Cherrystone March 20-21 auction offers Italian Levant airmail rarity; U.S., worldwide

May 2, 2021, 11 PM
A rare unissued airmail stamp from Italy’s offices in the Turkish Empire will be offered during the March 20-21 Cherrystone auction.

By Michael Baadke

The cover of the catalog for the March 20-21 Cherrystone auction describes the sale as offering rare stamps and postal history of the world. A 1922 Italian airmail stamp among the 1,765 lots on offer is regarded as a considerable rarity by many, with only five examples known.

It is listed by Cherrystone under Italian Levant, which is also how it is found in the 2018 Sassone Catalogo Specializzato dei Francobolli d’Italia e dei Paesi Italiani. It is not listed in the Scott catalog, presumably because the stamp is regularly described as never issued.

The Cherrystone lot description relates that the stamp was prepared in Constantinople for a planned flight from Bucharest to Paris.

“Due to pressure from the French Embassy in Constantinople and the Lausanne Conference calling for the closure of all Foreign Post Offices within Turkey, the issue was aborted and nearly all examples of this stamp were destroyed and burnt … ” the auction firm notes.

The base stamp is Italy’s familiar 25-centesimo special delivery stamp issued in 1903 (Scott E1), a horizontal stamp that was, from time to time, overprinted and pressed into service for other purposes. The first Italian airmail stamp listed in the 2018 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 is, in fact, the special delivery stamp with a three-line black overprint detailing its May 1917 use for airmail (Scott C1).

The stamp offered in Cherrystone’s auction, created for Italy’s offices in the Turkish Empire, bears a different overprint, with “Servizio Postale Aereo” above the bold silhouette of a biplane of the era, and a 15-piaster surcharge below the plane.

The stamp is certified by Giulio Bolaffi (1966) and Giorgio Colla (2007) and signed by Bolaffi, Colla, Diena and Sanabria. It has a “large part original gum, excellent color, typical slight ageing,” Cherrystone observes.

In the Sassone catalog listing, the unused stamp is assigned a value of €300,000 (close to $368,000 at the beginning of March). It is offered by Cherrystone with an opening bid of $70,000.

In four sessions over two days, Cherrystone will auction United States and worldwide stamps and postal history, proofs and essays, large lots and collections, and more.

The Tuesday morning session includes a cover franked with the 10¢ black on gray lilac “St. Louis Bears,” the 1846 postmaster’s provisional stamp from St. Louis, Mo. (Scott 11X5). Bidding starts at $19,500.

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The auction can be viewed here, with online bidding options available. Contact Cherrystone Philatelic Auctioneers, 119 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019, for more information.