'One of British philately's greatest rarities': an IR Official overprint sells at Spink

Many auction houses avoid offering any of their very finest items during January as it is often a quiet month for people attending auctions. Stamp auctioneers are typically no exception.

Spink, however, has the confidence to attract collectors and investors at any time of year, and already has a number of high-quality auctions scheduled, including three relating to stamps, and the first one next week is a humdinger.

The London sale, known simply as the Winter Collector's Series Sale,comprises over 1,000 lots (the general title naturally bringing in a wide variety of stamp types). Many are of genuinely investment-grade pieces - so much so that it would be absurd to try to cover them all in one article.

Instead, here are the two choicest pieces from the British mainland:

Firstly, an item championed as a new discovery when it was offered in Sotheby's July 1977 auction:

Hume comic balloon envelope
Hume comic balloon envelope

Hume's comic envelope, Number 2, "Balloon Mail", is a satirical design on the reduction of postage. The unrecorded State 6 on creamy wove paper bears an inscription on the reverse: "Published & sold by R W Hume Leith", with extra birds at top and no shading on the sun.

The envelope bears an 1840 2d blue Plate 1, PK, tied by Maltese Cross cancellation in a reddish brown shade, from Dunse and dated 7 October 1840; seal removed from the reverse and there is a trace of a pressed crease underneath the adhesive though apparently not affecting it.

It is the only known example of this caricature with an 1840 2d, and in fact is one of only four caricatures of any type known bearing an 1840 2d, making it a spectacular and major exhibition rarity. It is expected to sell for £25,000-30,000 ($38,800-46,500).

Inland Revenue Official stamp
Inland Revenue £1 Official Stamp

The top lot, at least of its section, however is a £1 brown-lilac with IR Official overprint.

Taken from the foot of its original sheet with the overprint variety blue-black, it still bears large part original gum with the merest trace of mounting on the stamp.

Previously from the collections of the Earl of Crawford, Charles Nissen and William Frazer, it is a magnificent example of this sole recorded overprint variety for which the Stanley Gibbons listing is based.

One of the great rarities of British philately (according to the auctioneer) and a superb stamp of optimum exhibition quality, it is expected to sell for £100,000-120,000 ($155,000-233,000) in Spink's sale which takes place in London on January 12, 2011.


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