On today’s date in 1959, the first report of the famed St. Lawrence Seaway invert error (Scott #387a) was made in Winnipeg, where a young boy working in the office of the downtown Marlborough Hotel purchased 30 stamps from a post office outlet in a nearby Eaton’s.
Located on 331 Smith St., the hotel is only one block northeast of the former Eaton’s department store, which was demolished in 2003 and replaced by the Bell MTS Place, home of the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets.
About two weeks later, late Winnipeg dealer Kas Bileski acquired 26 of those 30 stamps from the hotel’s office employees for $1,000 each, according to long-time stamp dealer John Jamieson, owner of Saskatoon Stamp Centre.
The other four stamps were used on covers mailed by Mildred Mason, who was responsible for mail at the Marlborough Hotel, Canadian philatelist Charles Verge wrote in his April 2003 Scott Stamp Monthly article.
As the story of the “Inverted Seaway” made national headlines, additional panes were found and returned to the Post Office Department (now Canada Post) while other inverts were unknowingly used on mail from the Bank of Nova Scotia as early as Aug. 10 of that year—the earliest known usage of the iconic error.
The stamp was issued on June 26, 1959, coinciding with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway by Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. A joint issue between Canada and the United States, it marked the first collaboration between the two countries’ postal services.
The “inverted text” variety, of which about 400 are known, is listed as $12,500 in NH-VF (Never Hinged, Very Fine) condition, which means “no faults or fingerprints,” in the 2020 Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps.
“Many Seaway Inverts display minor imperfections due to mishandling by the non-collecting ‘public’ who found them in 1959,” adds the catalogue.
In Fine condition, the catalogue lists the variety at $10,000.
On cover, the variety commands $25,000. The catalogue’s editors record 13 covers plus four postcards with the Seaway Invert “properly used.”