“The 12 Stamps of Christmas”

12 philatelic treats for you to savour

I’m sure, like me, you are being bombarded at the moment with marketing e-mails titled “The 12 days of Christmas”.

 I’m getting tired of them.

 As the saying goes – “if you can’t beat them, join them!”

 So, here is my take on the theme with 12 special rare stamps.

 Sit back in your favourite armchair, with chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and savour these philatelic treats.

 On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…

 1. Penny Black

 Quite simply, the most important stamp in the world and a perfect Christmas gift with enduring value…

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Great Britain 1840 1d black, plate 1a lettered 'AF', SG2.

A fine used example from the first printing plate, with four good margins, crisp and neatly cancelled by a red Maltese Cross.

Plate 1 of the penny black was put to press on 11 April 1840 and registered on 15 April 1840. As the plate had not been hardened in a rush to meet the target issue date it soon showed signs of wear.

This example shows a nice deep shade meaning it would have been one of the earliest printings of the very first postage stamp.

Stanley Gibbons catalogue value: £450. 

 Price: £275 (39% discount!)

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2. Penny Blue

 The world’s second postage stamp is much rarer than the first. 

 A stamp tells part of the story, a cover tells it all…

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Great Britain 1840 2d Blue Plate 1, SG5.

 A very fine used closed to large four margin example of the first printing plate of the tuppenny blue lettered 'BI', neatly tied to an entire envelope by a crisp red Maltese Cross.

 The letter was sent from Plymouth to Cambridge and is backstamped by a Plymouth dispatch circular date stamp for ‘JY.26.1840’.

 The London transit circular date stamp is for ‘JY.27.1840’ and there is a Cambridge arrival circular date stamp for ‘JY.28.1840’.

 The contents of the enclosed letter regards the family history and also bears a lovely adhesive of the family coat of arms.

 A most attractive piece of early British postal history featuring a lovely example of the two penny blue, which was issued at the same time as the penny black. The two penny blue is, however, 10 times rarer than the penny black.

 Stanley Gibbons catalogue value: £2,750.

 Price: £2,500

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3. With an Error

 Some of the most ridiculous errors on stamps are those you will find on manually applied overprints.

I particularly love errors in strips like this, alongside the correct stamps, for visual appeal…

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 North Borneo Labuan 1896 Jubilee of Cession of Labuan to Great Britain 1c black and grey-mauve, type 16 overprint, perforations 14½-15, horizontal strip of 3, the centre stamp with error 'JEBILEE' (R8/7), SG83/c.

 A fine used strip of three, cancelled to order with neat part ovals of bars. Left stamp with thin, but still a very fine quality piece. Most importantly, the error catalogued at £650, as a single, is in fine condition.

 These North Borneo stamps were issued with colour change and overprinted "LABUAN".

 Very scarce and desirable in this se-tenant form. A highly visual piece with a most remarkable overprint error.

 Royal Philatelic Society Certificate No. 19,126 (not present).

 Stanley Gibbons catalogue value: £710+.

 Price: £495 (30% discount)

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4. Without Perforations

 In last week’s e-mail I covered undervalued British stamp errors from Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

This may be the best value of them all right now. It is an exceptionally rare error with only a maximum of 15 mint pairs possible. Two of those pairs are combined and available here.

 Five years ago, it was valued at £6,500. Today, you can snatch it up for just £2,500…

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Great Britain 1978 9p Christmas Carol Singers, SG1072a.

 A very fine unmounted mint, with full original gum, bottom marginal partially perforated vertical block of eight with the lower block of four completely imperforate.

 An interesting progressional piece.

 Scarce, Pierron records only 15 mint pairs. 

 Price: £2,500

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5. Gold type overprint

Here’s something you don’t see every day – real gold on a stamp. In fact, it is the first time we have ever seen one…

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 Transjordan 1923 (1 Mar) 20p pale grey, type 5 overprint in 'gold', ERROR OVERPRINT INVERTED, SG68a.

 A fresh and fine mint example with original gum.

 Only 1,570 were issued of the basic stamp and this is the first time we have handled this inverted overprint error.

Accompanied with a British Philatelic Association (BPA) certificate of authenticity (2005).

 NB. The overprint is black to the naked eye, with only minute traces of gold visible under magnification in strong light. The gold overprints were created by sprinkling gold dust on wet black ink.

 Provenance: This stamp clearly comes from the same pane as the block of SG68ga (black overprint inverted) illustrated by Abed Habib Najjar on p.45 of his book, The Stamps of Jordan 1920-65: A Philatelic Study.

 Price: £375

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6. Indian States

 India remains one of the hottest areas of the market. Their hot climate also makes it more difficult to find rare stamps which are not damaged.

Only 6 states in India were allowed to use the British India postage stamps.

Their somewhat primitive overprinting methods often led to bizarre results…

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Indian Convention States Gwalior 1896 2a6p yellow-green, type long Hindi overprint, block of six with centre stamp in top row showing error 'GWALICR'(R1/5) from the May 1896 printing, SG23a.

 A brilliant quality mint block with original gum; couple of minor surface stains, still a fine and very rare piece with only 26 of this error possible and desirable in this positional form.

 Six states had a postal convention agreement with "British India" to use the regular issues of British India overprinted for use in their states. These "Convention" states are Chamba, Faridkot, Gwalior, Jind, Nabha, and Patiala.

 Stanley Gibbons catalogue value: £1,275.

 Price: £1,125

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7. Postal Strikes

 Postal strikes are quite a hot topic right now if you live in the UK!

Sometimes it is the unusual combination of postal strikes which makes a philatelic rarity.

 I purchased this item some time ago and I am surprised to see it still here, although I am not complaining as it is one of my favourite covers at this price level…

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Falkland Islands Dependencies 1946 (20 SEP) locally addressed cover, bearing 1946 "Thick Map" set of 8 and Falkland Islands 1938-50 2s6d to £1 (1938 second printings), all tied by seven strikes of South Georgia type SG6 circular date stamps in violet, SGG1/8, SGZ85/8.

 A very fine and attractive cover and most unusual with the "combination" franking.

 On the introduction of special stamps for South Georgia up to the 1 shilling value, higher values continued to be provided by the 1938-50 Falkland Islands set.

 Stanley Gibbons catalogue value for the stamps in used condition off cover is £590.

 Price: £550

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8. King George V values

 A remarkably rare set of Specimen stamps printed specifically for postmasters and postal administrations to use as reference to identify valid stamps and to avoid forgeries.

 What is even more remarkable is the low current valuation of this set of stamps, particularly since the pairs are unique…

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Somaliland Protectorate 1912-13 ½a to 1r, watermark MCA, eight values (excluding 1a, 2½a), with two examples each of 3a to 12a (the 3a and 6a to 12a in rejoined horizontal pairs), all overprinted 'SPECIMEN', with additional part strikes of receiving handstamps.

 From the Gabon Universal Postal Union (UPU) archive (dispersed c.1975). The 2a, 3a, 8a, 12a with 'COLONIE DUE GABON/SECRETARIAT GENERAL', the others with 'COLONIE du GABON et du CONGO FRANCAIS/DIRECTION de L'INTERIEUR', the two types having been in concurrent use.

 The stamps are without gum, which is as usual. There are the odd small faults, barely detracting from overall quality, as a rare and fascinating group of King George V stamps.

 There are only three examples in existence of each value sent to Gabon, with the pairs, therefore unique. (N.B. Fragments of a 2a pair are adhering to the reverse of the 6a pair, proving that the 2a in this group is the only possible survivor from the original three).

 Price: £225

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9. De La Rue Printing Proofs

 Thomas De La Rue is widely considered the greatest printer of stamps ever. They are famous for producing high quality pictorial stamps with stunning designs.

 New Zealand was the first country in the world to produce the first full issue of pictorial stamps as early as 1898.

 These printing proofs from De La Rue clearly belong in a collection for exhibiting…

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New Zealand 1935 (1 May) 'Second Pictorial' die proofs (SG559/69). 1935 (1 May) 'Second Pictorial' 2d, 2½d, 4d to 8d, 1s, 2s, 3s, nine values, De La Rue stamp-size die proofs in issued colours on thick slightly surfaced unwatermarked wove with 2mm margins and part original gum.

 Couple of trivial blemishes mentioned for accuracy (1s with small corner thin, 3s with minor split at top of frame due to pressure of printing), but a beautiful series of great rarity.

[The ½d, 1d, 1½d and 3d values are not present; the 9d value of the set was printed by lithography by Waterlow, and does not exist in this form].

 One of the greatest of all New Zealand rarities and a stunning showpiece.

 An ex Stanley Gibbons stock item.

 Price: £9,500

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10. Postage Dues a sticky

 Postage due stamps were issued by postal authorities to collect postage from the recipient of letters in cases where the sender paid insufficient postage.

 This block of 10 is in pristine condition and remarkable because of the printing blunder with the design being printed on the gum side of the stamps by mistake…

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Rhodesia 1970-73 2c ultramarine Postage Due, lower marginal block of ten (5x2) being the bottom two rows of a sheet showing plate number '1B', imprint and '20756' sheet number, error printed on the gummed side, SGD19a.

 A very fine unmounted mint positional piece with full original gum.

 A rare and unusual error, particularly in this form.

 The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £500+.

 Price: £475

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11. Miniature works of art

 What I have always found fascinating is how stamps can articulate a country’s experience and culture as a miniature work of art.

 I think what I love most about stamp collecting compared to other collecting options is how you can effectively build your own private collection of miniature works of art. This wonderful set from Newfoundland, the province of Canada is a perfect example…

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Newfoundland 1910 (15 Aug) "Guy" set of 11 to 15c (the 6c type "A"), litho printing, perforations 12, SG95/105.

 A fine mint set with part to large part original gum. Odd small faults as often seen (9c bend, 15c tiny thin and wrinkle), but, overall, an attractive set with fresh colours.

 A most appealing stamp issue, with the highest value denomination in the set being reserved to pay homage to the current reign at the time, King George V. Beautiful classic designs as follows:

 1c green - King James I

2c rose carmine - Arms of Colonisation Co

3c olive - John Guy

4c violet - Endeavour (Immigration Ship), 1610

5c bright blue - Cupids

6c claret - Sir Francis Bacon

8c bistre brown - View of Mosquito

9c olive green - Logging Camp, Red Indian Lake

10c purple slate - Paper Mills, Grand Falls

12c purple red brown - King Edward VII

15c black - King George V

 The Stanley Gibbons catalogue value is £475.

 Price: £350 (26% discount)

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12. Chinese Revolutionary Stamps

 Nobody loves stamp collecting more than the Chinese. They account for a third of the number of stamp collectors in the whole world.

 Prices are more volatile than most other areas of the stamp market but, in the long term, the growth in values has been the highest in the market.

 This historically important commemorative set of stamps is always in favour with Chinese collectors…

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China 1912 Commemorating the Revolution Sun Yat-sen set of 12 to $5 slate,SG242/53.

 A fine quality mint set other than a few gum bends which are fairly inconsequential and very fresh with large part original gum.

 One of the most important commemorative sets of stamps from China marking the formation of the Republic of China.

 Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 - 12 March 1925) was a Chinese politician, physician and philosopher who provisionally served as the first president of the Republic of China. He’s called the "Father of the Nation".

 These commemorative stamps honour his instrumental role in overthrowing the Qing dynasty during the Xinhai Revolution of 1911. The revolution led to the removal of China's last imperial dynasty and established the Republic of China. 

 SG catalogue value: £2,750.

Price: £2,250 (18% discount)

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How to order

 To purchase any of these philatelic treats, simply reply to this e-mail and let me know which stamps you want me to reserve for you.

 You can also place your order directly through our online store by clicking on the “CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW” icons.

 Alternatively, call on +44(0)1534 639998 or message us to +44(0)7700702962.

 Have a good weekend.

 Kind regards

 Mike Hall

 PS. Finally, why not treat yourself to the philatelic Christmas gift which trumps them all. We have a mint penny black, the most coveted stamp in the world. We are currently offering this example on behalf of a client and it is available at almost half catalogue value

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

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