Rare used 12-penny black pair brings $165K

All Nations Stamp & Coin, based in Vancouver, B.C., has brokered the private sale of one of just a few known used pairs of the “Black Empress of Canada” (Scott #3).

The rare pair was sold to one of the firm’s local clients, the anonymous collector behind the “Douglas Collection,” for $165,000 this August. It’s believed to be one of only two or three known used pairs; the Siegel Census lists only two used Black Empress pairs.

“The 12-pence black is missing from most collections, and multiples are rare,” said All Nations owner and auctioneer Brian Grant Duff. “This is possibly the finest of three known used pairs.”

Its provenance includes renowned collectors Charles Lathrop Pack, Sigmund Adler, Clare Jephcott, Art Leggett, Duane Hillmer and Daniel Cantor, Duff said.

“So far, I have not been able to provenance it prior to 1945,” he added. “At least one other used pair, also from the Charles Lathrop Pack Collection, was broken up to meet demand for singles.”

Late philatelist Clifton Armstrong Howes used the pair sold this August among the illustration plates in his 1911 book, Canada: Its Postage Stamps and Postal Stationery.

The 12-penny black’s rarity today relates to its issuance in 1851: while 51,000 stamps (plus a proof imprint sheet) were shipped to the Province of Canada’s postal officials on May 14, 1851, the 12-penny black proved unpopular with the public, and only 1,450 stamps were sold with the remainder destroyed.

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