Invert error from Vestey collection brings World Record price for an Indian stamp

Spink has concluded its sale of Lord Vestey's collection of British Empire stamps and covers with some spectacular results for many lots, which were led by the Falkland Islands and India.

The most impressive lot from the Falkland Islands was a set of 1933 Centenary Issue stamps in imprint blocks of four (imprint blocks show the manufacturer's details printed in an attached margin).

An extremely rare and impressive set of multiples which displays fresh bright colours, the little collection of 12 pieces ranging from 1/2d to £1 in face value eased past its £25,000-30,000 estimate to bring £32,850.

The three strongest lots however were all from India, as you'd probably expect given its increasing strength in the field of collectibles, and all were 1854 issues.

Perhaps the most impressive performer in the entire sale was a sheet of 80 two annas green stamps. Whilst displaying attractive, rich shades of colour which led Spink to describe it as an 'impressive showpiece', they had not expected it to be a highlight of the sale.

Bidders felt very differently, and the £3,000-4,000 estimate was torn up as frenetic bidding took the sheet quickly into five figures and further, only leaving the stage for a stunning £53,910 - just shy of 18 times its lower estimate.

80 sheet of two annas stamps

You might think that that would be the most spectacular result in the sale, but it wasn't.

The other two top sales were both blue and red four annas issues. One (a 5th Printing, Head Die III, Frame Die II example) was marked out by having serrated or pin perforations all the way round, and cancelled with a C/124.

It had a certain claim to fame having been illustrated on Plate 7 of "The Four Annas Lithographed Stamps of India", by Martin and Smythies, 1930, but it was expected to sell for just £6,000-8,000. In fact the hammer fell for £37,530.

Its near cousin Four Annas, First Printing, Head Die I, Frame Die I version with the head inverted was expected to be one of the highlights and sell for around £18,000-20,000.

Indian 4 annas Invert stamp
Indian 4 annas centrally-inverted stamp

It has attracted a fair amount of interest over the years with entries in Stamps of Fame by L N  and M  Williams (1949), (page 75 and illustrated on Plate II), as well as the former's 1997 Encyclopaedia of Rare and Famous Stamps and two entries in the London Philatelist (1935 & 1949).

Cut to shape, the piece is just lightly cancelled with a diamond of dots leaving the image clear which is seldom the case with this error. Extremely rare, and attractive, the piece excited collectors and investors to the point at which they chased it to all the way to £105,390 - a world record price for an Indian stamp.

This result will no doubt focus more attention on the upcoming auctions of British India and Classic Ceylon stamps at Spink's sister company Spink Shreves of New York.


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