Great Britain 1935 2½d Prussian Blue, SG456a.
A very fine and fresh unused example, with original gum, of this famous "error of colour".
Offered with the normal 'blue' shade for comparison.
Accompanied with a 2007 Royal Philatelic Society (RPS) Certificate of Authenticity.
Provenance: Ex Burrus. Maurice Jean Marie Burrus (1882 to 1959) was a French Philatelist and legendary collector. The name Burrus is synonymous with great Provenance. Burrus was an Alsatian tobacco magnate and also a politician. Originally from Alsace but lived in Switzerland, he was a deputy in the French parliament during the 1930s. His stamp collection was considered one of the greatest ever assembled and included some of the world's rarest stamps.
King George V (known as the “Stamp King”) was a passionate stamp collector. So, on June 6th 1934, when he was asked for his permission for a commemorative stamp issue to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of his Accession to the Throne, he was delighted to say “yes”.
The designers put forward 12 different design ideas but the King was not impressed by any of them. So, On October 2nd 1934 the designers were sent back to the drawing board…
On October 25th 1934, a further 22 designs were submitted. Finally, the design of Mr Barnett Freeman was accepted.
On January 7th 1935, the King approved the final design. Just one question remained… what colour did he want the stamp to be?
Given the choice of “Prussian blue” or “blue”, the King opted for the latter.
But, all didn’t go to plan…
Why this stamp is so rare
The printers, Harrison & Son, printed some sheets in the “Prussian blue” colour in error.
They realised their mistake and quickly destroyed the erroneous sheets, except for six sheets sent to the Post Office Stores for inspection.
The Superintendent Warehouseman was asked to destroy the six sheets apart from a block of four to be retained for reference purposes.
However, a further mistake was made and only two of the sheets were destroyed. The other four were accidentally placed with the correct colour sheets by a busy worker.
Three of these sheets were sent to the Edmonton Post Office in North London. The other sheet was issued to an unknown Post Office.
As a result, we know that only 480 of these stamps were ever issued.
This is the maximum possible number in existence. The actual number of surviving examples is much lower.
A Profitable Trip to the Post Office
On June 2nd 1935, a collector, Mr A J Stavridi, sent his secretary to buy the new Silver Jubilee stamps from the Post Office in Upper Edmonton.
On inspecting the stamps, Mr Stavridi noticed that some of the stamps were different from the others.
Some were blue… others were “Prussian blue”.
Mr Stavridi quickly returned to the Post Office and purchased the remainder of the “Prussian blue” stamps.
Of the 360 stamps at Edmonton Post Office, 41 had already been sold. Mr Stavridi bought the remaining 319 stamps.
He mailed some of the stamps to his friends as souvenirs.
Of the 41 sold copies, ten were used on magazines sent to Australia, of which one survived; two were sent to a collector in Tonbridge. One other was used on a letter sent to Holland and was discovered in 1937.
To this day, the 2½d Prussian blue remains one of the rarest and most famous stamps from Great Britain. Quite simply, it should not have been printed.
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