Auction review: New Zealand rarity sets record overseas

One of only seven known surviving examples of New Zealand’s rarest stamp recently crossed the auction block for a record price.

Offered by New Zealand’s John Mowbray International as part of the March 11 Philatelic Rarities Auction, Lot 54 was a 1949 three-penny HMS Vanguard stamp with a pre-sale estimate of $25,000 NZD (about $23,350 Cdn.).

It eventually sold to a collector from Asia for $67,850 NZD (about $63,350 Cdn.), beating the previous world record of $31,050 NZD for highest price realized for a Vanguard stamp, previously set by Mowbray’s in November 2009.


The 1949 three-penny Vanguard belongs to a set of four stamps (also including two-, five- and six-penny denominations) printed by Waterlow and Sons, of London, for the New Zealand Post Office. The issue commemorated the royal visit of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret—announced by Buckingham Palace on March 6, 1948, aboard the HMS Vanguard.

A total run of 39 million stamps were printed before the royal visit was cancelled in November 1948 after the king fell ill. He eventually died in February 1952 and was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Elizabeth II, who became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in September 2015.

Most of the issue was destroyed; however, in the 1970s, several examples were discovered.

In Mint condition, the stamp recently sold by Mowbray’s is believed to be among the finest of the seven examples.


This reconstructed sheet of 240 Penny Blacks realized about $71,950 Cdn.

Another highlight of the March 11 sale, which realized about $700,000 NZD altogether, was Lot 147, a reconstructed sheet of 240 one-penny blacks issued by Great Britain in 1840.

According to the auction catalogue: “Margins as follows: 1 margin (13 incl 1 with faults); 2 margins (17 incl 4 with faults); 3 margins (68 incl 14 with faults) & 4 margins (142 incl 26 with faults). Plates are: 1a x 12; 1b x 21; 2 x 21; 3 x 13; 4 x 25; 5 x 28; 6 x 36; 7 x 16; 8 x 28; 9 x 20; 10 x 5; 11 x 5. Unplated 10. The plate 11 items are: LI 3 margins red MC cancel; PJ 4 black, BF 4 red; CB 4 red; HE 3 red. The following are also notable: RE 4 black, PF 4 vibrant red, TJ 4 red, RH 4 red, AJ 4 vibrant red & EI 4 vibrant red. SG cat £113,975. Including identification notes as provided by vendor. The ultimate lot for any collector.”

The famed Penny Black was the world’s first postage stamp. Each sheet of 240 Penny Black stamps featured different letters—beginning with “AA” and ending with “TL”—to prevent forgeries and counterfeiting.

The anonymous seller—a collector from New Zealand—collected all 240 different one-penny stamps. The reconstructed sheet had a pre-estimate of $45,000 NZD (about $42,000 Cdn.) but eventually hammered down for $77,050 NZD (about $71,950 Cdn.).

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