Auctions

Mauritius Ball cover sells for almost $12 million, an all-time record price

Jun 30, 2021, 3 PM
The famed 1847 Mauritius Ball cover, one of three known, sold for the equivalent of almost $12 million during a June 26 Christopher Gaertner auction in Germany. The realization is believed to be the highest price ever paid for a single philatelic item. Image courtesy of Christoph Gaertner.

By Matthew Healey, New York Correspondent

It seems Mauritius orange is the new British Guiana magenta.

Less than three weeks after the much-hyped June 8 sale of the unique British Guiana 1856 1¢ Magenta and the United States 1918 Jenny Invert plate block fell somewhat short of expectations, a rare cover bearing an 1847 1-penny orange Post Office stamp of Mauritius (Scott 1) has sold for more than double its presale estimate, hitting the equivalent of almost $12 million.

That stunning realization is believed to be, by a jumbo margin, the all-time highest price paid for a single philatelic item — whether a stamp, block or cover.

The famed Mauritius Ball cover, one of just three known and the only one remaining in private hands, was hammered down June 26 by the German auction firm of Christoph Gaertner for €8.1 million. With the buyer’s premium of 23.8 percent, that works out to $11.94 million at current exchange rates.

As well as setting a new world record, it marks the first time any philatelic item has fetched more than $10 million.

The sum easily beats out the 1856 British Guiana stamp (Scott 13) and the unique plate block of the U.S. 24¢ airmail invert (Scott C3a), which were sold on June 8 by Sotheby’s in New York City for $8.3 million and $4.87 million, respectively.

The British Guiana 1¢ Magenta had previously been sold by Sotheby’s in 2014 for $9.48 million, the prior record price for a philatelic item.

A representative of Gaertner declined to identify the buyer by name, but did say the winning bid came from a “German speaking collector” who resides in Europe.

The Mauritius Ball cover realization made up but a third of the total hammer results for the firm’s June 26 Rarities sale, which added up to more than €25 million. The June 26 sale was part of Gaertner’s 50th series of philatelic and numismatic auctions held June 19-26.

Top postal history results of the past include the second and third Mauritius Post Office covers, known respectively as the Bordeaux and Bombay covers because of their destinations. The former was last sold by David Feldman in Geneva in 1993 for 6.1 million Swiss francs, while the latter was sold by the same firm in 2016 for €2.4 million.

In the United States, high-flying realizations have included the Hawaiian Missionary Dawson cover, last sold by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York in 2013 for $2.24 million, and the Alexandria Blue Boy cover with a unique 1846 U.S. postmaster’s provisional issue, sold by H.R. Harmer in New York in 2019 for $1.18 million.

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