‘Prices quite strong’ at latest Eastern sale

By Jesse Robitaille

Realizations do not include 15 per cent buyer’s premium

complete set of eight imperforate pairs from the King George V Admiral Issue and an imperforate pair of 1916 War Tax stamps highlighted the recent sale of the John Smallman Collection by Eastern Auctions.

Offered as the first lot in the Feb. 23 sale, the set contained eight imperforate pairs ranging in denomination from four cents to $1 plus an imperforate pair of 1916 two- plus one-cent Die II War Tax stamps (Scott #MR4c). Altogether, the lot realized $23,000.

“I think it’s one of the very best collections we’ve ever seen. It was well received,” said auctioneer and owner of the New Brunswick-based auction house Gary Lyon, of the 646-lot sale.

“The sale was pretty good, and prices were quite strong. Bidders were knowledgable, for the most part, and aware of the strength and quality of the lathework and the other lots offered.”

Assembled throughout four decades, the John Smallman Collection of the Admiral Issue of Canada included extensive offerings of strong Admiral lathework and imprint multiples.


In 1916, the Canadian Bank Note Co. (then a subsidiary of the American Bank Note Co.) began engraving stamps with lathework in the selvedge or margins of sheets. There are four basic types of lathework (Types A through D) as well as “a couple additional minor types that are rarely seen,” according to Lyon.

An “outstanding” horizontal strip of four 1916 two- plus one-cent Die II War Tax stamps (SC #MR4) showing a “very rare and unusually strong impression” of Type B inverted lathework was offered as Lot 109. Only a handful of inverted Type B lathework examples are known to exist, and this example was described by auctioneers as “quite possibly the only one known with clear double lathework.” It sold for $13,000.

Another lathework rarity was offered as Lot 154, a mint horizontal strip of four 1924 two-cent stamps, wet printing (SC #133), showing the “exceedingly rare” Type D1 inverted lathework.

“This multiple demonstrates the longest uninterrupted lathework known to exist in private hands,” said Lyon, who added this lot sold for $11,000.


A “visually striking mint block of four” 1923 50-cent stamps (SC #120ii) – the only such block known to exist – was offered as Lot 224. Displaying “full strength” Type D lathework, this example sold for $11,500.

The following lot offered a mint block of four 1923 50-cent stamps (SC #120ii) with about 40 per cent strength Type D lathework. It brought $8,500.

A single 1923 50-cent stamp (SC #120ii) – described by Lyon as a “phenomenal Admiral showpiece” – also brought $8,500 as Lot 226.

Lot 95 offered an “outstanding mint block of six” 10-cent plum stamps (SC #116) showing rare “full strength” Type B lathework. Ranking among the most elusive lathework types, this example sold for $8,500.

A “phenomenal” block of four two-cent stamps, wet printing (SC #132), displaying “unusually complete and full strength” Type C inverted lathework was offered as Lot 127. It brought $8,500.


Rounding out the highlights of the Smallman Collection was a section of lathework covers that ran from Lot 251-267.

“We had multiple phone bidders on those, and they all brought at least double estimate,” said Lyon, who added there haven’t been many examples on the market as of late, but there are “quite a few collectors for them.”

“People used to tear the margins off before they stuck the stamp on, but once in a while you still get one that still has the lathework.”


On Feb. 24, Eastern Auctions also held a 639-lot general sale highlighted by a selection of Admiral die proofs.

“They were very strong, with individual proofs bringing up to $6,500,” said Lyon.

One example was Lot 1027, a set of 12 engraved trial colour die proofs (stamp size) in black on India paper. This lot, which included all 12 denominations from the Admiral Issue – including the unissued six cent – realized $18,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $10,000.

“It’s truly rare,” said Lyon, who added it’s likely only “five or six” examples exist.

Other die proof highlights included Lot 1213, a two- plus one-cent brown Die I War Tax stamp (SC #MR4a) on India paper measuring 63 mm by 76 mm and die sunk on a large card measuring 127 mm by 173 mm. It sold for $6,500 after a pre-sale estimate of $3,500.

A die proof of the three-cent brown (SC #108) on India paper measuring 60 mm by 72 mm was offered as Lot 1039. It brought $5,250 after a pre-sale estimate of $3,000.


With bidders from multiple continents, including North America, Europe, Asia and South America, the general sale was similarly strong outside of the die proof section.

Highlights included Lot 729, a “spectacular” mint block of four 1897 (October) one-cent on three-cent grey lilac provisional surcharge stamps (SC #75b). Showing the exceedingly rare omitted “ONE CENT” as well as the lower bar variety on the lower pair, this example realized $10,500.

“A number of dealers remarked after the sale that prices were strong from beginning to end from that general sale,” said Lyon, who added the phone lines were busy. “There were some lots where we had six phone bidders. If anything, surprisingly, the general sale was stronger than the Admirals.”

For more information, visit easternauctions.com.

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