By Michael Baadke
Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries of New York City has scheduled a series of six auctions for May 9-12 at the firm’s offices in Manhattan.
Among the six sales is a single-lot offering on May 11 of the Position 76 Jenny Invert error, the single United States 1918 24¢ carmine rose and blue airmail stamp with inverted center (Scott C3a) that was stolen as part of the McCoy block of four in 1955, and finally recovered less than one year ago.
The other five sales in this series will offer the Deane R. Briggs collection of Florida in the Civil War (May 9), U.S. and Confederate States postal history (May 9-10), the Steven Walske collection of North American blockade run mail and French royal packet mail (May 10), U.S. stamps (May 11-12), and the Vaquero collection of U.S. essays and proofs (May 12).
The auction of the McCoy Jenny Invert stamp is taking place on behalf of the American Philatelic Research Library, declared the rightful owner of all four stamps from the McCoy block in 1979, when Ethel B. Stewart McCoy donated her ownership of the then-missing stamp block to the library.
The world-famous error stamp is listed in the 2017 Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers with a value of $450,000 for a stamp that is unused.
During the six decades between its theft and recovery, the Position 76 Jenny Invert was separated from its companions and “skillfully reperforated” at top and left in an apparent effort to conceal its true identity.
The stamp has original gum and is previously hinged according to its 2016 certificate from the American Philatelic Expertizing Service; a 2016 Philatelic Foundation certificate also accompanies the stamp. Both certificates note that the stamp has a thin spot, described as “tiny” by the Foundation.
The Siegel catalog for this sale, which can be digitally downloaded on the Siegel website or ordered in print form from the firm, runs close to 50 pages, with a detailed history of the 24¢ Jenny airmail stamp that includes background on the establishment of airmail service in the United States, and leading into the development, design and production of the stamp — and the famous error found on the first day of sale in a single sheet of 100.
An additional 11 pages of reporting by philatelic researcher and expert Ken Lawrence fills in the background on Ethel B. Stewart McCoy, the respected collector and exhibitor whose prize Jenny error block was stolen from an American Philatelic Society exhibition on Sept. 23, 1955.
The whereabouts of the stamp remained a mystery until 2016, when it was brought to the New York City offices of the Spink auction firm by a young man from Northern Ireland who discovered it there among items left to him by his late grandfather.
It’s the third of the four stolen stamps to be recovered and returned to the library, and the second to go on the auction block. The library plans to retain the Position 65 (upper left) stamp from the block, and the Position 66 (upper right) stamp has never been found.
McCoy died in 1980, a few months before the library took possession of the Position 75 error stamp, which it sold in 1981.
“This sale of the Position 76 stamp,” Lawrence wrote in the new auction catalog, “will support APRL’s mission as she would have wished.”
This substantial auction series begins May 9 in an afternoon session that offers the Deane R. Briggs collection of Florida in the Civil War.
The covers (and a sprinkling of loose stamps) that make up this auction of 200-plus lots come from Briggs’ award-winning collection. The current president of the Confederate Stamp Alliance, Briggs introduces the sale with a preface to the catalog and notes that after obtaining material from the William G. Bogg collection in 1987, he built it into an exhibit that filled 160 pages in 10 frames, and picked up four grand awards along the way, as well as an international gold award at London 2015.
The collection was also shown at World Stamp Show-NY 2016 as an educational exhibit.
There are plenty of historic rarities in this auction, including five consecutive lots of material from Madison Court House, Fla.
Considered the only recorded example of the Madison Court House 3¢ postmaster’s provisional stamp (Scott 3AX1) used on cover, from Florida to the District of Columbia, the stamp features bottom-right corner sheet margins and a large left margin, and is canceled by a “Paid” oval marking.
The contents of this cover, dated Feb. 13, 1861, document it as the earliest of all postmasters’ provisionals used in the Confederate States, according to Siegel. The cover is ex-Ferrary, Duveen, Hind, Caspary and Gross, and is listed with the Scott catalog value for the stamp on cover, at $65,000.
The stamp on this cover, by the way, is the example pictured in the Scott catalog, and the stamp pictured next to it in the same catalog is another of the five Madison Court House lots in this auction: the only known example of the same gold on blue 3¢ provisional stamp with “Cents” misspelled “Cnets” (Scott AX1a).
Additional Confederate States postal history is offered, along with selected U.S. postal history, in a sale that extends from May 9 to May 10 with 276 lots.
A large group of stampless covers includes examples arranged by state, plus China inbound and outbound mail.
The sale offers two examples of the 1846 5¢ black Washington New York, N.Y., postmaster’s provisionals on cover, a number of appealing 1847 covers, and more.
A nice legal-size envelope franked with four of the 1931 5¢ violet Winged Globe airmail stamp (Scott C16) features the autograph of Charles A. Lindbergh (as “C.A. Lindbergh”). The cover has a Pan American Airways return address, a typed delivery address to Cristobal, Canal Zone, and a purple first-flight cachet. The Siegel estimate on this handsome item is $400 to $500.
Over the past few years, the Siegel firm has offered items from the collections of philatelic researcher, writer and exhibitor Steven Walske, including material from the Walske collection of trans-Atlantic mail between the United States and France, auctioned in 2016.
The 200-plus lots in the Walske collection of North American blockade run mail and French royal packet mail in this auction series is arranged in four main groups: Revolutionary War, French Royal Packet Mail, War of 1812, and the Civil War.
The selection of French royal packet mail from the late 18th century actually opens with a remarkable 1792 Spanish folded letter mailed from New Orleans to Bordeaux, France, via Havana, Cuba, and Spain.
The letter has one of only three recorded strikes of the ornate “Nueva Orleans” laureated oval postmark from this period on a cover, according to the Siegel auction catalog description. One of the other two is in the collection of a Havana museum, and the other is described as being in poor condition.
The cover on offer is also struck with the “Yndias” (West Indies) straightline handstamp, and was carried by the Spanish royal mail packet El Tucuman.
Ex-Dr. Skinner and Risvold, this cover is offered with an estimated value of $25,000 to $35,000.
The May 11-12 general sale of U.S. stamps includes material from the Brian M. DeBroff collection of high-grade Washington-Franklin issues, and showcases, in many instances, the finest examples known for specific issues. Thirty-five stamps in this sale claim the top grades of 100 or 100 Jumbo. A number of these stamps are identified as being the only one verified to have achieved the highest possible grade.
An example is the 1911 8¢ olive green George Washington (Scott 380), a stamp that lists in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog for $225 as a very fine never-hinged example.
However, the stamp in this auction is certified with a 2009 Professional Stamp Experts grade of Gem 100 Jumbo, a grade so high that it is not valued in either the Scott catalog or in Stamp Market Quarterly. The latter publication lists a $10,500 value for the simple 100 grade.
In the description for this stamp, Siegel notes: “This is the highest grade possible on the grading chart and this is the only example to achieve this ultimate grade. The next-highest grade awarded is a single example graded 98.”
The mint never-hinged stamp is described as having a lovely pastel color and mathematically perfect centering.
The sale includes U.S. regular postage, airmail, special delivery, possessions, and other back-of-the-book issues, as well as philatelic literature, collections and accumulations.
The auctions series concludes May 12 with the Vaquero collection of U.S. essays and proofs, presenting a dazzling selection of unfamiliar and familiar designs in rich colors often not seen on the issued stamps.
An example is the 3¢ Liberty Spencer Patent Rainbow plate essay on wove paper, presented as four vertical pairs and two singles (originally another vertical pair). Each perf 12 essay is printed in a different combination of multiple colors; the set (Scott 79-E30r) is listed with an estimate of $4,000 to $5,000.
There are also some delightful revenue stamp essays in this sale, including the spectacular unissued $5,000 yellow orange, green and black “Persian Rug” large die trial color proof on India paper (Scott R133ATC1e).
For more information, contact Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, 60 E. 56th St., Fourth Floor, New York, NY 10022.