By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent
Spink continued its multipart sale of the Lord Vestey collection in London with a sale of Western Australia on May 19. Western Australia was one of six states that combined to form Australia in 1901.
Described as “without doubt the most important” collection of this colony to have appeared at auction, it featured essays, proofs, specimens, mint and used stamps and covers.
The highlight of the sale was a new record price for a famous error, the 4-penny blue Swan design with inverted frame (Western Australia Scott 3a) of 1855.
These stamps were lithographed in a single color, so it seems odd that an error like this could arise. A little explanation is in order.
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Printing stones for the 4p value were made locally, by transferring an impression of the engraved 1p stamps (produced in London by the firm of Perkins Bacon) and erasing their frames. A new 4p frame was drawn by hand and transferred individually to each vignette.
At some point in the process, the printer noticed that a couple of the frames were damaged and sought to manually replace them. However, he made a bad situation worse: one of the replacements was tilted and the other inverted.
It is one of the earliest philatelic errors of any sort, and also one of the rarest. About 15 examples have been recorded, of which six are in institutions. The example in the Spink sale, bought by Lord Vestey from Robson Lowe in 1942 for a then-princely £850, was hammered for an impressive £102,000, or $189,500, including the 20 percent buyer’s premium.