Once-in-a-lifetime ‘Opportunity’ in first part of Eastern’s ‘Highlands Collection’ sale

By Jesse Robitaille

One of the rarest mint pieces in all of British North America philately, an “outstanding” imperforate example of the 1865 Vancouver Island five-cent rose stamp (Scott #3), is expected to bring $125,000 at auction this November.

Described by auctioneers as “a handsome and peerless example with impeccable provenance,” the stamp comes from the famed Gerald Wellburn Collection. It will be offered by New Brunswick’s Eastern Auctions in the first part of the Highlands Collection of British North America on Nov. 8.

“Wellburn collected British Columbia all his life, and this is the rarest stamp of British Columbia in general,” said Yohann Tanguay, auction catalogue describer. “There are hardly any copies available. From my understanding, there’s only one finer example, and it sold for well over $100,000 many years ago, so it will be very interesting to see what it brings now.”

According to Wellburn, only 30 imperforate sheets of the five-cent rose stamp were included in the sole shipment of the Vancouver Island stamps from De La Rue in London, England.

Of those examples, only a “very small number” of five-cent imperforate mint stamps with original gum exist in sound condition, Tanguay said, adding the most recent single sold in 2006 for $86,250 US, including buyer’s premium.

The example to be offered by Eastern Auctions, which is in mint condition with original gum, will be Lot 8 of the 360-lot sale of the Highlands Collection.


The Highlands Collection consignor, who wishes to remain anonymous, began collecting British North America in the mid-1970s. Built over four decades, the “extraordinary multi-million dollar holding offers impressive coverage and consistently high quality.”

“The collection is reminiscent in style and scope to the greatest collections of the past, with strong emphasis on the pre-Confederation era,” said Tanguay, who added the sale will be offered in multiple parts.

“If you look back at important collections of the past, like Louise Boyd Dale, Alfred Lichtenstein and Lewis Redford, this pretty much falls into the same category. Instead of having it all in one sale, auction houses decide to have three sales with a nice representation of everything so people don’t become overwhelmed. There are a lot of important pieces.”

The first part is entitled “Opportunity” owing to the collection’s once-in-a-lifetime significance.

Some of the sale’s lots have been off the market for more than 40 years, Tanguay said.

“Decades of diligence and patience are required to put together such a holding, leaving collectors with perhaps only one or two chances in their entire lifetime to acquire an item.”

Additional parts – “Provenance” and “Quality” – will be offered at a later date.


Other top highlights of the first part of the Highlands Collection include one of the most coveted classic stamps of the whole British Empire, an 1851 imperforate 12-penny black on laid paper (SC #3). Described as “a marvellous used example of this world-class rarity,” it’s among the nicest postally used examples available, Tanguay said.

A total of 51,000 12-penny blacks – 255 sheets each with 200 stamps – were issued in June 1851; however, the stamp proved unpopular with the public due to its limited usage for specific postal rates to distant destinations. Only 1,510 stamps were distributed among 14 post offices, and only 1,450 stamps were sold in fewer than six years of use. All remaining stamps were destroyed in May 1857.

To be offered as Lot 227, this example has a catalogue value of $180,000.


An “outstanding and exceedingly rare” pair of 1921 Newfoundland airmail stamps (SC #C3a and C3e) displaying two types of the inverted overprint error – one being the rarest type – will be offered as Lot 197.

In 1921, Newfoundland overprinted its 35-cent “Coast Scenery” stamp from 1897 (SC #73) with the words “AIR MAIL to Halifax, N.S. / 1921.”

“There are four sheets of 25 known with the invert, and each sheet of 25 has a different centring of the overprint. This is from the best-centred sheet, from what we call sheet No. 1,” said Tanguay. “To have this unhinged is unheard of.”

The left stamp (SC #C3a) is a “great rarity,” he added, as only four examples were printed. It includes the sought-after “1” of 1921 below the “f” in Halifax.

This lot has a catalogue value of $32,250.


A mint block of six five-penny beavers (SC #15) with full never hinged original gum will be offered as Lot 257.

“You hardly ever see early multiples never hinged. This is among the very few and earliest multiples that is truly never hinged in Canada,” said Tanguay. “This would be probably your earliest issue of Canada you could find never hinged and as a multiple.”

This lot has a catalogue value of $9,000.


Among the top postal history highlights is Lot 192, an April 19, 1919 three-cent “Martinsyde” manuscript airmail stamp clearly tied to “an equally remarkable cover,” said Tanguay.

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 (Scott #117), 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.”

In 1919, London’s Daily Mail offered a £10,000 prize for the first non-stop flight over the Atlantic Ocean. The first plane – known as the Hawker, which is represented in the previous lot of the sale – was forced down in the ocean more than 1,000 kilometres away from the coast.

A second plane, the “Martinsyde” Raymor, was piloted by Rainham and navigated by Morgan. It also competed for the Daily Mail prize. The crew arrived at St. John’s on April 10, 1919 and assembled their plane in the shortest time possible. The first attempt was made on May 18, 1919; however, the aircraft dipped on takeoff and its landing gear dug into the ground. Morgan sustained injuries that incapacitated him for a second attempt.

Following the third failed attempt, Rainham sailed for England on the SS Grampian with the Martinsyde mailbag. The cover – as with all known Martinsyde covers – was backstamped with a London, England double ring datestamp on Jan. 7, 1920.

“There are about 18 ‘Martinsyde’ covers known,” said Tanguay, who added there’s a pre-sale estimate of $40,000.


Other postal history highlights include Lot 32, a “magnificent and celebrated cover to France” that’s widely regarded as the most prized cover of New Brunswick’s decimal period of 1860-68.

“The rate, the usage of the 17-cent stamp and the fact that very few covers exist – plus it goes to France and it’s combined with another stamp – make this cover really remarkable. If you compare it to all that exist within the decimal period, this is a very outstanding cover.”

Bearing both a 10-cent vermillion and 17-cent black stamp tied by light oval mute grid cancels, this lot is described as “a great cover for a gold-medal exhibit.” It also features a “more to pay” manuscript crossed out; a Sept. 24, 1867 Saint John, N.B. dispatch on reverse; an Oct. 5, 1867 London “paid” circular transit datestamp in red; a French oval “PD” handstamp in red; an Oct. 6 Calais transit on back; and three different French transit and arrival circular datestamp postmarks.

This example, which pays a unique 27-cent rate to France, has a pre-sale estimate of $15,000, which is “as high as you’ll see for a decimal cover of New Brunswick,” Tanguay added.


An 1,194-lot general sale of British North America, Canada and worldwide material will also be offered on Nov. 9 and 10. Among the highlights of the general sale are the Alastair Bain Collection of Canadian Semi-Official Airmails; the Graham McCleave New Brunswick Postal History Collections of Early Colonial and Decimal Periods; the Daniel Cantor Collection of Essays, Proofs and Imperforates of Canada; and the Burma Collection of Alan Meech.

The entire three-session, 1,554-lot sale will be offered Nov. 8-10 at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax, N.S.

For more information, visit easternauctions.com.

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