The 'Black Empress' commands $425,000 in Spink Shreves' stamp auction

In New York on January 27, Spink Shreves kicked off its sale of British North American stamps with a very special highlight...

"I've been in the business my whole life, four decades and I've never seen a stamp of that rarity or that age, a classic stamp, in that perfect a condition."

That's how Charles Shreve, President of Spink Shreves, described the stamp in his exclusive interview with Paul Fraser Collectibles, last week.

The piece is question was an exquisite example of the Canadian 1851 12d Black on laid paper which has been nicknamed The Black Empress.

The 12d black is always valuable, but this example is in freakishly good condition for a 150-year-old stamp. As the auctioneer put 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.

The Black Empress of Canada
The Black Empress of Canada

"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)."

The Philatelic Foundation 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 ...

"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 Empress did not disappoint achieving a bid worthy of a King's ransom: $425,000.


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