Come fire, flood or acts of God: the collection of stamps that never made it

Early next month, Grosvenor is bringing a vast sale for rare stamps collectors and investors to savour. Over 1,500 lots are going under the hammer, from the collections of 87 owners.

It should prove to be just as interesting as their 'Victory' collection sale of the postal history of Malta, which offered many fascinating glimpses into the island's history, especially during the Napoleonic Wars.

It's impossible to cover all the themes involved in the sale, but one interesting example is the collection of Gennaro Anthony Santangelo.

Jerry Santangelo discovered philately at the age of 12 in 1941 when he took a sharp fall and was in traction for six months. During this time his mother bought him a stamp album, and this kindled an interest in philately that ended only with his death in 2009.

Throughout his distinguished academic career and more so in his retirement he collected philatelic items.

His collection was displayed in Milan, Japan, Israel and numerous other international shows, attracting several national and international gold medals and regularly revised as he acquired fresh material and changed focus in his research.

The theme was interrupted mail: those (relatively) rare postmasters' failures which fail to reach their destination, or at least take a long detour, especially as the result of a catastrophe. Generally, the lots have a somewhat modest set of estimates given their stories.

One source of interrupted mail is air crashes. Santangelo depleted his collection of these to fund other parts of this collection, but nevertheless there is a set dating from 1928 to 1974, with items from a Catapult plane forced down in the Scilly Isles with small two line cachet "Mail rescued at Sea from Plane/Abandoned 400 miles from Paris" from the former.

Other examples include a flying boat Courtier envelope sent from Jerusalem to Poland and even a diplomatic envelope from Ecuador to Washington with the type "Received August 5, 1937 in airmail pouch from American Legation at Montevideo, Uruguay."

The whole group is expected to sell for £1,500-1,700 which seems very cheap - they would make an excellent investment at that price.

The pick of the ship wrecks section may be an 1899 (July 30) envelope from Frankfort, U.S.A. to Manila, bearing the three line cachet "DAMAGED MAIL/off S.S. Morgan City/Manila P.I, 9-19-99".

Morgan city interrupted mail
Morgan City interrupted mail

The Morgan City, a troopship, went down of the south east coast of Japan at Innosimo. The mail could not be removed at the time of sinking but was later salvaged by divers. Water damaged and with the stamp washed off, it is thought to be one of only five examples known, and tamely priced at £2,000-3,000.

Finally, there is an 1879 (Dec. 28) Tay Bridge Disaster envelope from Forres (Dec. 27) to Aberdeen (Dec. 29). The train fell into the River Tay when the railway bridge collapsed on the evening of December 28th with the loss of all seventy-five people on board.

Two mailbags were washed ashore and were taken to Dundee to be dried, which included thecover on offer here. An extremely rare and interesting item from the most infamous railway disaster in British history and one of only eight examples which have been recorded it is offered at £1,800-2,000.

Grosvenor's sale takes place on December 9-10 in London. Alternatively, collectors may look here for a series of rare stamps


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