The 'Crown Jewel' of Hong Kong philately brings a World Record price at Spink

Spink held a series of major auctions in Hong Kong over the weekend (January 22-23) with a stunning selection of coins, stamps, banknotes and scrip going under the hammer.

We reported yesterday on the sale of the Mizhuhara Collection of Mongolian Stamps - and it proved to be a great sale, with 167 lots producing some amazing results.

These included the earliest stamped cover from the Russian consulate post in Mongolia and the only three-colour franking with pen cancel (one of only 10-15 covers known to have pen cancels at all). Estimated at HK$100,000-120,000 (up to US$15,400), the piece eventually sold for HK$2m (US$260,400).

Even more impressive was a 1911 (1 April) opened-out red band cover from the Chinese consulate post in Mongolia to Tibet, which was the only recorded example sent between Mongolia and Tibet during this period.

Expected to bring HK$60,000-80,000 it stirred up frenzied bidding which concluded with the extraordinary bid of HK$3.1m (US$397,800).

However, those watching the stamp markets will have been waiting for the result of lot 2505, the Hong Kong 96c olive-bistre marginal block of four, known as the Outstanding Treasure of Hong Kong Philately. Could it live up to the hype?

Just to recap the history of the block: The first stamps of Hong Kong were issued in 1862 in seven values from 2c to 96c brownish grey and there were two printings of the 96c totalling 138 sheets (240 stamps to each sheet). In 1863 the printers, De la Rue, introduced new paper with the watermark Crown over CC (Crown Colony) as well as some additional values.

96c Hong Kong olive-bistre stamp block
96c Hong Kong olive-bistre stamp block

Some of the original supplies did not need replenishing for some time and the next requisition for 96c was made in March 1864. This supply of only 52 sheets was in an unexpected olive-bistre colour.

There were no reasons for this change of colour and it is believed that this was a simple mistake made by De la Rue as bistre was among the original range of colour trials supplied in 1862. By the time the mistake was spotted in Hong Kong, it was too late to expect a fresh supply to arrive in time.

The 96c olive-bistre had a very short life. It was issued at the Post Office around January or February 1865. A new printing, in the correct brownish grey shade, was made at the same time and these supplies of these were available in Hong Kong around late July or August 1865.

In the event, the piece fell slightly short of its aspirational estimate of HK$8m-12m, but at HK$6.4m ($821,000) it still set a new world record price for the region.

Olivier Stocker, Group Chairman & CEO of Spink, commented after the sale: "This fantastic result demonstrates the enormous strength of the collectables markets in Hong and China.

"With over 20 years of auctioneering experience in Hong Kong, Spink look forward to increasing the number of auctions in Hong Kong for the future in order to better serve our growing clientele in Asia."

Watch this space for more results from the weekend's extraordinary stamp sales - there is a lot more worth mentioning.


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