On March 12, Spink in London offered the Harry Birkhead collection of occupation and siege issues from the Second Anglo-Boer War.
During this 1899-1902 conflict, the South African town of Mafeking, held by the British, was besieged for seven months by the Transvaal Army. When stamps ran out, the town’s leader, Col. Robert Baden-Powell, ordered the production of ad hoc ones. A photographic process was used, with Baden-Powell’s portrait the centerpiece of the design.
In traditional photography, the negative must be placed the right way up when making a print. If it is placed face-down, the image will be reversed. This happened when one sheet of the stamps was printed, and the result is a rarity, in which the image of the stamp is backward (Cape of Good Hope, Scott 179c).
According to Spink, only 10 examples of the error are known, and three are in the Royal collection. The example in the Spink sale is considered one of the finest. Postmarked April 27, 1900, the earliest recorded date of use, it sold for the equivalent of $67,600, including 20 percent buyer’s premium.
The siege was lifted three weeks later. Baden-Powell would return to Britain a hero and go on to found the Scouting movement.
On March 13, Spink offered the “Foxley” collection of British Guiana. Among the lots were several examples of the 4¢ black-on-magenta stamp of the 1856 provisional issue (Scott 14).
Siblings of the world-famous 1¢ stamp that will be offered by Sotheby’s in June and might fetch $10 million or more, the 4¢ stamps went for more modest amounts. A slightly faulty used example, its four corners trimmed off forming a familiar octagon, fetched just under $5,000.
A die proof in black of the 4¢ value of the 1860-75 Ship design (Scott type A5) with additional value tablets alongside, including a 72¢ denomination that was never issued, sold for nearly $22,000.
A mint vertical pair of the 4¢ Kaieteur Falls stamp from the 1938 pictorial set, lacking horizontal perforations (Scott 213a), sold for almost $24,000. Only about a dozen such pairs of the dramatic error are known.
Published 4/10/2014 7:00 AM