Two 'icons of Official Philately' lead Robert A Siegel's last rare stamp auction of 2010

Robert A Siegel Auction Galleries have offered more notable sales in recent weeks than it would be possible for anyone to completely keep track of. Following their 1,000th sale recently, this week sees their sale of Specialized US Collections, Air Post, Foreign Stamps & Covers.

Their last auction before Christmas features several important single-owner collections, including the Dr. David H. Lobdell Collections of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Issue and War Department Officials.

Also featured are the John A. Larson Collection of United States Postage Due Issues, the Marc Weinberg-Martin Collection of France, an outstanding Collection of World-Wide Airpost and Flight Covers and a selection of Foreign stamps and covers.

This sale is relatively low key compared to some of their recent spectaculars, but it still includes a selection of investment-grade stamps. Two stand out from their United States War Department Issues section: two covers addressed to Benjamin Smith Lyman in Japan.

The 24c and 30c War Department covers to Japan - two 'icons of Official philately' in Siegel's words - will be made available to the market for the first time since 1963, when Dr. Lobdell acquired them from the Duckworth collection.

Noted authority on Officials, Alan C. Campbell, described this pair of covers as "rivals" to the Commodore Caldwell 24c and 30c Navy Department covers that were sold by Siegel in the Starnes auction ($26,000 and $37,500 hammer, respectively). The following is a description of the covers by the late Dr. Lobdell:

"Both covers were sent by the War Department's Chief Signal Officer to 'Benjamin Smith Lyman, Chief Geologist and Mining Engineer to the Kaitakushi.' Lyman was a Harvard graduate who later studied at the Ecole de Mines in Paris and set himself up as a consulting geologist.

Benjamin Smith Lynan 24c cover
Benjamin Smith Lynan 24c cover

Between 1873 and 1879 he was chief geologist to the Japanese government, principally working for the Kaitakushi, which was an agency with the responsibility for the colonization and development of the natural resources of the northern island of Hokkaido.

(Hokkaido was Japan's version of our frontier in '70s, so that while we were sending homesteaders into our West and killing off the Indians, they were populating Hokkaido with ethnic Japanese and doing a number on the native Ainu.)"

The 24c cover is described as the only recorded full cover bearing the 24-cent war department issue (the other two uses are package labels). Addressed to Benjamin Smith Lyman in Japan, it is considered to be one of the most important of all official covers.

Both covers are expected to acheive $10,000-20,000 in Siegel's sale which takes place from December 15-17 in New York and online.


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