Tete-beche stamp pair could send collectors 'head over heels' at Spink Shreves
It's been a long time since we last had a Spink Shreves auction to report on, and it feels far too long. Then we were reporting on a tragic piece of undelivered mail sent to John Hiley, a soldier who died at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

This time too there are some classic pieces of US postal history and fine stamps, but it is with the French section of the November 2011 Collector's Series Sale that we must begin. The auctioneer has marked out a special section: First Issue France Rarities.

One of the most spectacular rarities you are likely to see is the 1850 40c Orange on yellowish, Type II, the unique bottom right corner margin combination horizontal strip of five.

The left pair Type II shows the retouched wide "4" and the right three stamps the normal Type I version (Yvert #5), with mostly ample margins to barely touching the centre stamp. Boasting gloriously rich colour and original gum which is thick and brownish in places, it ranks as very fine.

One of the greatest rarities in all French philately, it is unique as a strip of five and one of just two examples of mint Type II pairs. Its ownership pedigree is unsurpassed, as it has passed through the hands of Count Philipp Ferrary, Arthur Hind, the 'Lafayette' collection and Bill Gross.

1850 40c Orange on yellowish Ceres stamp strip
1850 40c Orange on yellowish Ceres stamp strip

Here its only listing is the catalogue €139,250, ($195,100).

The star lot of the whole auction shares the same illustrious history of collectors. In fact we reported on its sale from Bill Gross's collection just a year and a half ago for $190,000.

This is the 1849 1Fr Light carmine on yellowish, tete-beche, a showpiece unused horizontal "face to face" tete-beche pair, featuring strikingly intense colour on fresh paper and ample to mostly large margins all around. In general it is in very fine condition.

The catalogue explains: "This spectacular pair is widely regarded as one of the greatest 1849-50 Ceres issue tete-beche rarities extant, with only four unused examples recorded. It has graced several of the finest collections of classic French stamps ever formed.

"The inverted cliche comes only from position 35 from the first plate used to print the 1Fr value."

1849 1Fr Light carmine on yellowish tete-beche stamp pair
1849 1Fr Light carmine on yellowish tete-beche stamp pair

It has been used to illustrate numerous important stamp guides and catalogues, and appears here with a €200,000 ($280,300) tag. The seller presumably expects to make a profit, and we certainly wouldn't bet against it.

Classic tete-beche pairs have had great success at auction in recent times, notably at David Feldman's December 2010 auction where an 1849 1 franc Brownish Carmine pair mint brought €191,200 ($250,000).

In general, relative inversions are valuable, such as this Newfoundland 1932 stamp with inverted surcharge.

Spink Shreves' auction takes place in New York City and online on November 18-19.


Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock