Spink Shreves offers the $500,000 'Black Empress of Canada' for sale

As we've mentioned, Spink Shreves of New York is holding three important auctions of rare, investment-grade stamps at the end of the month, including the Joseph M Mahfood collection of Jamaica.

However, one of these is a single-stamp auction. That's right, an auction of the kind reserved for the likes of the Tre Skilling Yellow. This is for the sale of a stamp known as The Black Empress of Canada - an exquisite example of the Canadian 1851 12d Black on laid paper.

Regular readers will be aware that another example of the stamp is currently scheduled to sell this month at Spink Shreves's sister company in London with an estimate of £60,000-70,000 (that's up to around $109,000) which is itself exceptional and beyond the means of most collectors.

The Black Empress of Canada
The Black Empress of Canada

However this example is a little better yet. As the auctioneer breathlessly puts it: "There is no question that this stamp is the finest mint example in existence.

"Its overall freshness, along with its extravagantly large margins, combined with the fact that it boasts full original gum that has never been hinged - places it in a category unlike any other world-class philatelic rarity in existence.

"Truly, it is a miracle how this remarkable stamp survived for nearly 160 years in this condition. While there are two or three mint singles that exist which are quite well margined, along with five pairs (one of which is in the Canadian Postal Archives and another in the Tapling Collection), not one is as superb as the example offered here, nor is any other example never hinged (and certified as such)."

Canadian 1851 12d black stamp 'Empress of Canada'
The reverse of the stamp is also immaculate

The Philatelic Foundation has assigned a grade of Superb 98 to the stamp, which is unheard of when dealing with world-class rarities. Spink Shreves compares it to an example in Bill Gross's remarkable sale of British North American stamps.

"The last original gum, premium quality, mint example of the 12d Black was in our November 2009 sale of the William H Gross collection of Important British North America. It realized $299,100.00 (including the buyer's premium).

"While the Gross example is a wonderfully choice stamp, its margins are not near as large as found on The Black Empress and, more significantly, it was hinged, as is every other known single or pair - except for the exciting example offered here."

The extraordinary piece carries an estimate of $400,000-500,000 in Spink Shreves's special sale which is scheduled for January 27th in New York and online.


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