We couldn't resist a closer look at Spink's upcoming sales of the Chartwell Collection. Taking place across nine auctions in 18 months, the collection is billed by Spink as "the most valuable collection of stamps ever to come up for auction in modern times."
The collection was assembled by Sir Cyril Humphrey Cripps, a business magnate (as Chairman of Pianoforte Supplies Limited) and philanthropist whose philatelic passions were aided by his keen mind and photographic memory.
Sir Cyril's Great Britain collection is housed in 83 volumes and is rightly described by Spink as being "without doubt the most important collection in private hands." It covers all aspects of Great Britain philately from Queen Victoria to Early Queen Elizabeth II.
Among its highlights are the original 12 Nissen reconstructions of the 1d black plates, as used to produce the legendary Nissen plate reference book of 1922 which is long since out of regular print.
These specimens were purchased by Sir Cyril from Stanley Gibbons in the mid-1970s, following the latter's acquisition of the Charles Nissen Company.
By Charles Nissen and Bertram McGowen, the book offered a pioneering study of the Penny Black Plates - the world's first postage stamp - containing photographic plates of all of the plates and stamp positions, achieved through reconstruction.
Charles Nissen wrote The Plating of the Penny Black Postage Stamp of Great Britain, 1840 - still considered a masterpiece of philately
Today, the Nissen plate book of 1922, entitled The Plating of the Penny Black Postage Stamp of Great Britain, 1840, is today still regarded as being one of the most amazing philatelic masterpieces ever recorded.
And, with a cursory look at Nissen's life, it's easy to see why... British born Nissen was instrumental in building the Royal Philatelic Collection of the royal family, regarded as one of the greatest stamp collections in the Commonwealth.
He also acted as philatelic adviser to King George V, and was later granted a Royal Warrant for his efforts. In addition, Nissen was a well-respected stamp dealer and handled many notable specimens in his lifetime.
Nissen subsequently received the Crawford Medal for philatelic literature from the Royal Philatelic Society London - helping to ensure that the legacy of both Nissen and his book would survive among philatelists for many years afterwards.
According to Spink's catalogue, the Surface Printed issues are represented by die proofs and issued stamps with numerous multiples. Nearly all of the high values - both in mint and used quality - are included alongside blocks, die proofs and imprimaturs of the same.
This (potentially once-in-a-lifetime) chance to own the 12 Nissen reconstructions is just one of many draws that will attract all the world's top philatelists to Spink's Chartwell Collection sales.
The auctions begin with the British Empire/Great Britain Line-Engraved Proofs, Essays, Stamps and Covers Part One sale in London on June 28-29.