety, there’s something for all collecting interests and budgets,” said Cloutier, who added it’s Sparks first four-day sale.

The Andrew Liptak Collection, which will be offered among Lots 601-1017, features material from not only Canada but the Netherlands, India, Great Britain, Hungary and more.

Liptak, who died in 2014, is perhaps best known for his Canadian blog “Postal History Corner,” which is still online at postalhistorycorner.blogspot.com.

“He counselled beginners on how to collect and exhibit, pleased that he could help other collectors and promote postal history, all the while remaining anonymous,” said Cloutier, who added Liptak’s work “fuelled his ongoing drive to tell the history of Canada’s mail and provided intense satisfaction when he found covers that told the story.”

Highlights of the Liptak Collection include Lot 663, a 1924 Rouyn-to-Haileybury flight cover mailed from Rouyn Lake, Qué., on Oct. 22, 1924, and addressed to London, England. Franked with Admirals totalling four cents and with a Laurentides Air Service 25-cent red stamp on the back, this cover is described by Cloutier as “very fine.” It has a catalogue value of $375.

Other collections on offer include the 750-lot Windsor Park Collection, which features modern Canadian varieties, plus the nearly 300-lot Ames Collection of Canadian Admiral stamps.

“The Ames Collection also has a lot of things you don’t often see,” said Cloutier, referencing Lots 1629 and 1630, each of which offers a set of three 1915 “War Tax” Admirals (SC #MR2B-MR2D).

Both sets include five-, 20- and 50-cent denominations, each of which is in mint hinged condition.

The first set is overprinted with “INLAND REVENUE WAR TAX” plus the word “Sample” in purple cursive writing.

The second set is overprinted with “WAR TAX” plus the word “Sample” in purple cursive.

Both lots have a pre-sale estimate of $750.

Rounding out the highlights is a collection of worldwide stamps in 94 global stamp albums with slipcases “as received and left entirely intact,” said Cloutier. With a pre-sale estimate of $15,000, Lot 2546 includes a mix of mint and used stamps plus “lots of never hinged in mounts.”

“Most of the stamp-issuing countries of the world are represented in this collection, with many countries being quite extensive,” said Cloutier, who added Sparks has never offered an intact collection of this size before.

“It’s also unreserved, which is important to mention, so bidding started at $5.”

The sale, which is one of three major auctions hosted by Sparks each year, will be held May 22-25.

“Don’t forget that all our sales are conducted in Canadian dollars, with an industry low 15 per cent buyer’s fee,” added Cloutier.

For more information about the upcoming Sparks sale, visit sparks-auctions.com or stampauctionnetwork.com/IK/IK30.cfm.

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