The firm of David Feldman held its autumn auction series in Geneva Dec. 1-6, 2014. The six-day event was Feldman’s 18th Rarities of the World showcase, with notable collections of Russia, Israel, Zanzibar and the British Empire.
The sale was previewed on the front page of Linn’s Dec. 1 issue.
A long string of well-known stamps made the "rarities" section of the sale seem like a who’s who of classic philately, including a large number of first-day covers and earliest known usages of classic 19th-century stamps.
An 1859 folded letter from the Sicilian city of Palermo to Paris, franked with a colorful trio of 5-grana deep rose, 10g dark blue and 20g violet stamps of King Ferdinand II (Scott 14, 16-17) was postmarked Jan. 1, 1859, the stamps’ first day. Ferdinand died on May 22, 1859, and his kingdom was incorporated into unified Italy a year later.
The stamps are canceled with the ornate "horseshoe" peculiar to Sicily, designed to spare the king’s vanity by obliterating only the frame of the stamp, not his face.
Described as "an important showpiece of the greatest rarity," the cover was sold for €84,000 (including the 20 percent buyer’s premium that Feldman adds to all lots), the equivalent of a little more than $103,000 at early December exchange rates.
An unusual item described as "possibly the most stunning and rarest of all Mongolia covers" was hammered down a few minutes after the Sicily cover at the same price as the latter.
Reportedly a new discovery of the scarce postmark from the Russian outpost at Ulyasutai, Mongolia, the 1914 advertising cover for Capstan Navy Cut cigarettes is franked on the back with pairs of the 1-kopeck and 2k and a single of the 14k stamps (Scott 88-89, 94) from Russia’s 1913 issue, commemorating the tercentenary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty. A circular datestamp cancels each of the three stamps.
The cover, addressed to Sweden, apparently was opened in St. Petersburg and reclosed with a fancy red wax imperial seal. The front of the cover, which also bears an advertising image, has a registration label and another circular datestamp of Ulyasutai.
A brief video describing the cover can be seen on YouTube.com.
Another Italian States FDC in the Feldman sale was a June 1, 1850, cover from Venice to Milan bearing a Lombardy-Venetia 45-centesimi stamp (Scott 6).
Venice and Milan were the two principal cities of this northern Italian kingdom, amalgamated into one entity by the Austrian Empire after the Napoleonic wars, which joined the rest of Italy in 1859 (Lombardy) and 1866 (Venetia).
The country is listed in the Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 under Austria, although Italian catalogs naturally include it as part of Italy.
The cover, bearing numerous experts’ signatures in pencil near the stamp, sold for the equivalent of about $74,000. A 1977 certificate from Enzo Diena (1927-2000), a noted expert on Italian stamps, stated that he knew of only one other such cover.
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