By Jesse Robitaille
In what’s described by auctioneers as “immaculate condition with impeccable and illustrious provenance,” a mint 12-penny black issued by the Province of Canada in 1851 will cross the block in New Brunswick this February.
To be offered by Eastern Auctions, the 168-year-old imperforate stamp on handmade laid paper is “a truly remarkable example of this keenly sought-after classic stamp,” said auctioneer Gary Lyon. Aside from its “unusually choice” condition, part of this stamp’s appeal is its provenance, which is the theme of this second 360-lot offering of the Highlands Collection.
“Condition-wise, it’s one of the best examples available,” said Lyon, who’s the owner of the Bathurst, N.B.-based auction house.
“And not only was it in the Dale-Lichtenstein collection, but it was in the Ferrary collection, too.”
With a catalogue value of $300,000, Lot 234 displays a “virtually unmatched combination of physical attributes, including prominent laid lines, large margins, exceptional colour and a clear impression on pristine fresh paper.”
“These lofty qualities are very difficult to obtain on this particular stamp, which was pointed out when it was described in the Dale-Lichtenstein auction as: ‘Full O.G. rich deep shade and clear sharp impression, large margins, superb in every respect.’”
It’s one of hundreds of pieces in the multi-million dollar Highlands Collection of British North America, which was assembled by an anonymous collector throughout 40 years. It features pieces from the renowned former collections of Alfred Lichtenstein and Louise Boyd Dale; Philipp von Ferrary; Charles Lathrop Pack; Edward Green; Sir Gawaine Baillie; Gerald Wellburn; Lewis Reford; Claude Cartier; and Maurice Burrus, among others.
“These are just a few of the historic name sales that instantly come to mind,” said Lyon.
“These great philatelists purchased only the best. In today’s market, provenance is a key factor in determining the desirability and price of a particular item.”
Provenance also offers bidders “some assurance the item is really what it’s supposed to be,” added Lyon.
“If they owned it, chances are there’s nothing wrong with it because they were condition conscious as collectors are today.”
The first part of the Highlands Collection – offered last November – was entitled “Opportunity.” Some of the sale’s lots were off the market for more than 40 years, and “decades of diligence and patience are required to put together such a holding, leaving collectors with perhaps only one or two chances in their entire lifetime to acquire an item,” said auction catalogue describer Yohann Tanguay last year.
The third part, “Quality,” is slated to cross the block this June.
UNIQUE MARTINSYDE COVER
Among the top highlights is Lot 209, the only known example of the “Martinsyde” manuscript on Newfoundland’s 1919 two-cent carmine red stamp.
The unique April 19, 1919 attempted flight cover is franked with two single two-cent caribou stamps – both tied by a St. John’s machine cancellation – with the left example featuring the manuscript “Aerial Atlantic Mail” and countersigned “JAR” by Postmaster General J. Alex Robinson. The cover is endorsed by sender “Per aeroplane Raymor Nfld to Britain Kindness of Major Morgan and F.P. Raynham.”
Last sold in February 2003 as part of Harmers’ sale of the Labrador Collection, this cover was described as a “famous and unique envelope which has been described as the greatest rarity in Newfoundland Air Mails.” It realized £88,223 (including buyer’s premium) as Lot 3011 of that sale.
It has a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-plus in the upcoming Eastern sale.
‘RARELY SEEN’ HAWKER PROVISIONAL AIRMAIL
Other airmail highlights include Lot 208, a “highly desirable mint example of this world-renowned pioneer airmail rarity,” Newfoundland’s 1919 three-cent “Trail of the Caribou” stamp with the five-line airmail overprint.
A mere 200 stamps were overprinted in anticipation of the first trans-Atlantic flight,” said Lyon, who added about half of these overprints were used for franking the mail. “Shortly after issuance, it was reported that 87 mint examples existed. Far fewer remain today, nearly a hundred years on. Of these, a very small percentage are never hinged.”
The gummed side of the stamp also includes the customary “J.A.R.” initials.
“The collector really did go after the best condition,” said Lyon. “This is never hinged, which is practically unheard of for this stamp.”
This lot has a catalogue value of $70,000.
DE PINEDO OVERPRINT
Another Newfoundland airmail rarity will be offered as Lot 210, a 1927 60-cent black De Pinedo flight overprint in red.
Described as an “exceptional mint single of this world airmail rarity,” it shows the special flight three-line overprint “Air Mail / DE PINEDO / 1927” in red.
“Just 300 stamps were overprinted – six panes of 50 – and approximately 225 of these were used on the special flight covers to Italy,” said Lyon, who added another four copies were destroyed.
“Of the remaining 70 unused examples, 20 were allegedly given to the aviator.”
With its provenance including Pack, this example has a catalogue value of $70,000.
1857 ONE-SHILLING SCARLET VERMILION
Rounding out the highlights is Lot 127, an “outstanding showpiece of high calibre,” Newfoundland’s 1857 one-shilling scarlet vermilion on thick white wove paper.
Described as an “incredible mint single superior to any example we have ever seen,” this imperforate example is “very difficult stamp to find with large margins and probably the nicest I’ve seen,” said Lyon.
In his opinion, it’s the finest existing mint example of the 1857 one-shilling scarlet vermilion.
This lot has a catalogue value of $70,000-plus.
“To be chosen to handle this collection is indeed an honour and one that we are justly proud of,” said Lyon, who added the November auction was “very well received with a record number of bid sheets.”
“I hope that you enjoy it and are able to add a few gems to your collection that have been eluding you. As Robson Lowe once remarked, ‘Quality remains long after the price has been forgotten.’”
A two-day general sale will follow the Highlands Collection auction.
The entire three-session, 1,109-lot sale will be offered Feb. 14-16 at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax, N.S. Lot viewing will be open to the public in the Britannia Room on Feb. 13 – one day before the sale kicks off – from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; on Feb. 14-16 from 9 a.m.-noon (with each of the three sales beginning at 1:30 p.m.). All times are in Atlantic Standard Time.
For more information, visit easternauctions.com.