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Canadian Stamp Auctions

Stamp Market Commentary

Special Commentary - 5 January, 2011

The Black Empress of Canada
A Unique copy to be offered at auction on
January 27, 2011
By Spink Shreves Galleries


Lot 1
Scott 3
Estimate $400,000 – $500,000

The pric
e realized for
the Scott 3 was
$422,280 Cdn.
($425,000 US).

This extraordinary stamp is to be offered for sale at auction by Spink Shreves Galleries on January 27, 2011, in New York City. One of the Rarest Stamps of the World – A mint example of Canada's 1851 12d. Black Queen Victoria, in absolutely superb condition. Recently expertized by the Philatelic Foundation as “Genuine, Original Gum, Never Hinged” and numerically graded “98”. Without a doubt, this is the finest example extant.

Auctioneer’s Description

#3, 1851 12d. Black on laid paper, an astonishing quality mint example of this legendary classic rarity, being in a condition unmatched by any other in existence, featuring a spectacular overall freshness and brilliance, with intensely rich color and a sharp detailed impression on pristine paper, four incredibly large and well balanced margins (more than likely the margin at bottom is a partial sheet margin), and its reverse is equally impressive, displaying absolutely immaculate full original gum without a single bend or blemish, and most astounding of all the stamp is never hinged, a superb gem in every regard.

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. 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).

This exciting stamp is accompanied by a letter dated August 10, 1965 from J.N. Sissions, one of the most highly regarded Canadian auctioneers of the 20th Century, in which he describes the stamp as “…genuine and flawless, brilliant original gum, never hinged and immaculate in all respects. I believe it to be the finest existing copy.” Attached to the letter are photographic enlargements of both the front and reverse of the stamp.

In addition, the stamp was recently submitted to the Philatelic Foundation in New York City to obtain an updated report on its genuineness and condition. On May 3, 2010 the PF issued certificate #486541 and stated the stamp is “unused, o.g., genuine, never hinged.” Furthermore, the PF assigned the coveted numeric grade of “Superb 98” to the stamp - a grade that is almost never assigned to any classic stamp of the world, let alone a world class rarity. And for those who are familiar with the Philatelic Foundation’s conservative reputation for grading (and being particularly demanding when calling a classic stamp never hinged or not), this is a clear indication that this stamp is truly something special and beyond compare.

To accurately estimate the value of such a unique stamp is understandably difficult – as no other copy exists in this incomparable never hinged condition. To at least get some starting point, the current 2011 edition of The Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps prices a very fine unused (no gum) example at C$150,000.00, but they then assign a 100% premium if the stamp has original gum. Therefore, a catalog value of C$300,000.00 is appropriate for an original gum example that is in very fine condition.

Of course, the Unitrade catalog does not even attempt to assign a value for an original gum copy in superb condition such as The Black Empress, let alone the fact that it is never hinged. The earliest issues Unitrade attempts to price in never hinged condition is for the 1868-1876 Large Queen series, and never hinged copies are given a 300% premium over the very fine no gum pricing. 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. It realized $299,100.00 (including the buyer’s premium). 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.

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©2011, Canadian Stamp Auctions Ltd., Montréal, Québec, Canada