Rare pioneer, semi-official airmails to lead November Eastern sale

By Jesse Robitaille

Mint examples of most of the pioneer and semi-official airmail stamps, varieties and errors listed in the Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps are set to cross the auction block in New Brunswick this November.

Eastern Auctions will offer the D’Arcy Mosher Collection of Canadian pioneer and semi-official airmail material as part of a three-session public auction with 979 lots on Nov. 18-20. The Mosher Collection will open session two (Lots 297-659) on Nov. 19 at 1:30 p.m. (AT). Pioneer airmail stamps run offered from Lots 297-408 followed by semi-official airmail flight covers from Lots 409-422.

“It is a substantial holding for anyone looking for these airmail stamps in mint condition,” said Yohann Tanguay, a stamp specialist and chief describer with Eastern Auctions, who added multiples, panes and “a few” airmail covers are also on offer.

“To emphasize, a large percentage of the basic listed mint stamps, varieties and errors currently listed in the Unitrade specialized catalogue, as well as in the current Scott ‘Classic’ catalogue, will be offered in our November sale. The Patricia Airways & Exploration Co. section is notably impressive, loaded with rarities that only surface on the market once in a while.”

Mosher has been an “enthusiastic collector” of Canadian pioneer airmail stamps and semi-official airmail stamps for “many years,” Tanguay said.

“Special attention and effort were made in trying to acquire the airmails stamps that are considered the rarities and the very elusive varieties. Many of them we do not recall offering previously.”

Pioneer airmail refers to the early 20th-century development of postal aviation (specifically the stamps, covers and flights up to about 1918, according to the Fédération Internationale de Philatélie Aerophilately Commission).

Semi-official airmail stamps were applied to airmail between 1924 and 1934, according to the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society (CAS). The Post Office Department authorized these stamps and sold them from post offices, according to the December 1994 CAS journal, the Canadian Aerophilatelist, but it “did not assume responsibility for the airmail, nor did it help with the cost of the airmail service.”

“There were many navigating the Canadian skies between 1924 and 1932,” said Tanguay. “From Laurentide Air Service to Canadian Airways, they had been approved by the Canadian Post Office Department (POD) to carry official post office mail along with supplies and passengers to remote locations. The POD was also in charge of accepting stamp designs – but not the printing – and deciding on postal rates.”


Among the early Mosher Collection highlights is one of the “very few” never-hinged (NH) examples of what Tanguay called “the iconic Canadian airmail stamp.”

The 25-cent green and yellow airmail issue (#CLP6) is one of only 100 stamps printed in 1927 for a flight from London, Ont., to London, England. About 87 examples were affixed to letters, and only one cover and 13 mint original-gum (OG) hinged examples – even fewer with NH status – have survived from the original print run. The attempted transatlantic flight crashed shortly after take-off from Harbour Grace, Nfld., on Sept. 7 of that year, and pilot Terrance Tully and navigator James Medcalf “lost their lives and were never seen again,” Tanguay wrote in the auction catalogue.

Offered as Lot 306 and described by Tanguay as being in Very Fine (VF) NH condition, it’s estimated at $40,000-plus. It’s accompanied by 2021 Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation and 1987 Enzo Diena certificates.

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