Canadian Stamp Auctions

Stamp market commentary

Report No. 7 - 17 April, 2000

Canada's Rarest Stamp

12 pence black If you ask most collectors which is the rarest of all our Canadian stamps, they would probably say the 12 penny black of 1851. This is not surprising because it comes up at auction fairly regularly and this makes it well known to the stamp community. The Scott 2000 catalogue gives it a value of $80,000 for a mint copy and $50,000 for a used one.  According to Boggs, 1450 copies of this stamp were issued to the Post Office.  An article in the Canadian Stamp News in 1988 suggested that approximately 100 copies exist today.

But, the 12-penny black is not the rarest stamp. That honour goes to the 2-cent large Queen on laid paper issued in 1868. It exists only in used form.

In the April 1, 2000 edition of the Montreal Gazette, Larry McInnis, the stamp columnist, commented on the question of how many 2¢ Large Queens on laid paper actually existed. Was it one or two? He stated:

"I mentioned that Canada had its own rare stamp: a 2-cent green in the 1868 Large Queen series, printed on laid paper…… this was an error: two copies of the stamp are known to exist."

"A 2-cent on laid paper was discovered in 1925. It is still a matter of great wonderment that the second copy was 'discovered' by a well-known Canadian dealer in 1950"

So it seems to be accepted that there are two copies of this stamp. But, if this is so, where are they? Who owns them? Have they been tucked away for a number of years? Are they still located in Canada? What do they look like?

Mr. McInnis quotes Charles Verge, vice-president of the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada on this:

"One stamp, he says, is in the possession of Ron Brigham, long-time Canadian philatelist and new auctioneer. It is part of his collection of large Queens and has won top honours in world exhibitions. George Holschauer, the rather flashy owner of Colonial Stamp Co. of Los Angeles, owns the other."

Verge rightly points out that while the catalogue value of each stamp is just over $50,000, both stamps have fetched much higher prices in recent years. He said they have been privately sold at least four times in the last 10 years or so. While the price of a private sale is not public, Verge believes they went for their asking price of $250,000 U.S. [$375,000 Canadian]

A telephone call to Ron Brigham on April 7 brought confirmation that he still owns one of these rare stamps.  His is the "First Copy" referred to below and is by far the better of the two.  It has better perforations and is better centred.  It will be on display at the Royal 2000 Stamp Show in Winnipeg, April 28-30, 2000.

Now we know how many there are and who owned them, at least at one point in time. But what do they look like?  We believe we have the answers.

First Copy Large Queen on Laid Paper First Copy
In 1993, John Jamieson of Saskatoon Stamp Centre acquired this copy from F.E. Eaton & Sons in Vancouver and displayed it at the Royal Show in Ottawa. Daniel Eaton had purchased the pedigree stamp from Winnipeg dealer Kasimir Bileski. Bileski had the stamp in his collection since 1951.
We are indebted to Ron Brigham of Brigham Auctions Ltd. for allowing us to show here a colour reproduction of his copy of Canada's rarest stamp.  This is very evidently the finer of the two.

For a higher resolution reproduction of this fine stamp, please click here

2nd. copy Large Queen on Laid Paper Second Copy
The second copy also passed through the hands of F.E. Eaton & Sons. The image of the stamp, which is shown, comes from a leaflet which Eaton circulated in 1986 following the sale. Eaton proudly boasted at setting a record price for this Canadian issue. The fact that this firm owned two copies of this rare Canadian stamp is quite remarkable.
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