Malta rises above a surge by Napoleon at Grosvenor's sale of rare stamps

The sale of the near 500 lot 'Victory' collection of Malta concluded at Grosvenor auctions last week with strong results across the board.

The auction featured a range of fine stamps and covers associated with Malta. Some of these were stamps alone whilst a range of covers both early examples of stamp use and stampless covers from before the time of the first stamps went under the hammer.

In some cases, there were still letters as well as covers, and some of these related closely to Malta's role in the Napoleonic Wars. These include three letters from Lord Nelson, which all performed well.

Nelson Letter
Letter signed by Nelson

The first was a 1799 (November 16th) letter only from Lord Nelson at Palermo, to Sir John Acton, Prime Minister of Naples, in which Nelson comments,

"I am more than common uneasiness about Malta. I see without a speedy landing of troops that we shall be obliged to quit the Island. What can be done about Money. Russia has not yet given one farthing". Signed by Nelson, the letter cruised past its £3,000-4,000 listing to £13,000.

Another of his letters to Major General Villettes, Governor of Malta regarding the request for armaments with a similar estimate achieved £18,500.

An intriguing cover from later in the sale perhaps indicates the current strength of the Indian stamp market (which produced a world record recently) as an 1855 (October 19th) entire letter from Dacca, India to Valletta, Malta, bearing 1854 1 annas and 2 x 4 annas stamps which was expected to achieve £3,000 spiralled up to £12,000.

Malta 10 shilling block
Malta 10 shilling stamp block

The top lot was as expected however: an imperforate plate proof of the 1919 10 shilling stamp in black on watermarked ungummed paper in a block of four. Extremely rare and attractive, it may be the only one in existence and was expected to sell for £15,000-£20,000.

Bidders pushed it further up to £23,000, offering further evidence of the investment value of rare British Empire and Commonwealth stamps.


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