Sales are expected to reach millions of dollars when the best-ever assembled collection of Canadian stamps debuts at auction Feb. 22 in Toronto. “It’s hard to estimate a sale like this, a single issue and a single collection,” Charles Verge, CEO of Brigham Auctions says of the Brigham Collection. “I haven’t totalled it all up, but if it all goes for close to estimate it could be $5 or $6 million.”
The Feb. 22 sale of Ron Brigham’s collection, consists of 672 lots of Large Queen stamps and postal history and will be sold in two sessions at the Toronto Airport Hilton. The morning session will feature the first 300 lots, with the balance in the afternoon. The auction will open with essays and proofs and then go through the series by denomination and Unitrade number. That means the star of the sale, the two-cent green on laid paper will not hit the auction block until late afternoon. Listed as lot 663, it has a pre-sale estimate of $900,000. At this estimate, with the addition of fees and taxes the new owner will likely pay more than $1 million for lot 663.
Verge is quick to point out that while the rarities are attracting much of the attention, the sale also includes some more common items such as lot 478, a 121/2-cent blue on Bothwell with part of the watermark, a light cancel and a couple of dull perforations, estimated at $300.
“It is a collection that was assembled to exhibit,” he said. “So it has the rarities but it also has the other items which you need to exhibit.”
Brigham was an active and successful exhibitor in Canada as well as internationally. Housed in more than 150 volumes, the collection has gathered some 25 Large Gold Medals at international-level exhibitions and several Grand Prix competitions, including the Grand Prix d’Honneur at BELGICA 2001, the first and only time a Canadian collection has won the World’s Philatelic Championship. This triumph was realized in the minimum required time by the Fédération Internationale de Philatélie – a record that has yet to be equalled.
It also has won the Grand Award at the convention of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada an unprecedented five years in a row with five different segments of the collection. The Brigham Collection won the prestigious American Philatelic Society’s 1998 Champion of Champions competition with the Pence and Cents and the Grand Award in the Open Class with the Large Queens, the first time any exhibitor won both American championships in the same year.
It is believed to be the most complete collection of Canadian stamps ever assembled. Ron Brigham admitted the sale covers some of his favourite stamps. “The Large Queens are my favourite collection amongst all those that form the Brigham Collection because of the beauty of the design, the crisp colours and the uniformity of the series,” he said. The Large Queens were Canada’s first definitive issue after Confederation replaced the postage stamps of the Provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They were also the first Canadian stamps to be printed in this country. The Large Queens are complex issues with 10 different papers; at least four different perforations; three watermarks – Bothwell, Pirie and stitch; and a host of varieties including some of the most sought-after items in all Canadian philately. There are no reserve bids.
Among these are the complete Bothwell watermark block of two cents; the reconstruction of the full Pirie watermark in 15 cents; a pair of imperforate five cents and many more outstanding items. The postal history portion of the exhibit includes covers addressed to various nations, Captain’s gratuity fees paid by stamp soldier’s mail rates and others such as the openly known franking and last use of a Nesbitt envelope on a cover addressed to Dublin, Ireland, with the 21-cents made up of three Large Queens in two, three, and six cents as well as a 10-cent cameo. The die proofs include the only known tête-bêche composite die proof of the two and three cents values, the discovery copy of the half cent on translucent wove paper, and several unrecorded essays from the British American Bank Note archives.
This sale is the first of about a dozen auctions of the Brigham collection expected to be held over the next few years.
Two other sales are scheduled for 2014: the late Victorian Issue of 1897-1901; and full sheets and back of the book items from 1851-1952. Back of the book is a term used to describe stamps outside of the definitive and commemorative programs, such as airmails, postage dues, revenues, postal stationeries, and registered mail. Earlier this year Brigham Auctions and Christoph Gartner, president of Auktionshaus Christoph Gartner GmbH & Co. KG, signed an agreement to set up a joint venture to provide worldwide support to promote the sale of the Brigham Collection. As well, Mr. Gartner’s company will provide, on request, technical support and advice to Brigham Auctions during the three to four years needed to complete the sale of the largest and greatest collection of Canada ever assembled.
In making the announcement, Verge said he was delighted to be working with Christoph Gartner and predicted the firm will help Brigham Auctions expand to markets outside of North America. Gartner said he believed the sale of such a prominent collection would attract attention to Canadian philately in other parts of the world. “I believe that more collectors will be made aware of the potential of Canadian philately, the beauty and elusiveness of its stamps and postal history,” he said. That seems to be the case.
Verge told Canadian Stamp News that more than 1,300 people had contacted the firm either to obtain a catalogue or to register as a potential bidder. He said he doubts there would be much pre-sale bidding, as most buyers would not want to leave a pre-sale bid to chance. “There will be quite a few agents in the room on their phones, and a few bidders present as well,” he said. “People will either want to be part of the story or ensure that they get what they want.” Some items come up so rarely that their acquisition can be considered a once in a lifetime chance. Verge said that while there are three known two-cent Large Queen’s on laid paper, the last time one sold in a public auction was more than 40 years ago.
For further information on the Brigham Collection and a free brochure on forthcoming sales, contact Brigham Auctions, Ltd. firstname.lastname@example.org, 905-451-5072, Suite 223, Plaza 2, 350 Rutherford Road S., Brampton, ON, Canada L6W 4N6.
The sale will also appear on the website StampAuctionNetwork.com.