Auction Review: 12-penny black brings $156,625 at Spink sale

The finest known used example of the 1851 12-penny black on laid paper—commonly considered the rarest and most valuable Canadian stamp—brought £90,000 (about $156,625 Cdn.) at an auction hosted by Spink’s London, England galleries over the past three days.

Offered as Lot 9 of the 261-lot sale, the 12-penny Queen Victoria stamp (Scott #3) highlighted the final offering of the David Pitts Collection.

Described by auctioneers as “one of the most desired stamps of the British Empire,” this used example displays “an intense deep colour and with full strong detailed impression on bright paper indicating that this was quite probably from an early impression of the plate, large to exceptionally large margins giving a well-balanced appearance and neatly cancelled with a single clear strike of the seven-ring target postmark.”

Only 51,000 12-penny blacks were printed with “a mere 255 impressions of the plate of 200 subjects,” according to auctioneers. The stamp proved unpopular with the public and only 1,450 individual stamps were sold while the remainder were returned to the post office and destroyed.

The stamp nearly reached its pre-sale estimate of £100,000. It’s listed in the 2018 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 with a value of $135,000 for a used example.

An 1861 Prince Edward Island rouletted two-penny rose stamp brought $34,800 at the recent Spink sale.

1861 P.E.I. 2d ROSE

Other highlights of the three-day sale include Lot 146, an 1861 Prince Edward Island rouletted two-penny rose stamp that crossed the block for £20,000 (about $34,800 Cdn.).

Described by auctioneers as a “Die I” example “showing roulettes or traces thereof on two sides,” the stamp is “neatly cancelled with large part oval of eight bars at Charlotte Town.”

Only five examples are recorded: one is in the Royal Philatelic Collection and another is in the Tapling Collection at the British Library.

This example is “superior to the three examples available on the open market,” according to auctioneers.

According to auctioneers, the first report of this major variety was made by Donald A. King in the April 30, 1895 Stanley Gibbons Journal, in which he announced its discovery seven years earlier.

Arthur A. Bartlett subsequently found four other examples. Two further examples were reported to be known on cover but have never been sighted. The stamp offered in the recent Spink sale was exhibited at Capex in 1996 as part of the “Gems of Canadian Philately” court of honour display.

Of the 261 lots offered during the recent sale, a total of 160 lots (more than 61 per cent) went unsold.

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