Auction preview: Australia’s most valuable stamp expected to bring $120k

Later this month, a second example of what’s generally known as Australia’s most valuable stamp will be offered at auction.

Lot 224, a rare 1936 King Edward VIII two-penny scarlet stamp, is expected to bring $120,000 AUD during Mossgreen Auctions’ June 26-27 Stamps and Postal History Sale. The item’s rarity is owed to the fact it was never officially issued because of the king’s abdication and was supposed to be burned.

It is, as the auction catalogue notes, “one of the great rarities of the Australian Commonwealth and the British Empire and the pre-eminent stamp from the very brief reign of King Edward VIII.”

Nearly one year after the death of King George V on Jan. 20, 1936, his immediate successor (and his eldest son) Edward VIII abdicated the throne after a reign of only 326 days. The next in line to the throne was George VI, who eventually reigned from Dec. 11, 1936 and Feb. 6, 1952.

“These don’t appear in catalogues” Torsten Weller, head of philately at Mossgreen, told the Financial Review. “One isn’t held in the Royal Collection, so even the Queen doesn’t have an example. And it’s not in the Australian Post archive either.”

Following King George V’s death, Australia’s postal department began planning a new two-penny stamp depicting the next king, Edward VIII; however, after his abdication, the department ordered any stamps depicting Edward VIII to be destroyed along with any proofs, dies or other printing equipment.

Despite the orders, a small portion of a complete sheet of the Edward VIII two-penny scarlets—given as a gift to Victorian Governor Lord Huntingfield during a visit to the printer—made its way out into the world. A block of six stamps was removed from the sheet’s lower right-hand corner.

Lot 224 is a marginal example from the base of a sheet with the comb perforations extended into the margin and thus presenting as two entirely void “stamps” at the base. This is the lower-left unit from what was formerly Lord Vestey’s corner block of six stamps. The corner block of four stamps remains in the collection of a buyer from the 2014 Vestey auction in London. The other non-marginal single was sold at a Melbourne auction in July 2015 for $172,912.

“Our estimate and reserve should therefore be seen as conservative,” auctioneers noted.

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