Rare U.S. 1893 4¢ blue Columbian error of color in July 18-20 Dutch Country auction

Jun 29, 2023, 8 AM

By Charles Snee

Dutch Country Auctions will conduct a 1,658-lot sale of United States and worldwide stamps and covers July 18-20 at its office in Wilmington, Del. Each day’s session will begin at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

The first session, on Tuesday, July 18, features an unused example of the United States 1893 4¢ blue Columbian Exposition error of color (Scott 233a) that was lurking in a collection, not noticed for what it was.

Normal examples of the stamp (Scott 233) are ultramarine, and the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers also lists two color varieties: dull ultramarine and deep ultramarine.

All three listed colors are valued at $55 in unused, original gum condition in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog. The blue error of color is valued at $20,000 unused, with the value italicized to indicate an item that trades infrequently in the philatelic marketplace.

According to Dutch Country, the 4¢ blue Columbian up for bids “was hiding in plain sight” in a collection.

“The collector was not aware of his special stamp,” Dutch Country said.

An accompanying 2023 Professional Stamp Experts expertizing certificate describes the error stamp as “genuine unused, OG [original gum], hinged.”

It is not known how many examples of Scott 233a were printed.

“The original find was a single mint sheet of 100, but subsequent finds of used examples indicate that several sheets of the error were not recognized, and the stamps were used on mail,” wrote U.S. Stamp Notes columnist John M. Hotchner in the July 18, 2018, issue of Linn’s Stamp News.

In that column, Hotchner provided an important caveat concerning this particular color error.

“First and foremost,” Hotchner explained, “a collector should NEVER offer or buy a 4¢ Columbian represented to be the blue error (Scott 233a) unless it has a certificate with a photo and description that exactly match the stamp. It does not matter how great a bargain it seems to be.

“Why is this? Unless a collector has handled many examples of Scott 233, or has a reference example of 233a, or a high-quality color photo, it is purely a guess as to whether the stamp in hand is a 233a.

“Given the values involved, it is simply too easy to diagnose a stamp in hand as what the collector wishes it to be, with whatever evidence the collector may be able to find ‘on the fly.’ ”

Dutch Country is offering this rare unused 1893 4¢ blue Columbian error of color with an opening bid of $2,000.

Hundreds of U.S. and worldwide collections will cross the auction block, offering bidders myriad opportunities to start or expand a collection. Many of these lots have opening bids that will help collectors working within a limited budget.

One colorful example is a collection of hundreds of unused Iceland stamps issued from 1902 to 1986 and neatly arranged on black stock pages.

According to Dutch Country, most of the stamps are never hinged, some have light gum toning, and a few might have faults. Overall, the stamps are generally in fine to very fine condition.

Dutch Country estimates this handsome 1902-86 Iceland collection at $600 to $800 and lists it with a starting bid of $300.

The catalog for the July 18-20 U.S. and worldwide sale can be viewed and is available for download on the Dutch Country website. Online bids may be placed through Stamp Auction Network.

Information also is available from Dutch Country Auctions, 4115 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803.

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