By Tim Hodge
InterAsia Auctions recently sold the earliest known cover bearing Imperial China stamps for an unprecedented $2.43 million, setting a new record in Chinese philately.
The June 16 auction in Hong Kong offered part three of the Jane and Dan Sten Olsson collection of Large Dragons, the name given to the first stamp issue of Imperial China.
This cover was mailed to Shanghai on Oct. 5, 1878, bearing a pair and a single of the 1878 thin paper 5-candareen stamp in bister orange (Scott 3a). It is the earliest known cover bearing a Large Dragon stamp.
Although this is a record sum for Chinese philately, worldwide it is still eclipsed by the 1847 Mauritius Bordeaux cover, which in 1993 was sold at auction for $3,829,500 by David Feldman in Zurich, Switzerland.
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The Bordeaux cover is franked with the 1847 Mauritius 1-penny and 2d stamps and addressed to Bordeaux, France.
The highest price paid at public auction for a philatelic object is $9.48 million for the 1856 British Guiana 1¢ Magenta stamp (Scott 13) auctioned June 17, 2014, at Sotheby’s in New York City.