Tasmanian plate block sets itself apart from the rest at Australian colonies auction

If a stamp is rare enough, condition is less important for the knowledgeable buyer. That's the message given by the ugly little piece of paper shown below, which sold for $4,830 at a recent Melbourne auction.

Prestige Philately achieved this remarkable result in their "Australian Colonies/States" auction, though the star was a plate block in fine condition.

The initials 'I.E.' stand for "Intestate Estates", one of the most elusive of the 50 or so South Australian government departments that used their own official issues between 1868 and 1874. Only a few examples of this stamp are recorded in private hands.

The auction was the latest in a string of "name sales" and concept sales held in recent years by Prestige Philately.

Auctioneer Gary Watson said "This offering was a bit of a risk, because some aspects of Colonies philately have been rather soft over the past decade".

Intestate Estate Southern Australian overprint stamp
No looker, but desirable just the same:
The Intestate Estate Southern Australian overprint stamp

He was therefore very pleased that, of the 1100 lots on offer, 82% were sold, with the total realisations being equal to 90% of the total estimates. The all-inclusive final result was a very healthy $741,000.

The auction kicked off with a fine collection of colourful American Fleet Cards formed by well-known collector and one-time auctioneer, Hugh Freeman from Sydney.

Issued in 1908 to commemorate the visit to Australia of the American "Great White Fleet" this visually appealing material attracted strong interest. Top price of $6,900 was paid for the unique New South Wales 1d card with 'OS/NSW'' perfin.

One highlight of the Tasmania section was an interesting collection of revenues formed by Michael Blake from Adelaide. $1,437 was paid for a master die proof of the 1880 Platypus design. Errors in this series were popular, with a plate block of 6 with double 'REVENUE' overprint selling for $2,990 or almost three times estimate.

Unissued Tasmanian stamp plate block
Unissued Tasmanian stamp plate block in wonderful condition
(The devil's in the detail)

This section also included the highest priced lot in the sale. $29,900 was paid for plate blocks of 8 of the unissued 2/6d and 10/- prepared in 1886. These blocks were previously sold in the first Australia Post archival sale-by-tender back in 1987. The price on that occasion was a mere $1,200.

Summing up the auction, Gary Watson observed that the market for fine material remains very strong.

"With the financial markets fluctuating wildly, with shares and property prices under pressure, it's great to see that stamps and covers continue to perform admirably.

"Many of our clients find that their collecting interests take their minds off the pressures of day to day life, and that has to be a good thing", he said.

In general Prestige's results will bring confidence to collectors of the British Empire/Commonwealth. Of course they should be contented in any case, given the successes of the Steinberg and Chartwell collections.

We have some fine examples of our own for sale, including this Cayman Islands double surcharge error and Sierra Leone overprint.

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