On today’s date in 1851, the Province of Canada released its third postage stamp, a 12-pence black (Scott #3) featuring a portrait of Queen Victoria.
Similar in design to the Province of Canada’s second issue – a six-pence slate violet stamp (SC #2) featuring a portrait of Prince Albert – the 12-pence black was produced on laid paper without perforations as was customary at this early point in philatelic history.
Both the “Black Empress” and six-pence Prince Albert stamp – plus Canada’s first issue, the three-penny beaver (SC #1) – belong to what’s known as the Pence Issue.
The 1851 12-penny black is an extremely rare issue with only 50,000 stamps printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, of New York.
The stamp’s paper was disliked by postal workers and the general public alike, and as the stamp failed to gain popularity, it was believed there was little demand for a 12-pence stamp.
Both the aforementioned three- and six-pence stamps were later re-issued on wove paper; however, the Black Empress was not re-issued in any form, and only 1,450 examples were issued throughout its six years in use, according to the Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps. The remaining examples were destroyed, and it’s estimated about 150 12-pence blacks, including only five unused examples, exist today.
Unitrade lists an imperforate example at $250,000.
Last year, a lightly hinged example with original gum sold for $135,000 USD as part of the 286-lot sale of the Calgary Collection of Canada offered by Siegel Auctions. It was described by auctioneers as being in “Extremely Fine” condition.