The Dawson Cover - exploring a legendary philatelic gem

The Dawson Cover - one of the world's greatest philatelic rarities.

If you're a dedicated stamp collector, it's likely that you've heard of it.

It stands among the most famous philatelic items in history: the British Guiana 1c Magenta, The Bordeaux Cover, The Treskilling Yellow.

And now it is due to appear at Robert A Siegel Auction Galleries on June 25, as part of the Steve C Walske Collection of Hawaiian Postal History.

It's valued at $2m-3m, but what drives this outstanding price?

Dawson Cover hawaii stamps
The Dawson Cover is the rarest and most important in all Hawaiian postal history

Firstly, the cover is unique, being the only known cover to bear the Hawaiian 2-cent Missionary stamp, as well as the only intact cover with two different denominations of Hawaiian Missionary stamps - a widely collected field.

It has also passed through some of the world's most esteemed collections, and has been featured in some of the most illustrious exhibitions of the 20th century: The Aristocrats of Philately at Anphilex 1971, Interphil 1976 and Anphilex 1996.

Shown by invitation in the Courts of Honor of 15 international philatelic exhibitions, it was also catalogued for London 1980 and the World Stamp Expo 1989.

In addition, it took pride of place in the Gems of Hawaii: The Persis Collection exhibit at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

But what really draws collectors is the fascinating journey that the cover has made through history...

Hawaiian postage stamp 5c
Of the four values issued between 1851 and 1856, only 200 stamps have survived from the issue

The Hawaiian Missionaries, released in 1851, were the first stamps ever to be issued in the Kingdom of Hawaii.

They take their name from the fact that they were mainly found on the correspondence of missionaries working on the island. Just a scant few have survived today, drawing a large collector base.

The famous cover was sent by a William C Dawson to "Miss Eliza A Dawson, Care Jacob H Dawson, 253 Cherry Street, New York" with "Give my love to all" tenderly written on the reverse.

Also bearing a horizontal pair of US 1851 3c Brownish Carmine stamps, the cover embarked on its long voyage to New York, stopping off in San Francisco, where it received a circular date stamp reading, "San Francisco Cal. 27 Oct."

The 2c stamp is far rarer than any other from the issue, as it was only used to send newspapers to the US

The letter is presumed to have reached its intended recipient, and was not heard from again until 1870, when it was thoughtlessly shoved into a factory furnace along with a bundle of correspondence.

Yet, this wasn't the end for the Dawson Cover...

Thankfully, the bundle had been so tightly packed that the cover survived the inferno with just a small singe mark at its edge.

The factory was subsequently abandoned, lying empty until a workman preparing it for reuse discovered the remarkable bundle still stuffed deep inside the dormant furnace.

Being no stamp collector, the workman was puzzled by his find, but knew just enough about stamps to question if any were of value.

Discerning collectors soon began to circle and George H Worthington - one of most respected philatelists of his day - swooped in to acquire the workman's astonishing find in 1905.

The cover has been celebrated ever since and has been sold publicly just a few times in its lifetime, as collectors savour every last moment they get as guardians of this precious treasure. It featured in a Siegel auction in 1995, where it brought $1.9m, and was later acquired for $2.1m.

It is this kind of remarkable back story and provenance that truly drives the high-end stamp market.

Collectors of this calibre are not just those with the biggest bank balance, looking to make the kind of profits that high-end stamps are renowned for, they are conservators of philatelic history, each playing their part in protecting items of extraordinary rarity.

Paul Fraser Collectibles is very pleased to offer The Black Empress - a unique and impeccable example of the Canadian 1851 12d Black and the country's rarest gem.

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