British Empire flies the flag in October

Three auctions held at the recently refurbished Grosvenor salerooms during October provided further compelling evidence of the growing strength of the British Empire market, the total realization of £1,469,494 leaving the pre-sale estimate of £1,106,550 far behind.

India is currently enjoying excellent support and the auction of the John Trowbridge Collection of Indian Native States held on October 6th attracted wide international interest. One of the most remarkable prices was the £5,039 paid for the attractive 1907 Cochin revenue essay featured on the inside back cover of the catalogue (lot 332).

Lot 907 Cochin revenue essay sold £5,039

Lot 907 Cochin revenue essay sold £5,039

Amongst other Cochin stamp rarities were the scarce Cochin 1943 provisional 1a.3p. on 1a. type 21 (S.G. 92c, lot 149) which reached £4,329 and the 1944 Official 1a. (S.G. O70, lot 153) which achieved £3,861 against a Stanley Gibbons catalogue value of £3,250. Lot 250 offered two examples of the original design essay for the Travancore Conch issues, one of which was chosen to appear on the front cover of the catalogue. This popular lot achieved a very impressive £1,813.

Starting on the afternoon of the same day and continuing on Thursday 7th was the auction of British Empire & Foreign Countries containing items and collections from across the world, including special sections presenting exceptional collections formed by advanced collectors.

The first of these was the James E Brill collection of Pitcairn Islands which brought to the market more rarities from this area than one might normally expect to see in many years. One of the rarest King George VI booklets is the Pitcairn 1940 4s.8d. and the four examples that the collection here presented (lots 690–693) all found new homes, realising between £1,125 and £1,937.

Saint Kitts-Nevis 1/2d. orange sold £1,920

The John Davis Collection of War Tax issues of the British West Indies provided an in-depth overview and fitting accompaniment to John Davis’s recently published guide to these interesting issues “The War Tax Stamps of the British Empire, First World War, The West Indies”. Among many notable results were the £1,920 paid for both the Saint Kitts-Nevis 1/2d. green (lot 824) and 11/2d. orange (lot 825) in plate proof strips of three with plate number, whilst a used example of the Jamaica 11/2d. watermark sideways (S.G. 711aa) approached its catalogue value of £1,700 with a realization of £1,638.

The second day of this auction began with an outstanding offering of Miscellaneous & Mixed Lots with the first lot, an exceptional collection of Foreign Countries in two New Ideal albums (lot 915) rising to £56,160 and the second, a British Empire collection in two New Imperial albums (lot 916) reaching £45,630.

Strong prices continued throughout the remainder of the sale with £24,570 being paid for that popular rarity, the Jamaica 1919-21 1s. frame inverted (lot 1476) and £24,570 for the Rhodesia & Nyasaland 1959-62 3d. Rhodes Grave pair with centre omitted (lot 1670). A most exceptional collection of British Guiana including four ‘Cottonreels” and other classics attracted great interest. The 1850-51 4c. lemon-yellow (S.G. 2, lot 1181 sold for £5,999 and the 1856 Type-set 4c. black on magenta (S.G. 24, lot 1195) rose to £8,424.

Auctioneer James Grist later paid tribute to a very successful pair of auctions which had provided great interest for collectors in a particularly wide range of fields.

Handpainted essay for the 1886 5s. achieved £10,764 (illustration trimmed)

October 21st, Trafalgar Day, was a highly appropriate day for the sale of the ‘Victory’ Collection of Malta with a full room and prices high for what was the most important collection of this country to come to auction for some years.

The postal history section of the sale contained a number of items that also held considerable historical interest. Lot 3021, an 1803 letter from Lord Nelson to Major General Villettes, Governor of Malta, consequently did not disappoint, achieving £21,645 against a pre-sale estimate of £3,000-4,000. Among many attractive later covers was an 1855 incoming entire letter from Dacca, India that soared to £14,397.

Collectors were also determined not to miss this rare opportunity to acquire the many scarce essays, proofs and other items on offer among the issued stamps and fierce competition repeatedly drove prices past pre-sale estimates. The 1860 1/2d. buff imperf. plate proof, one of only three known examples rose to £10,558, the handpainted essay for the 1886 5s. (lot 3253) achieved £10,764, whilst the imperforate plate proof block of four of the 1919 10s. (lot 3344) impressed at £26,910. High prices are now perhaps to be expected for King George VI varieties and lot 3402, the used example of the 1948-53 ‘SELF-GOVERNMENT’ 1/2d. albino overprint, was no exception, achieving £17,996 against a catalogue value of £13,000.

Auctioneer Andrew Claridge professed himself pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the bidding and the breadth of support for this sale, resulting in 54 separate successful buyers, an exceptionally high number for a single country sale.

News item published on: 20 October, 2010