By Jesse Robitaille
New Brunswick’s Eastern Auctions will offer the Auchenbraith Collection of Canadian federal and provincial revenues in a single-session sale in late March.
The collection, noteworthy for its high quality and rarity, features many areas that “surpass … well-known collections of the past,” according to auctioneers, who referenced earlier offerings from Harry Lussey, W.C. Rockett, John Gaudio and other collectors. Altogether, 325 lots will cross the block at Eastern’s headquarters in Bathurst, N.B., on March 26, but bids are accepted via the firm’s online bidding platform, “eastern@home,” plus through the phone, fax, email and mail beginning on Feb. 18.
The consignor wishes to remain anonymous; however, Auchenbraith is the name of a wooded cottage region along Scotland’s River Nith, which flows into the Solway Firth and the Irish Sea about 40 kilometres south. In assembling the collection, the unnamed collector focused on acquiring rare law stamps, including everything from essays and proofs to “elusive” provisionals, “very few of which have surfaced at auction at any given time,” according to the firm.
“Surprisingly, there have been very few important revenue collections being sold at auctions since the 1950s,” said Yohann Tanguay, a stamp specialist and the chief describer with Eastern Auctions. “Although some sales had a higher lot count, the Auchenbraith quite easily surpasses the better collections … in having a higher congregation of rarities especially when it comes to federal and provincial law stamps, including die essays, rare stamps, multiples, documents.”
The collection’s offering of “IN PRIZE” overprints on stamps and documents, 1765 British America embossed revenues and Cape Breton law stamps “are some of the best representation we have seen being offered,” added Tanguay, who’s a member of the Vincent Graves Greene Philatelic Research Foundation expert committee.
Revenue stamps – also known as fiscal stamps – are an “integral part” of philately, the firm stated in the Auchenbraith auction catalogue. Issued in a variety of formats, revenues are still used today to pay fees, taxes and duties to government agencies, departments and authorities (such as the 20th-century law stamps covering civil judicial proceedings or the modern excise stamps used in the legal cannabis industry). Especially the earlier examples, they are often “elaborately engraved” to deter counterfeiting, with serial numbers and other security features also used.
“It is an appealing area for collectors, either desiring to build a simple yet challenging one-of-each collection, or seriously delving into a specialized area,” reads the Auchenbraith catalogue. “Although many reference works and articles have been written on Canadian revenues, both federal and provincial, the field is still very much wide open for new discoveries.”
With the pandemic nearing its second anniversary, Tanguay has seen some areas “we had previously deemed ‘unpopular’ or lagging behind” receiving increased interest and demand.
“People are looking for other areas to collect, and revenues, for many, have been their new area of interest.”
Supporting collectors’ ability to dive into revenue stamps, long-time fiscal philatelist Erling van Dam, the Ontario-based owner of E.S.J. van Dam, recently published the 2022 edition of his Canadian Revenue Stamp Catalogue, which Tanguay called “a must-have to anyone wanting to venture into this fascinating field.”
The ninth lot to cross the block in the upcoming Eastern sale – Lot 1009 – offers what auctioneers believe to be the only known full set of die proofs, in their issued colour, from the 1876 federally issued “Young Queen” series (Van Dam #FSC1-6).
Featuring the $5, $1 plus 10-, 20-, 25- and 50-cent issues, the set includes all six die proofs engraved in blue on thin wove paper. Tanguay described the offering “a cornerstone set for a serious exhibit collection.” In Extremely Fine condition, it’s estimated at $6,000-plus.
Also among the federal revenues, Lot 1033 offers a pair of used 1916-dated 25-cent blue Supreme Court stamps (#FSC27) featuring “IN PRIZE” overprints, which Tanguay called “the finest and most extensive offering of these difficult and elusive revenue stamps ever to be sold at auction.” From that year’s “Young Queen” issue, the stamps comprise two of 17 known examples – all of them used – and one of just three known pairs with the “IN PRIZE” overprint.
“It has been documented that 80 examples (two sheets) were overprinted ‘IN PRIZE,’” according to Tanguay, who added the examples’ serial numbers range from 13921 to 14000.
The pair on offer this March features the serial numbers “13969” and “13970.” Each stamp has the two coloured “IN PRIZE” overprints found on all other known examples – one in purple and another in red – plus “customary” punch cancels, Tanguay added.
Pencil signed on the reverse by late Winnipeg dealer Kasimir Bileski, the pair – described as being in Very Fine (VF) condition and “one of the great highlights” of the Auchenbraith Collection – carries a catalogue value of $25,000.
Lot 1046 offers two single law stamps – the 25-cent Young Queen (#FSC27) and …