$183,000 cover sent 'via Bombay' shows the power of Indian stamp markets

As we reported, Spink of London held a major auction of rare stamps from around the world with a particular strength in British Empire stamps & covers.

The three top lots came from India and British North America. The latter offered a 12d 1851 black.

The imperforate stamp is unused with deep rich colour and sharp detailed impression.

The stamp, which proved to be quite unpopular with the public due to its limited usage for specific postal rates to distant destinations, is now extremely rare and highly sought after (two examples were the key lots in Bill Gross's sale of British North American stamps in 2009).

The sale of this example may be seen as a warm-up for the spectacular example known as the Black Empress of Canada, which is to be sold by Spink's sister company Spink Shreves in New York later this month.

Indian 4a invert stamp
Indian 4a invert stamp

That example is expected to sell for up to $500,000, whilst this one narrowly beat its £60,000-70,000 listing to bring £72,630 (around $110,000).

Indian philately has been going from strength to strength in recent years. We noted in October that a rare Indian stamp at Spink had quintupled its estimate to sell for £105,390 - a world record price for an Indian stamp.

We were excited to see that a similar example of that stamp - an inverted head variety of the 1854 4 annas issue - was appearing in the sale. We even wondered if it might break the Indian record again (it has pros and cons compared to the October example).

In the end it did not, but the same keen bidding was seen. Spink had increased the estimate since October but not enough to keep pace with the enthusiasm which saw this example sell for £93,690 against a £40,000-50,000 ($77,500) listing.

1854 Indian issues cover
1854 Indian issues cover

This is not even the highest listed Indian lot in the sale however. That honour belonged to an extraordinary cover sent to Ireland bearing a complete set of the first issue of Indian stamps from 1854.

The 1855 envelope from an unknown post office "Via Southampton via Bombay" to Carrickmacross, Ireland, bears the 1854 (1 Oct.) 1/2a. pale blue/blue Die I (2), 1a. red Die I (2), 2a. green and 4a. blue and red Second Printing, all neatly cancelled with diamond of dots.

Just one other cover, from the same correspondence, is known bearing a complete set of the first issue of India, this is now in the Singapore Postal Museum. Once part of the Emerald collection, this example was listed here at £60,000-70,000 (up to $108,500), but keen bidding saw it sell for £117,090 ($183,300), re-affirming the great strength of the Indian stamp markets.


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