Penny Blacks and Seahorses ride high at Lord Steinberg's rare postage stamp sale

The four-day auction of The Philatelic Collection of Lord Steinberg concluded yesterday at Sotheby's, bringing a total of £2,648,652 ($4,219,236). The closing day saw the auction of Great Britain Mint Multiples which realised £1,134,924 ($1,782,744).

The extremely fresh condition of the top lot (11), an 1840 1d black Plate 7, made it a highly desirable addition to any stamp collection and it resulted in an above-estimate sale price of £180,000 ($282,744).

Of the 1840 two pence blues, lot 17, an 1840 2d blue Plate 1, a very fine and rare block with an excellent provenance, also sold above estimate, reaching £96,000 ($150,797).

A superb set of the 1913 "Seahorse" Issues blocks made £33,600 ($52,779) against an estimate of £10,000-12,000.

The first sale of British Empire Mint Multiples on 6-8 September 2011 brought a total of £1,513,728 ($2,436,497). The top lot was the unique mint block of the 1927 De Pinedo Air Mail 60c. black (lot 1118).

1840 Penny Black margin block Steinberg Sothebys
The very fine 1840 Penny Black margin block from Lord Steinberg's collection

Estimated at £120,000-150,000, it sold to a Private Collector for £168,000 ($270,413). It ranks as the most important of all Newfoundland and World Airmail blocks, it is among the rarest 20th-century British Empire blocks and it is the rarest of any Italian blocks.

The stamps commemorate the 1927 flight to Europe by the Marchese Francesco de Pinedo, who is one of the most famous of all pioneer aviators and without equal among the elite group of Italians who took to the skies.

The present example is the sole survivor from the issue of 300 stamps.

The second highest price achieved for a British Empire mint multiple was for lot 492, a 1939-51 2½d. Magenta and sage-green Imperforate horizontally from the British Solomon Islands. One of the most important error blocks of King George VI's reign and the entire British Empire, it sold for £60,000 ($96,576).

1913 Waterlow Layton Seahorses Steinberg
Brittania rides in on sea-conquering horses
(A little like the man in the Guinness advert)

Among the "Kangeroo Issues" of the Australian Commonwealth, lot 64, a 1913-14 First Watermark ½.d green Imperforate at the base brought £19,200 ($30,904).

Lord Steinberg's family will donate proceeds from the sale to a number of causes and charities with which Lord Steinberg had been associated in his lifetime, including the fund he started with the aim of helping to rebuild Old Trafford, home of his beloved Lancashire County Cricket Club.

Richard Ashton, Sotheby's Worldwide Philatelic Consultant, said: "The sale of Lord Steinberg's collection of Great Britain mint multiples followed the trend of the sale held earlier this month.

"Buyers are becoming increasingly condition-conscious and are targeting rare stamps in the finest condition. These are fetching ever higher prices as evidenced by lot 377, a set of the 1913 Seahorse Issues, which sold for £33,600, more than three times above the low estimate."


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