$25K expected for ‘best Small Queen cover’

By Jesse Robitaille

What’s widely regarded by experts as the greatest, most important Small Queen cover is expected to bring $25,000 during a general sale hosted by New Brunswick’s Eastern Auctions this November.

Offered as Lot 887 of the Nov. 9-10 sale, this “phenomenal” registered cover was mailed to Tonsberg, Norway, in July 1875. It includes a se-tenant pair along with a single 10-cent pale milky rose lilac Small Queen from the Montreal printings. The single is tied by a “superb” straight-line “REGISTERED” hand stamp, and the pair is tied by three strikes of a Halifax split-ring dispatch circular date stamp (CDS). The cover also displays an oval registered “7 AU 75” London transit stamp in red as well as red crayon accountancy marks.

“This cover has three earlier printings of the 10-cent Small Queen correctly paying the rate to Norway. The placement of the stamps and the postal markings accentuate the overall outstanding eye-appeal of this incredible rate cover,” said auction cataloguer Yohann Tanguay. “This is widely regarded by all the experts as the best Small Queen cover.”

The cover is one of only three registered covers still in existence after being mailed to continental Europe prior to the Universal Postal Union’s establishment in 1874, said Tanguay.

“This cover beats them,” he added, of the other two examples, including one to Germany that was underpaid by eight cents and another to Madrid, Spain.

“The fact this cover has the very sought-after early printing of the 10-cent Small Queen – and it’s only franked with that denomination – makes it very appealing. The registration fee was 16 cents and the rate to Norway was 14 cents, so 30 cents is perfect,” said Tanguay, who added covers with a correctly paid rate are preferred by collectors compared to underpaid or overpaid rates.

“You hardly find this printing on a cover alone, but this cover has three.”


The two-day, 1,194-lot general sale will feature material from Canada, British North America and abroad with four first-class collections, including:

  • the Daniel Cantor Collection of Essays, Proofs and Imperforates of Canada;
  • the Alastair Bain Collection of Canadian Semi-Official Airmails;
  • the Graham McCleave New Brunswick Postal History Collections of the Early Colonial and Decimal Periods; and
  • the Burma Collection of Alan Meech.

The Canada section, which features more than 800 lots of essays, proofs and imperforates alongside some “remarkable postal history,” will be offered from Lot 723-1554.

Highlights include the only known registered cover to Bulgaria in the Small Queen/registered letter stamp (RLS) period. Offered as Lot 1320, this “sensational” cover was mailed to Yambol, Bulgaria in January 1886 and endorsed “per S.S. Sardinian via London & Vienna.” Described by Tanguay as “remarkably choice and of extraordinary appeal,” it features a franking of a 10-cent bright rose lilac Small Queen (Montreal printing) and a five-cent green RLS, both clearly tied by socked-on-nose crown “REGISTERED” cancellations. There’s also a Halifax “JA 23 86” dispatch CDS next to an oval registered “2 FE” London transit stamp in red. On the reverse is a Bulgarian CDS postmark of Sofia, which is the capital of the Balkan nation.

“This fabulous cover is on – if not at the top of – the short-list of the most impressive and important five-cent registered letter stamp covers to a foreign destination,” said Tanguay, who added this lot has a pre-sale estimate of $15,000.

Other Canadian highlights include a “phenomenal” die proof of the 10-cent Small Queen on watermarked wove paper and in its intended colour of issue, rose-lilac.

Described as “quite likely the most desirable among the very few existing coloured die proofs,” Lot 845 shows a “very prominent” double-line papermaker’s “188” watermark, which is sideways, reading down and measures 24 millimetres by 30 mm.

“This is very rare, and there are very few die proofs in this colour. Plus, it’s a popular denomination,” said Tanguay, who added Small Queen collectors are typically most interested in the three-, six- and 10-cent issues.

This lot has a pre-sale estimate of $20,000.

Rounding out the Canadian highlights is Lot 947, a “very scarce” imperforate tête-bêche strip of a dozen 1900 two-cent carmine (die two) stamps on horizontal wove paper. One of only 14 strips issued from a single booklet sheet of 168 stamps – and one of only 12 remaining intact – this example is seldom offered in any condition and “will certainly stand out in a collection,” Tanguay said.

This lot has a pre-sale estimate of $15,000.


Moving on to British North America, which will be offered from Lot 615-667, there are “many exceptional items, including some never reported before,” Tanguay said, of the McCleave Collection.

McCleave, who died on Oct. 6 at the age of 82, was a noteworthy collector, award-winning exhibitor and a Fellow of The Royal Philatelic Society of Canada.

“Here we have one of the foremost collectors of New Brunswick. We have his collection of stampless and decimal covers, and there are some very important pieces,” said Tanguay, who added the material was “meticulously” collected for more than three decades.

Highlights include an “extremely rare soldier rate cover” mailed at the two-cent soldier letter rate from Woodstock, Ont., to Scotland in January 1862. Bearing two single one-cent brown lilac stamps tied by oval mute grids, the cover is countersigned by the commanding captain of the Royal Artillery of New Brunswick. On the reverse are two strikes of a Woodstock “JA 18” dispatch datestamps along with Saint John, N.B. “JA 21” and Saltcoats, Scotland “FE 6 1862” split ring receivers.

Offered as Lot 647, this piece has a pre-sale estimate of $3,000.

Rounding out the highlights is another cover, this an orange envelope solely franked with 10 examples of New Brunswick’s 1860 one-cent locomotive stamp. Mailed in September 1861 from Saint John, N.B. to Cambridge, it displays a “spectacular” franking consisting of a pair, a strip of three and a horizontal strip of five one-cent locomotive stamps tied by light oval grids.

“Why would you put 10 copies of the one-cent stamp when you could easily put a 10-cent stamp or a five-cent stamp?” said Tanguay, who added it’s “a very unusual and striking way to pay a double domestic letter rate of 10 cents.”

“I don’t think there’s anything else like it, and the fact it was owned by Dale-Lichtenstein probably tells you it may be – may be – unique. I don’t recall ever seeing another one.”

Described as being “ideal for exhibition,” this example – Lot 655 – has a pre-sale estimate of $1,500.


The two-day general sale will follow the first part of the Highlands Collection of British North America, which will be offered a day earlier. Altogether, 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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