By Michael Baadke
The recent series of auctions offering material from the collection of Canadian philatelist Ron Brigham has been an eye-opening experience, with wonderfully deep explorations of the stamps themselves revealing the history behind each issue.
Most of the stamps have been presented with essays and die proofs in various forms that help the collector understand the method by which this outstanding material progresses from conception to design to issued stamp.
This is true once more for Part VI of this auction series, which on Sept. 19 offers lots at public auction from the 1908 Quebec Tercentenary issue, as well as material from the unissued 1914 Macdonald-Cartier Centenary series and the unissued 1914 Canada-USA Peace issue stamps.
Later in the same afternoon comes material that seems altogether different, though most certainly connects historically with the rest of the series.
That selection of lots, Part VII, comprises issues from the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and provides a smaller number of proofs and essays, which to some degree seems to make them more dear.
An example is the single finished die essay for a 4¢ value in black that features George Gunderson’s 1965 engraved likeness of Queen Elizabeth based upon the Alfred Jones portrait. The essay is produced by the American Bank Note Co. in the center spot of a three-by-three perforated block on wove paper: all the surrounding paper is blank margin.
Directly above the portrait, the essay shows three horizontal lines of perforation. A note on the reverse in ballpoint ink points out that there are compound perfs across the top of the sheet.
The item is unique, and yet it carries a modest estimate of $750 in Canadian dollars. About four weeks before the auction that calculates to roughly US$562, but the exchange rate between Canada and the United States has been a bit bouncy lately.
Much of what Part VII is all about are Canada’s production errors from the modern era, including the stamp that could be considered Canada’s equivalent to the U.S. Jenny Invert (the original 24¢ error of 1918, of course, not the recent $2 remake).
I’m referring to Canada’s fabulous 1959 5¢ Seaway Invert (Scott 387a), which is forever tied to the United States as part of a joint issue that became an international sensation when examples of the Canada stamp were discovered with the red printed text inverted and neatly placed upside down in the panels just above and below the blue vignette.
Its great similarity to the 4¢ U.S. component of this joint issue (Scott 1131) expands its recognition factor considerably.
Unlike many errors, this one was discovered both used and unused, and roughly 200 unused examples are known. This auction provides three lots — two singles and one block of four — all with their own individual characteristics.
The two singles are similar, and in fact, are both offered with a catalog value from the Unitrade Canada Specialized Catalogue of C$12,500 (US$9,375).
The first has full never-hinged original gum (and a negligible fingerprint, according to the auction catalog description).
The second brings with it a bit of margin selvage along the bottom, also with full original gum, and “one natural gum wrinkle and a trivially dull perforation tip at left, still most presentable and very rare.”
The block of four has no margin selvage and is one of 15 blocks of four recorded in 2009.
However, Brigham notes that at least two of these blocks have been broken down into smaller units, making each surviving multiple just that much more scarce.
This example has full original gum and is never hinged, with a note that a small hinge mark or possibly just a moisture spot exists at one edge of the upper left stamp. The block is otherwise post-office fresh, and offered with the catalog value of C$50,000 (US$37,500).
The Seaway Invert is not the only modern error represented in this sale; there is, in fact, a significant selection that includes color-omitted errors, tagging-omitted errors, perforation varieties and errors, double impressions, reverse offsets and more.
The earlier material in Part VI has its own aura of exceptionalism, beginning with the fact that Brigham’s 1908-14 Canadian Commemoratives exhibit was honored just last year at both the American Philatelic Society Stampshow World Series of Philately (prix d’honneur) and the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada’s Royal 2014 Royale exhibition (grand award).
The many essays and proofs in this first session present material that features these designs in photographic form, as marked-up artist’s models, as colorful and elegant proofs from the engraver’s ledger, and much more.
The material from the two unissued series is fascinating, with concepts and designs that didn’t appear on issued stamps because of World War I, represented by numerous die essays in black and the colors planned for the issue but never executed.
The eight stamps of the 1908 Quebec Tercentenary (Scott 96-103) carry a never-hinged value in the 2015 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers of US$2,404, so that naturally ramps up the value for multiples of this 20th century pictorial set.
A complete set of top margin plate number imprint blocks of eight, described as unique by Brigham, is on offer with an estimate at C$15,000 (US$11,280).
A set of eight imperforate plate imprint blocks of four (six plate No. 1 at top, two plate No. 2 at top, and one plate No. 3 at bottom) is also available, and also described as a unique set of the second printing, with a value listing of C$42,000 (US $31,600).
A great selection of postal history for this section is also found in the Brigham catalog.
This public auction is taking place at the Brampton Golf Club, 7700 Kennedy Road, Brampton, Ontario, Canada, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday. Online bidding is available through Stamp Auction Network.
Additional information is also available from Brigham Auctions Ltd., 350 Rutherford Road S., Plaza 2, Ste. 223, Brampton, Ontario, L6W 4N6, Canada.