166-year-old stamp sets Canadian record at Ottawa auction

Realizations do not include 15 per cent buyer’s premium

Last week, Canada’s first three stamps sold at an Ottawa auction—and each for what’s believed to be a record price—as part of the sale of the Outaouais Collection.

Sparks Auctions began its 25th public auction with Canada’s first three postage stamps in mint condition. Each of the three lots sold for what auctioneers believe are record prices, including the $285,000 realized for Lot 3, an 1851 Queen Victoria 12-penny black that sold to a bidder on the floor.

According to the auction catalogue, the 166-year-old stamp was owned by Charles Lathrop Pack as the top stamp in a vertical pair. It is position 60 within a plate of 100 stamps. The pair was sold at auction in 1944 and again in 1959; however, it was separated by 1976 and received a certificate from Herbert Bloch.

The stamp is described by auctioneers as having “deep colour and a clear distinct impression, four large margins, full original gum lightly hinged, [and] easily visible laid lines.” It’s accompanied by three certificates of authenticity, including a 1976 Friedl Expert Committee certificate; 1983 Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation certificate; and a 2013 Greene Foundation certificate.

A similar example sold at an auction in Halifax in 2013 for $195,000 to establish the previous record price.

Sparks Auctions President Ian Kimmerly said he “knew that several collectors would be competing for the twelve penny black, as our September auction represented one of the few chances to acquire an undeniable classic of Canadian and world philately. Nevertheless, we did not anticipate the true bidding war that resulted in this new record price.”

From left to right: Scott #1a sold for $66,000 as Lot 1; SC #2b brought $54,000 as Lot 2; and SC #3 realized $285,000 as Lot 3.


Long considered one of the classic stamps of the world, the 12-penny black was recognized from the earliest days of philately as a rare and desirable item.

Engraved by Alfred Jones and printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, of New York City, the Alfred Edward Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria was copied by Bahamas, Queensland, Tasmania, New Zealand, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and other British Colonies.

A high denomination for the day, it was not in common use. Although 51,000 were printed, a lack of demand meant only 1,510 were distributed to post offices. Even in the late-19th century, mint copies of the stamp were regularly sold by British stamp dealers for £1,000.


The first domestic rate stamp of Canada, the three-penny beaver, sold for $66,000. Canada’s second stamp, an unused six-penny Prince Albert Consort that paid the rate to the U.S., sold for $54,000.

For more information about Sparks Auction #25, visit sparks-auctions.com.

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